CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES IN SOUTH AFRICA

In South Africa, there are various forms of marriage, which includes Civil Marriage, Customary Marriage and Civil Union. For a long time, customary unions (marriages) did not have the same full legal status as civil marriages (e.g. magistrate’s court marriages) had in South African law. This was unfair discrimination and also made women in customary marriages vulnerable.

The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act

The new Recognition of Customary Marriages Act became law on 15 November 2000, together with Regulations under the Act.

The new Act:

  • Sets down the rules for a proper customary marriage.
  • Gives full legal recognition to a customary marriage.
  • Makes women and men equal partners in a customary marriage.
  • Gives community of property to partners in a customary marriage who married after 15 November 2000 – unless they agree not to share property between husband and wife.
  • Gives legal recognition to polygyny (when a man can have more than one wife).
  • Protects a woman’s right to end a polygynous marriage, and her right to the joint property of her marriage.
  • Sets down legal rules for ending a customary marriage, including divorce.
  • Allows a woman to claim maintenance when the marriage ends – although the courts will take into account the lobola/bohali contribution when deciding on maintenance payments.

Requirements for a customary marriage

There are only three basic statutory requirements for the validity of a customary marriage in terms of The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998. Section 3 of the Act states that:

“For a customary marriage entered into after the commencement of the Act to be valid:

  1. the prospective spouses:
    1. must both be above the age of 18 years
    2. must both consent to be married to each other under customary law; and
  2. the marriage must be negotiated and entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law.”

Reference:

  • The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 120 of 1998

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE RIGHTS OF A DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

Domestic partnerships, also known as cohabitation relationships, are becoming more common in our modern day society, and it therefore becomes ever more important for parties to understand the different legal implications of being married and merely cohabiting. Parties to a domestic partnership do not enjoy the same legal protection as married couples upon termination of the partnership with regards to maintenance claims, property division or succession.

In the South African legal system, there are three forms of fully legally recognised unions, namely marriages, civil unions and customary marriages. However, in our modern society it is becoming more common for couples to live together in domestic partnerships, without ever getting married. It is important for parties to these partnerships to realise that little to no legal protection is provided upon the termination of such a relationship, either by agreement or due to the death of either party.

The general rule for domestic partnerships was laid down in Butters v Mncora: A domestic partnership does not give rise to any special legal consequences, such as that of a marriage or a civil union.

In 2006, the South African Law Reform Commission acknowledged the need for legal protection to be granted and drafted the “Draft Domestic Partnership Bill.” Parliament has however shown no urgency to pass the Draft Bill, and the legal position in South Africa thus remains unchanged.

Maintenance claims

The Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act entitles a surviving spouse of a marriage, and a surviving civil partner of a civil union, to institute a claim for maintenance against the estate of the deceased. This provides for a claim of any reasonable maintenance needs that they cannot provide for by their own means, until such time that they remarry or pass away.

Parties of a domestic partnership should note that this protection does not extend to domestic partnerships, and thus no such maintenance claim can be made. Should the Domestic Partnership Bill be enacted in the future, section 28 will offer such an opportunity to claim for maintenance. However, at this stage no such protection is afforded.

Property Division

Parties to a marriage have a choice of two matrimonial property regimes.  Simply put this is to be married either in community of property, or out of community of property. Each property system will have different consequences flowing from it either by law or contractually due to an Antenuptial contract. However, no property regimes exist for domestic partnerships, and thus no joint estate can exist as it would in a marriage.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has recently portrayed an increased willingness to extend contract-based legal protection to parties of a domestic partnerships. Contracts can be concluded by parties in domestic partnerships to govern aspects such as division of property upon termination of the partnership. Although these types of contracts are legally enforceable, they may give rise to potential problems. The contract may be concluded solely for the benefit of one of the parties, or circumstances may occur that the parties had not anticipated when the contract was drawn up. In practice however, it seldom happens that parties to a domestic partnership actually enter into a contract.  This may be due to a mutual decision, or due to the fact that parties did not foresee a need for such contract.

