Legal Process of Divorce in Botswana

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

“her divorce from her first husband”


  • Include divorce, judicial separations, or the nullification of a marriage.
  • All matrimonial proceedings must be heard at the high court.  
  • A divorce can be jointly claimed and the parties can negotiate the ancillary considerations of the divorce action (i.e. custody of minor children, maintenance and division of the matrimonial estate.  
  • The court will hear the case irrespective of the manner in which parties contracted their marriage (i.e. customary, religious or common law marriages).  
  • Upon divorce, nullity, or separation the court has wide-ranging powers to, among other things, order the transfer of the matrimonial home and property from one party to the other or alter either party’s rights in the separation, in particular, to provide for dependent children.
  • The court being the upper guardian of the minor child. In the event of custody of the minor child; the court has to be satisfied that a party is of good repute and is a fit and proper person to be entrusted with the custody of the child and possess adequate means to maintain and educate the child.

Who is eligible?

  • Either  party to a marriage may bring an action before the High Court for divorce, judicial separation, or a request for a marriage to be declared null and void.
  • Under the law, the irretrievable breakdown of marriage constitutes grounds for divorce.
  • The marriage has existed for two (2) years 

Restrictions on filing a divorce, nullity or separation are the following:

  • Per subsection two of the Matrimonial Causes Act, no action for divorce can be taken during the period of two years following the date of registration of the marriage (“the specified period”).
  • An application for divorce during the specified period may be considered if it is a situation of exceptional hardship suffered by the plaintiff or depravity on the part of the respondent. In determining if such an application is considered, the court will take into account the well-being of dependent children where reasonable probability exists of a reconciliation between the spouses.
  • An application for divorce after the specified period may be brought based on matters which occurred during the specified period.

How do I get this service?

In order to institute divorce proceedings an applicant should file writ of summons, in Summons-Form 2 in the first schedule with such variations as circumstances require – (High Court Rules).

  • The Plaintiff, or the Plaintiff’s attorney or agent shall bring the original originating process documents and four copies to the Civil Registry in Gaborone, Francistown, or Lobatse for date stamp, signing, and filing.
  • The Civil Registry will register the summons and retain two copies. 
  • One copy is to be served to the respondent. 
  • One copy is retained by the applicant.
  • It is the responsibility of the filing party (applicant) to furnish the respondent with the originating process.
  • Service upon a person of a  summons may be made by any adult person who has no interest in the cause and is able to explain its nature and contents
  • Except in the case of arrest; writs of summons, shall not be served on a Sunday or between 1900 hrs and 0700 hrs of any other day, and no such service shall be valid if made.
  • The registered case is then assigned to a judge who will preside over it until completion.
  • Following due process, as instructed by the judge, a decree -nisi (tentative order granting divorce)  is granted. An applicant/respondent can then apply for a decree absolute (final divorce order) six (6) weeks following the order.
  • A rule nisi is a court order that does not have any force until such time that a particular condition is met, in the case of divorce it is six (6) weeks. Once the condition is met, the ruling becomes decree absolute and is binding.
  • Once the rule nisi is granted, the litigants have to wait for six (6) before applying for the decree of absolute
  • The application for decree absolute can be made in the form of a letter addressed to the Registrar stating the case particulars and when the rule nisi was granted and whether six (6) weeks have passed since the order was granted

What supporting documents are required?

Applicants will need to submit:

  • 4 Copies of an Originating process, specifically claiming divorce and ancillaries.
  • The original marriage certificate or a certified copy

How long will this service take?

  • Applicants can apply for a decree absolute six (6) weeks following the granting of a rule nisi. 
  • The duration of the case is dependent on whether the other party is opposing the divorce; in that case, the matter will go to trial and thus will be dependent on the availability of trial dates on the judge’s schedule.

How much does it cost?

  • A cost of BWP 120.00 applies to the stamp for all four (4) summonses.
  • The cost of having the deputy Sheriff’s office serves the summons will be BWP 30.00

Legal assistance is provided to litigants with limited financial means who are involved in civil and criminal cases.

In Civil cases, any party who desires to sue and defend as a poor litigant may apply in writing for leave to sue or defend as a poor litigant, as per Order 5 of the Magistrate Court rules and Order 46 of the High Court rules.

In criminal trials/ appeals, pro-deo lawyers (lawyers whose fees are paid directly by the government) can be assigned to defendants of limited financial means.  

Who is eligible?

  • Any individual who is instigating or defending themselves against a civil case may apply for legal assistance from the courts.
  • These individuals must be unable to afford professional legal assistance.
  • For criminal cases, accused persons charged with murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, or treason are entitled to pro-deo representation.
  • The decision is made by the Registrar of the High Court/ Magistrate.

How do I get this service?

  • They must submit a letter/application, in writing, to the Registrar/ Magistrate of the court outlining that: they are requesting permission to sue or defend as an individual of limited financial means. Also explaining that they lack the financial means to afford their own legal assistance.
  • The Registrar/Magistrate, on receipt of the letter/application, will make inquiries as to the means of the applicant in order to assess the legitimacy of the claim. The Registrar/ Magistrate may require the applicant to provide a verbal oath or a written affidavit for the lack of financial ability.
  • Once the Registrar/ Magistrate approves the written application, the case is referred to a legal practitioner who makes the assessment of whether the applicant has a reasonable chance of success in their case before deciding whether take the case. The applicant will be informed through the written correspondence of the outcome of his or her application.
  • The Registrar/ Magistrate will grant the applicant leave to sue or defend without payment of court fees. The applicant will be given a document signed by the Registrar/Magistrate stating that he is given leave to sue or defend without payment of court fees. The applicant will then attach a copy of the said document whenever filling documents at the Registry.

What supporting documents are required?

To submit the letter/ order granting permission to sue or defend as pauper.

How long will this service take?

  • Approximately one business day.
  • Once the applicant submits his\her application the Registrar’s secretary/ Clerk then makes an appointment for a given date. On the appointed date the Registrar/ Magistrate will enquire into the means of the applicant and for that purpose may require the applicant to give evidence on oath, either in person or by affidavit. The Registrars/ Magistrate ruling will be delivered on the same day.
  • The decision of the Registrar/ Magistrate shall be final as to whether the applicant has sufficient means to finance his action or not.

How long does the divorce process take in Botswana?

An applicant/respondent can then apply for a decree absolute (final divorce order) six (6) weeks following the order. A rule nisi is a court order that does not have any force until such time that a particular condition is met, in the case of divorce it is six (6) weeks.

What are the steps of going through a divorce?

All states offer a form of no-fault divorce, but you still need to file based on legal grounds.

  1. Step 1: File the Divorce Petition.
  2. Step 2: Request Temporary Court Orders.
  3. Step 3: File Proof of Service.
  4. Step 4: Negotiate a Settlement.
  5. Step 5: Go to Trial, if Necessary
  6. Step 6: Finalize the Judgment.