Updated: Nov 21, 2022
BENITA ARDENBAUM is the founder and director of Benita Ardenbaum Attorneys, which is a family law specialist practice that also does conveyancing. The firm deals with cases that include domestic violence relating to vulnerable people, divorces that are often acrimonious, international cross boarder abduction of children, custody disputes, mediation, maintenance and the firm does some pro bono work.
Benita started her practice in 1999 from a room in her house. She explains, “The reason that I decided to go out on my own was the fact that the legal profession was a male orientated profession, and I was in a firm that did not resonate with my values. I wanted to deal with family law in a unique way by bringing in a more feminine aspect and that is where the heart of law was created. I always say lead with your heart, and it will lead you true. This should not be interpreted as a weakness but rather as a strength. I recognised that I loved people more than I loved the law but that I could use the law as a tool to assist my clients.
” The practice was started with just Benita and her secretary and slowly, over the years, through sheer hard work, determination, drive and showing up daily and consistently she expanded the firm into what it is today. “I have an incredible all women’s firm where we have mastered the art of collaboration and work together as a team to assist our clients to transition and navigate through often traumatic times in their lives,” explained Benita. “My passion is to give a voice to the voiceless.” These are vulnerable people and in particular women and children as the scales of injustice are tipped against them, although there are many men who suffer severe injustices as well.
The reason that Benita is so passionate about fighting for children and vulnerable people is because her mother fell pregnant when she was 16 years old, and she starved herself so that nobody would see until she was seven months pregnant. When her parents discovered her pregnancy, she was whisked away to a convalescent home in another city. As she was considered to have brought shame on her family, she was forced by her family to give Benita up for adoption. “My birth mother did not have a choice or a voice,” explained Benita.
“When I was six years old, I was sexually abused and also did not have a voice.” Benita has had to endure many challenges including immigrating overseas when she was 12 and where again she did not have a voice. She said that as she was rebellious, she left school at the age of 15 and worked in a shoe store and as a waitress at night. When Benita was 17, she met an old schoolteacher and was encouraged to go back to study; within a few months she finished her matric. Benita then went into the army for just over two years. She felt that her voice was not being heard and so ended up staying in base camp for many weekends washing pots in the kitchen and cleaning toilet as punishment. Benita had a longing to come back to South Africa as she missed this country and felt that this is where her roots were. “I came back to SA with nothing but a suitcase. With the support of my husband, I began to study and so began my journey.”
AN INCREDIBLE PURPOSE
“These life circumstances have shaped my life and gave me an incredible purpose which I live daily because we as individuals can choose to be victims of our circumstances, or we can rise and assist people in similar circumstances. I have the privilege of helping children and their caregivers to make a difference and change the trajectory of their lives. That is what drives me to get up at 4.45 am in the morning and get to work. I love what I do and do what I love. I make my vocation my vacation.”
Benita has appeared in various cases, which have been featured in the media. She has a strong international presence and is a member of the prestigious International Academy of Family Lawyers, whereby the members are recognised by their peers to be the most skilled family law specialists in their country. Benita has been involved in various international divorces and international cross border abductions of children between parents. Benita has had various mentors in her life but says that her greatest supporter and mentor is her husband of 35 years and her adult children. She says, “I attribute much of my success to him as he has been my rock and he is happy for the light to be shone on me. My children are my biggest fans and often share their incredible wisdom with me.
FULL OF POSSIBILITIES
In giving advice to others, Benita says that you must be passionate about what you do and live your purpose as then you are full of possibilities and success will follow. “You are enough, your power is expressed through asserting your boundaries and that NO is a full sentence. However, you should always remain humble in life.” “When people come to our offices they step into another world where they feel safe and secure.
Our aim is to empower people with knowledge because with knowledge and education comes power and then they feel a lot more in control of their process.” Benita runs inspirational retreats for women, some of whom have been clients. She has worked, and continues to work where she can, as a strategic life coach. Benita added, “I am constantly studying and doing self-development courses. I walk and trail run and paint by numbers and sometimes do pottery. I also sometimes binge watch on Netflix.”
In conclusion Benita says, “I want to say to women that each one of us has a unique gift and once we discover our gift it will lead us to our purpose in life. When that passion is ignited, we are unstoppable. When we as women stand together, when we share in each other’s successes and support each other’s failures we stand in true sisterhood and that is when the magic happens!”