Intestate Succession

In terms of the Intestate Succession Act, a spouse of a marriage will inherit if the deceased spouse dies without making a will. This has been extended to include partners of a civil union and customary marriage. Provision for inheritance by a partner of a permanent same-sex partnership has also been made in terms of this Act. This has however not been extended to the termination of heterosexual domestic partnerships, and thus no claim can be made in terms of the Intestate Succession Act on the estate of a deceased partner of a domestic partnership.

Couples living together in cohabitation relationships do not have similar rights to institute claims against the other party upon termination as they would have in a marriage or civil union. This could leave financially dependent parties in unanticipated vulnerable positions.

Reference List:

  • Butters v Mncora 2012 (4) SA 1 (SCA).
  • Barratt A “Private contract or automatic court discretion? Current trends in legal regulation of permanent life-partnerships” (2015) 26 Stellenbosch Law Review 110-131.
  • Clark B “Families and domestic partnerships” (2002) 119 South African Law Journal 634-648.
  • Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987.
  • Maintenance of Surviving Spouse Act 27 of 1990.
  • Skeleton A (ed) Family Law in South Africa (2010), Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
  • The Domestic Partnership bill in GG 30663 of 14-01-2008.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN BREAKING-OFF AN ENGAGEMENT PROMPT LEGAL ACTION?

Once a couple has become engaged, you could say that they have concluded a verbal contract to get married. From that point, up until the marriage, the couple would be committed to getting married, as well as the planning and preparation leading up to it. However, in some instances, one of those in the relationship might decide to break off the engagement. This might seem unimportant, but what if the couple had gone to great lengths to plan the wedding and even went as far as changing lifestyles in the expectation of getting married. Would the person being left behind be able to sue for damages lost?

Does our law mention engagement?

Our common law has, over the years, recognised the principle that the aggrieved party has a claim for breach of promise. Traditionally this claim comprises two parts, namely:

  1. The delictual claim which the aggrieved party would have under the action injuriarum for contumelia, in other words, damages for the humiliation caused as a result of the break-up of the relationship; and
  1. The contractual claim for the actual financial loss suffered by the aggrieved party as a result of the break-up of the relationship of the parties.

In the Supreme Court of Appeal case Van Jaarsveld vs Bridges (2010), it was found that no claim in South African law exists other than actual expenses incurred in the planning and preparation of the marriage.

The judgement draws attention to a court’s right and more importantly, duty to develop the common law, taking into account the interests of justice and at the same time to promote the spirit of the Bill of Rights.

ES Cloete vs A Maritz (2013) WCH

The question whether or not the claim for breach of promise is a valid cause of action in South African law was once again considered in the Western Cape High Court. In this Court, Judge Robert Henney was the presiding Judge in the matter of ES Cloete vs A Maritz.

Miss Cloete claimed that Mr Maritz proposed formally to her in Namibia on the 9th February 1999 with an engagement ring, and she accepted. The relationship was turbulent and a decade later Maritz called off the engagement and the intended wedding. Cloete instituted action against Maritz and alleged that Maritz’s refusal to marry her amounted to a repudiation of the agreement which they had reached 10 years earlier. In his judgment, Judge R Henney said: “Clearly, to hold a party accountable on a rigid contractual footing, where such a party fails to abide by a promise to marry does not reflect the changed mores, morals or public interest of today.”

The judge also said: “As pointed out by Sinclair, The Law of Marriage Vol 1 (1996), to hold a party liable for contractual damages for breach of promise may in fact lead parties to enter into marriages they do not in good conscience want to enter into, purely due to the fear of being faced with such a claim.”

Conclusion

Divorce, which in earlier days was only available in the event of adultery or desertion, is now available in the event of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There is no reason why a just cause for ending an engagement should not likewise include the lack of desire to marry the particular person, irrespective of the ‘guilt’ of the latter.

Note to attorneys

  • See Cloete vs Maritz (6222/2010) [2013] ZAWCHC 69 (24 April 2013);
  • Van Jaarsveld vs Bridges (344/09) [2010] ZASCA 76; 2010 (4) SA 558 (SCA); [2010] 4 All SA 389 (SCA) (27 May 2010).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

PLANNING YOUR ESTATE AS NEWLYWEDS

For newlyweds, one of the most important tasks to attend to is estate planning. The estate planning will depend on what the couple wants and what form of marriage they are in. It is therefore important to keep the following in mind when planning the years ahead together.

