Category Archives: Family Law

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES AND COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY

a3_bSince 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 antenuptial 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)

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MARITAL STATUS TO ANOTHER FORM OF MARRIAGE CONTRACT

A1_bSection 21(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act No 88 of 1984 provides that a husband and wife may apply jointly to court for leave to change the matrimonial property system which applies to their marriage.

Requirements

The decision in Lourens et Uxor 1986(2) SA 291 (C) sets out guidelines that the courts follow with regard to applications in terms of section 21(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act.

In order for the parties to change their matrimonial property system, the Act mentions the following requirements:

  • There must be sound reasons for the proposed change.

According to South African Law, the parties who wish to become married out of community of property must enter into an antenuptial contract prior to the marriage ceremony being concluded. If they fail to do so they are automatically married in community of property. Of course, many people are unaware of this provision and should be able to satisfy the court that it should change their matrimonial property system if it was their express intention that they intended to be married out of community of property.

  • Sufficient notice of the proposed change must be given to all creditors of the spouses.

The Act requires that notice of the parties’ intention to change their matrimonial property regime must be given to the Registrar of Deeds, must be published in the Government Gazette and two local newspapers at least two weeks prior to the date on which the application will be heard, and must be given by certified post to all the known creditors of the spouses. Moreover, the draft Notarial Contract that the parties propose to register must be annexed to their application.

  •  The court must be satisfied that no other person will be prejudiced by the proposed change.

The court must be satisfied that the rights of creditors of the parties must be preserved in the proposed contract. The application must therefore contain sufficient information about the parties’ assets and liabilities to enable the court to ascertain whether or not there are sound reasons for the proposed change, and whether or not any particular person will be prejudiced by such change. Once the court is satisfied that the requirements have been met it may order that the existing matrimonial property system may no longer apply to their marriage, and authorise the parties to enter into a Notarial Contract by which their future matrimonial property system is to be regulated on such conditions as the court may deem fit.

 It should also be stated whether or not either of the applicants has been sequestrated in the past and, if so, when, and under what circumstances. The case number of any rehabilitation application must be furnished.

 It further needs to be stated whether or not there are any pending legal proceedings in which any creditor is seeking to recover payment of any alleged debt due by the couple or either of them.

Care must be taken to fully motivate the proposed change in the existing matrimonial property system. Applicants must explain why no other person will be prejudiced by the proposed change. In any event, the order sought, and the contract which it is proposed to register, shall contain a provision which preserves the rights of pre-existing creditors.

The application must disclose where the parties are domiciled and, if they are not resident there when the application is made, where they are resident. If there has been a recent change in domicile or residence it should be disclosed so that the Court can consider whether the application has been brought in the appropriate forum and/or whether or not additional notice of the application should be given. Ordinarily the application should be brought in the Court in whose area of jurisdiction the parties are domiciled and ordinarily resident.

The negative side

Unfortunately, the application is expensive in that both spouses have to apply to the High Court on notice to the Registrar of Deeds and all known creditors, to be granted leave to sign a Notarial Contract having the effect of a postnuptial contract which, after registration, will regulate the new matrimonial property system.

It would thus be cheapest and best to approach an attorney or notary prior to the marriage ceremony being concluded to draft a proper ante-nuptial contract regulating the matrimonial property of the parties involved, without any confusion.

NOTE TO ATTORNEYS: See Lourens et Uxor 1986(2) SA 291 (C) ; as well as Section 21(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act No 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. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

IS IT BENEFICIAL TO CREATE A TRUST?

A3_bA Trust can be described as a legal relationship which has been created by the founder, who places assets under the control of Trustees. This either happens during the founder’s lifetime (inter vivos trust) or at the death of the founder (testamentary trust). This article will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of an inter vivos trust.

The advantage of a trust is firstly, that inter vivos trusts can be used to minimise estate duty. No estate duty should be payable on assets owned by the Trust as a Trust does not terminate or come to an end, since it has perpetual succession. Estate duty is currently taxed at 20% of the gross estate value. This saving in estate duty can be substantially large, especially for high net worth individuals who are worth millions of rands. Secondly, as the Trust’s assets are not owned by the beneficiaries, the creditors of the beneficiaries do not have a claim regarding the assets of the Trust. This advantage is especially important for people who are exposed to potential liability. Companies as well as individuals are able to transfer assets to Trusts. Lastly, because Trusts have perpetual succession, beneficiaries will be able to continue enjoying the benefit of the Trust assets even if one of the Trustees were to pass away.

The disadvantages are firstly, the costs of setting up a Trust, which can be high. It may cost up to R 20 000 to set up a Trust. If immovable property is transferred to the Trust then transfer duty needs to be paid. The founders of the Trust may also be liable to pay Donations tax, which is taxable at 20% of the value of the assets transferred to the Trust. Transfer duty is taxed according to a sliding scale. Secondly, Trustees could find themselves personally liable for losses suffered by the Trust if it can be proven that they did not act with care, diligence and skill in terms of section 9 of the Trust Property Control Act. It is important to note that “skill” requires more than just acting in good faith. Trustees may be proven to be negligent not only if they invested in risky investments, but also if they invested capital too conservatively, causing the capital not to grow sufficiently. Trustees also need to be aware of the fact that they can still be held liable if only one Trustee has signing power on behalf of the Trust and he/she makes a poor decision that holds all the Trustees liable for his negligence.

The founder of the Trust needs to recognise that the assets in the Trust do not belong to him/her anymore. The assets belong to the Trust. Should this loss of control (from founder to Trust) not occur, the Trust may be seen as an alter ego of the founder, which could result in the assets being included in creditors’ claims as well as having estate duty consequences.

The earnings from the assets in the Trust are taxed at 40%, and interest exemptions do not apply to Trusts. Also, the inclusion rate for Capital Gains tax for an inter vivos trust is 66.6% whereas the inclusion rate for individuals is 33.3%. Lastly, as we can see from the above, a Trust is not for everyone.

It is important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether to go ahead or not. The best decision would be to speak to a certified financial planner or attorney who can assist you in making the correct decision regarding your personal situation.

 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)

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY ADVOCATE?

The Family Advocate has many duties but in the context of Divorce Law, they are mostly consulted for making sure that all Parenting Plans and divorce Consent Papers are in the best interest of any minor children involved. The public can, however, also have access to the Family Advocate and it is important to note that they offer a free service.

The roles of the Family Advocate include the following: to provide education to family members and to others involved in the systems serving the family and youth; to help identify the strengths and needs of families; to be a mediator between the system and the family by helping to educate professionals on the strengths and needs of the family; to help family members understand the different roles of the agencies involved in the system and how they may affect the family and assist families in identifying and utilizing necessary services.

A Family Advocate helps state and local agencies and systems adopt more strengths-based and family-driven programs, policies, and services. The focus is to better meet the needs of families and their youth who have mental illness, co-occurring disorders or substance use disorders and improve outcomes for all, including families, youth, and the agencies they utilize.

A Family Advocate also has the authority to draft Parenting Plans at no cost which will help provide the minor child with a stable and suitable schedule between the two parents. A Family Advocate cannot however provide for a maintenance amount as this falls under the jurisdiction of the maintenance court. Should a parent feel like they are not sure of their rights or responsibilities towards their minor child, the Family Advocate can be approached in order to arrange a meeting between the two parties to mediate the rights and responsibilities between the two parties. This process is also at no cost, however should one of the parties deny the meeting, the Family Advocate has no authority to subpoena them to attend the meeting.

The Family Advocate is a perfect remedy for parents who have their child’s best interest at heart and who aim to provide a stable environment for the child when both parents are no longer together.

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).