Marriage in community of property

There is a joint estate, with each spouse having a 50 percent share in each and every asset in the estate (no matter in whose name it is registered);

  1. In the event of the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse will have a claim for 50 percent of the value of the combined estate. The estate is divided after all the debts have been settled in a deceased estate.
  2. When drafting a Last Will and Testament, spouses married in community of property need to be aware that it is only half of any asset that he or she is able to bequeath.
  3. Upon the death of one spouse, all banking accounts are frozen (even if they are in the name of one of the spouses), which could affect liquidity.

Marriage out of community of property without the accrual system

Each estate planner (spouse) retains possession of assets owned prior to the marriage. Each spouse’s estate is completely separated, even in the event of death. If you want your spouse to inherit something, you would need to outline this in your Will.

Marriage out of community of property with the accrual system

This is identical to a “marriage out of community of property” but the accrual system will be applicable. The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the larger estate must pay the smaller estate once the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES AND COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY

Since the promulgation of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 120 of 1998, the position has changed in that customary marriages are now recognised in our law. A marriage that is valid in terms of customary law and was in existence at the time of commencement of the Act, is for all purposes recognised as a marriage in terms of the Act. In the case of a person being in more than one customary marriage, all valid customary marriages entered into before the commencement of the Act, are for all purposes recognised as valid marriages in terms of the Act.

This also means that customary marriages will fall under community of property. For a customary marriage not to fall under community of property, an ante nuptial contract must be in place.

What is a customary marriage?

  • It is a marriage entered into between a man and a woman, negotiated and celebrated according to the prevailing customary law in their community.
  • A customary marriage entered into before 15 November 2000 is recognised as a valid marriage, however, it will be regulated in terms of the specific traditions and customs applicable at the time the marriage was entered into.
  • A customary marriage entered into after 15 November 2000 is recognised as a valid marriage and will receive full legal protection irrespective of whether it is monogamous or polygamous.
  • A monogamous customary marriage will automatically be in community of property, unless it is stipulated otherwise in an ante nuptial contract.

In a polygamous marriage, the husband must apply to the High Court for permission to enter into such a marriage and provide the court with a written contract stating how the property in the marriages will be regulated (to protect the property interests of both the existing and prospective spouses).

Registering Customary Marriages

Customary marriages must be registered within three months of taking place. This can be done at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or through a designated traditional leader in areas where there are no Home Affairs offices.

The following people should present themselves at either a Home Affairs office or a traditional leader in order to register a customary marriage:

  • The two spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available).
  • At least one witness from the bride’s family.
  • At least one witness from the groom’s family.
  • And/or the representative of each of the families.

In the event that the spouses were minors (or one was a minor) at the time of the customary marriage, the parents should also be present when the request to register the marriage is made.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

DO I NEED AN ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT BEFORE MARRIAGE?

An antenuptial contract is an important document that, under South African law, determines whether your marriage will exist in community of property or out of community of property, with or without the accrual system.

An antenuptial contract offers a number of benefits:

  1. Preventing your intended marriage from automatically being in community of property
  2. Offering transparency in your relationship by recording the rights, duties and consequences (legal and proprietary) of your marriage
  3. Preventing unnecessary disputes with your spouse down the line

What is marriage in community of property

There is one estate between a husband and a wife. Property and debts acquired prior to or during the marriage are shared equally in undivided shares (50%). Both spouses are jointly liable to creditors.

What is an Antenuptial contract?

A contract entered into to regulate whether a marriage will be out of community of property with/without the accrual system. An antenuptial contract must be signed by the persons entering into a marriage, two witnesses and a notary public, and it must be registered in the Deeds Registries office within the prescribed time period.

The accrual system

In a marriage out of community of property WITHOUT the accrual system, the spouses have their own estates which contain property and debts acquired prior to and during the marriage (“what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours”). Each spouse is separately liable to his/her creditors. Prior to the marriage, an antenuptial contract must be entered into to indicate that the marriage will be out of community of property.

A marriage out of community of property WITH the accrual system is identical to a “marriage out of community of property” but the accrual system will be applicable. The accrual system is a formula that is used to calculate how much the larger estate must pay the smaller estate once the marriage comes to an end through death or divorce. Only property acquired during the marriage can be considered when calculating the accrual. The accrual system does not automatically apply and must be included in an antenuptial contract.

Conclusion

After marriage, the terms of the antenuptial contract become irrevocable unless they are amended by an order of the Supreme Court or, in some cases, by a notarial contract which must be registered in a deeds registry.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN I BREAK OFF AN ENGAGEMENT?

When a couple gets married they enter into a contract with each other. However, many ask whether or not the engagement is a contract, and if so, are there consequences for breaking it off?

What is an engagement?

In order to enter into a valid engagement to be married the following requirements must be met:

  • Both parties must have the capacity to act, which generally means that parties must be older than 18 years or if they are minors, that they have the necessary consent from their guardians.
  • Both parties must voluntarily consent to the engagement. A material mistake, such as the identity of either of the parties, will render the engagement void. There must also be no misrepresentations made by either of the parties; in other words, where it would have resulted in the contract not being concluded, had the other party known the truth.
  • Both parties must be permitted by law to marry each other. For example, you may only be engaged to one party, unless a polygamous engagement applies under African Customary Law.
  • One may not marry a sibling.

It is important to note that there is no law in South Africa that requires an engagement before marriage.

Once a date for the marriage has been determined, there is a reciprocal duty to marry on that date, unless the date is changed by mutual agreement. Further, if no date has been determined, it is presumed that the marriage will take place within a reasonable time. Nevertheless, either of the parties may terminate the engagement, which may or may not attract a claim for damages or return of gifts.

What ends an engagement?

An engagement can be terminated in the following ways:

  • Marriage
  • Death of either parties
  • Mutual agreement
  • Withdrawal of parental consent
  • Breach of promise
  • Termination by one party that is justified and based on sound reasons

It is important to establish whether there is a just cause for cancellation. If there is, the engagement may be validly terminated. A reason such as sterility or criminal activity, if it was only brought to the attention of the other party after agreeing to marry, may provide enough grounds to break off the engagement. If both parties agree to terminate the engagement, all gifts given in anticipation of the marriage, including the engagement ring, must be returned.

What if the engagement is broken unexpectedly?

If one party breaches the promise to marry without justifiable reasons, the innocent party can, according to our law, institute a claim for damages, provided that the losses were within the contemplation of the parties. The innocent party can claim expenses incurred in anticipation of the wedding, thus placing the innocent party in the financial position he/she would have been had the engagement never been entered into. Furthermore, the innocent party may keep or claim back the engagement ring as part of costs incurred.

The court

In the case of Van Jaarsveld v Bridges, the court decided that a party cannot successfully institute a claim for prospective losses on the basis of a breach of promise to marry, because an engagement is not an ordinary contract in the context of contractual damages and should therefore not be placed on a rigid contractual footing. This means that a party may not institute a claim for damages placing him/her in the position he would have been had they gone through with the marriage. Previous court judgements indicate that compensation will be awarded at the discretion of the court and that each case must be evaluated on the basis of its individual circumstances.

In conclusion, it is important to note that a promise to marry is an agreement which attracts legal consequences; therefore, one should not be hasty when deciding to ask the big question.

Reference list:

  • Van Jaarsveld v Bridges 2010 (4) SA 558 (SCA).
  • Cloete v Maritz 2013 (5) SA448 (WCC).
  • Bull v Taylor 1965 (4) SA 29 (A).
  • Georgina Guedes, 23 October 2013, Mail and Guardian, “Five fallacies about engagement rings”.
  • A Guide to Divorce and Separation in South Africa, “Engagement and the Law”.
  •  Ronald & Bobroff, “The engagement”.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

GELDIGHEID VAN ‘N HUWELIKSVOORWAARDEKONTRAK

Die opstel en ondertekening van ʼn huweliksvoorwaardekontrak moet versigtig benader word. Benewens die feit dat die inhoud feitelik korrek moet wees, moet al die nodige bepalings daarin vervat word om die kontrak geldig te maak. Indien daar versuim om ʼn huweliksvoorwaardekontrak op te stel, mag dit lei daartoe dat ʼn huwelik as binne gemeenskap van goedere beskou word, selfs al was dit nie die partye se bedoeling toe die kontrak gesluit was nie.

Prokureurs en Notarisse word vertrou met die opstelling van ʼn huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak. Dit is ‘n kontrak wat deur die betrokke partye onderteken word om die huweliksbedeling te reguleer. As ‘n paartjie nie ‘n huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak teken nie, sal die huweliksbedeling binne gemeenskap van goedere wees. ʼn Huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak wys daarop dat die huweliksbedeling buite gemeenskap van goedere is. Die partye moet dus spesifiek stipuleer of hulle die aanwasbedeling op hul huwelik van toepassing wil hê al dan nie.

Die saak van B v B, soos in die Appèlhof voorgekom, bespreek die belang van die nodige bepalings in ʼn huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak wat tot die sluit van ‘n geldige kontrak lei. In hierdie geval was daar geen bepalings gestipuleer ten opsigte van enige van die bates wat in die huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak uiteengesit is nie. Die bates was ook behoorlik geïdentifiseer nie. In B v B het die hof gestel dat indien die bepalings van ‘n kontrak so vaag en onsamehangend is, en dit onmoontlik is om ‘n sinvolle konstruksie daarvan te maak, moet die kontrak as nietig beskou word as gevolg van vaagheid.

Ingevolge artikel 6(1) van die Wet op Huweliksgoedere kan ‘n party tot ‘;n voorgenome huwelik, wat nie die waarde in die kontrak uiteensit vir die doel om ʼn bewys te lewer van die bates van sy of haar boedel teen die tyd van die aanvang van die huwelik nie, dit binne ses maande van die sluiting van die huwelik in ‘n verklaring bevestig met behulp van ’n notaris. Ingevolge artikel 6 (4) van die Wet op Huweliksgoedere word die netto waarde van die boedel van ‘n gade as nul geag ten tye van die huwelik, indien die betrokke party nie die bewys betyds lewer nie. In effek is so ‘n kontrak geldig, maar dit sal beteken dat ʼn huwelik as binne gemeenskap van goederebeskou, aangesien daar niks van die oploping uitgesluit is nie.

As ‘n kontrak egter teenstrydig en onsamehangend is in ander opsigte, kan dit nie as ‘;n geldige kontrak nie beskou word nie, aangesien daar geen sekerheid is oor die betekenis van die kontrak en wat die partye beoog om te bereik nie. Dit beteken dat die kontrak nie die Hof in staat stel om uitvoering te gee aan die bedoeling van die partye ten die tye van die sluiting van die kontrak nie.

Die gevolg van so ‘n kontrak is dat die huweliksvoorwaardeskontrak nietig verklaar sal word as gevolg van onsamehangendheid en dat die huweliksbedeling ingevolge die Wet op Huweliksgoedere in gemeenskap van goedere sal wees.

Partye word dus aangemoedig om hul huwelikskontrakte deeglik te lees en seker te maak dat hulle die bepalings daarvan verstaan en dat die kontrak hul bedoelings uitbeeld, sonder enige verdere verduidelikings of bewyse.

B v B (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 Maart 2014)

Wet op Huweliksgoedere 88 van 1984

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE IN SOUTH AFRICA

In South African law there is no such thing as a common law marriage. People simply believe that living together with another person for a continuous period of time establishes legal rights and duties between them. This is a common misunderstanding especially with young adults.

The only way to be protected in our law is to enter into a universal partnership agreement. Such an agreement clarifies the rights and duties of the partners. The agreement will determine what would happen to property and assets of the couple if they should decide to separate. The agreement is, however, not enforceable in so far as third parties are concerned. Only a valid marriage is enforceable against third parties. It is important to note that partners can sometimes be jointly and severally liable if they acted within the scope of the partnership. An agreement such as this will be legally binding as long as it contains no provisions that are immoral or illegal. If there is no agreement on the dissolution of a universal partnership agreement, a party would only be entitled to retain those assets which he or she has purchased and owns and further would be entitled to share in the assets proportionately in terms of the contribution which they have made to the partnership.

To prove the existence of such a partnership it must be shown that:

  • The aim of the partnership was to make profit.
  • Both parties must have contributed to the enterprise.
  • The partnership must operate to benefit both parties.
  • The contract between the parties must be legitimate.
  • There must be valid consent.
  • There is an intention to create a legally binding agreement.

Where there is no express agreement, a tacit agreement may be proved if it is found that it is more probable than not that such an agreement had been reached between the parties at the time of cohabitation.

Because the existence of a universal partnership is somewhat difficult to prove, and it may not be a claim that you wish to have to make or defend, it is advisable to consider entering into a contract that spells out how property should be dealt with on termination of the relationship by death or otherwise. Such a contract would provide some certainty for cohabitees regarding the division of assets and settlements of liability on termination of the relationship.

Some of the consequences of the absence of a legal ground between parties in such relationships are:

  • No exemption from donations tax in respect of donations between them.
  • Cohabitees do not benefit from the laws relating to the exemption from estate duty of bequests to spouses.
  • There is no reciprocal obligation of maintenance.
  • Cohabitee is not a recognised claimant if his/her partner dies intestate.
  • There is no right to property or assets that belong to cohabitee.
  • There is no reciprocal duty to contribute to household necessities.

The Domestic Partnerships Bill of 2008 is still in its formulation stage and it remains to be seen how it is to be implemented. In the current constitutional dispensation it is unlikely that a partner will be left in despair, taking into account the Domestic Partnerships Bill.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)

VALIDITY OF ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS

One must be careful when drafting and signing an Antenuptial Contract. Aside from ensuring that the contents is all correct, one must also ensure that all the necessary provisions are contained therein to make the contract valid. The consequences of neglecting to do so may result in a marriage in community of property even though the parties had no intention of this at the time of their marriage.

Attorneys are often trusted with the task of drafting an Antenuptial Contract. This is a contract, which one signs to regulate the property regime of a marriage. If a couple does not sign, an Antenuptial Contract then the marital property regime will be that of in community of property. The presence of an Antenuptial Contract means that the marital property regime is that of out of community of property and the parties must specifically stipulate whether they would like the accrual system to apply to their marriage or not.

The importance of ensuring that all the necessary provisions are contained in the Antenuptial Contract to result in a valid contract was discussed in the 2014 Supreme Court of Appeal Case of B v B[1]. In this case, no values were stated in respect of any of the assets listed in the Antenuptial Contract and they were also not properly identified. In B v B the court stated that if the terms of a contract are so vague and incoherent as to be incapable of a sensible construction then the contract must be regarded as void for vagueness.[2]

According to Section 6(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act[3] ,a party to an intended marriage which does not, for the purpose of proof of the value of his or her estate at the time of the commencement of the marriage, declare the value in the contract, then he or she may do so within six months of the marriage in a statement attested to by a notary. If this is not done, according to Section 6(4) of the Marital Property Act, the net value of the estate of a spouse is then deemed to be nil at the time of the marriage. In effect, such a contract is valid but it will effectively render the marriage in community of property since nothing was excluded from the accrual.

However, if a contract is contradictory and incoherent in other respects then it cannot be seen as a valid contract since there is no certainty as to the meaning of the contract and what the parties seek to achieve. This means that the contract would not embody terms that would enable to court to give effect to the intention of the parties at the time the contract was concluded.

The result of such a contract is that the Antenuptial Contract would be void for vagueness and that the marital property regime would be the default position according to the Marital Property Act, which is in community of property.

Therefore, parties are encouraged to read their contracts thoroughly and ensure that they understand the terms thereof and that the contract embodies their intentions without any further explanations or evidence.

[1] (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014).

[2] B v B (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014) par 7.

[3] 88 of 1984.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.