Category: Marriage

HOW CAN A PERSON GET MARRIED IN SOUTH AFRICA?

My Lawyer_Images-04A person can get married in terms of a civil marriage, customary marriage, civil union or religious marriage. A religious marriage is not recognised as a valid marriage, but the spouses in a religious marriage can be protected by law in certain instances.

What are the general requirements for a valid marriage?

  • Both persons to the marriage must give consent to get married and must be older than 18 years of age.
  • A person younger than 18 years of age, needs the permission of his/her parent/s or guardian/s to get married. No person younger than 18 years of age can enter into a civil union.
  • The marriage must be lawful, for example:
    • persons who are closely related (such as brother or sister, or parent and child) may not get married; or
    • a person may not have more than one marriage at a time, except for customary marriages.
  • Certain formalities must be adhered to, such as that the marriage must be concluded by a marriage officer and in the presence of two witnesses.
  • A marriage must be registered at the Department of Home Affairs.

The difference between marriage in and out of community of property

  • 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.  
  • 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 ante nuptial contract must be entered into to indicate that the marriage will be out of community of property.  
  • 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. 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 ante nuptial contract.  

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) 

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/marriages/

WHEN CAN SPOUSES GET A DIVORCE?

My Lawyer_Images-02There are only two grounds for divorce, namely the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; or mental illness or continued unconsciousness of one of the spouses.

Examples of the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as a ground for divorce include:

  1. the spouses not living together for a continuous period of one year;
  1. abuse towards the spouse or the children;
  1. adultery;
  1. habitual criminality;
  1. drunkenness or drug addiction; or
  1. loss of love and affection between the spouses.

The court’s discretion to grant a divorce order

The court still has discretion not to grant a divorce order, and may postpone the proceedings or dismiss the claim if it appears to the court that there is a reasonable possibility that the parties may reconcile through counselling. If reconciliation is unsuccessful after a few months, the parties may proceed with the same summons. The summons will usually contain the averment that further counselling and/or treatment will not lead to any reconciliation. A court must, therefore, be satisfied that the marriage is really broken down and that there is no possibility of the continuation of a normal marriage.

What if the couple reconciles?

Where the parties reconcile and live together again after the summons was issued and served, it does not necessarily end the divorce proceedings. If, however, the reconciliation is unsuccessful after a few months, the parties may proceed with the same summons. It is extremely important to make sure that the summons is withdrawn formally if you do decide to reconcile. Withdrawal of the summons is formally affected when the plaintiff serves a document referred to as a notice of withdrawal of the summons on the defendant or his/her attorney. If this is not done, a divorce order may be obtained by default without the defendant being aware of it. If a divorce is obtained in this manner, the aggrieved party may approach the court to set aside the order.

Conclusion

Since the present law on divorce is no longer based on the principle of fault, defences like insanity or the plaintiff’s own adultery are no longer valid defences. Therefore, if a divorce is instituted on account of an irretrievable breakdown, there is in fact no defence to prevent the divorce from proceeding. But if the court finds that there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation, it may postpone the proceedings in order that the parties attempt reconciliation; this, however, is not a defence, but merely amounts to a postponement.

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)

References:

Justive.gov.za

Legalwise.co.za

DO I NEED AN ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT BEFORE MARRIAGE?

my-lawyer_images_nov-02An 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 ante nuptial 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 ante nuptial 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 ante nuptial 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.

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)

Reference:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/marriages/

http://www.schoemanlaw.co.za/services/antenuptial-contracts/

Validity of Antenuptial Contracts

A2_BOne 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. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Annulment of a marriage

A1BlogConsent is an essential element of a valid marriage and the parties to a marriage must confirm before the marriage officer during a civil ceremony that they voluntarily consent to marry each other.[1] There are certain circumstances where it can be said that consensus was not present, and this will be discussed below.

Six months after John marries Laura they decide that they want to start a family. John finds out from the doctors that he is sterile and cannot have children. Laura is distraught and contacts her attorney, saying that she would never have married John if she had known that he could not have children.

Laura’s attorney explains to her the circumstances in which consensus will either be lacking or materially deficient, in which case the marriage can be annulled (set aside).

Firstly, a material mistake will result in a lack of consensus. A material mistake is limited to where there is a mistake as to the identity of your spouse or a mistake regarding the actual act of marriage in that you did not understand that the ceremony in which you took part resulted in marriage with the other party. In these circumstances there is uncertainty as to whether the marriage never came into existence or if it can be set aside. One may also make mistakes regarding the personal characteristics of your spouse. This may only be a ground on which the validity of the marriage can be challenged if these are material characteristics. The decision whether a mistake regarding a personal characteristic is material or not rests with the Court.[2]

Secondly, a misrepresentation by your spouse may justify the setting aside of a marriage if that misrepresentation relates to a material aspect of the marriage. In the scenario above, if John was aware of the fact that he was sterile before entering into the marriage with Laura, then Laura could attempt to prove that she was misled and state that if she was aware of John’s sterility, she would never have married him. However, if John was unaware that he was sterile, this is not a sufficient ground on which to set a marriage aside.[3]

Thirdly, if one of the parties was unduly influenced or placed under duress to marry the other party by any person including but not limited to the party to which they have been married, then there is no consensus and the marriage can be set aside.[4]

Fourthly, impotence, being the inability to have sexual intercourse, may be a valid ground for setting aside a marriage, but this will not be so if it was reasonably foreseeable at the time that the marriage was entered into that sexual intercourse wouldn’t take place based on factors such as age or illness.[5]

Fifthly, if the scenario above was altered to read that Laura was pregnant with another man’s baby at the time that she married John then he could apply to have the marriage set aside on the basis that this state of affairs would most likely result in an unhappy marriage. He may only make this application if he was unaware of the pregnancy at the time that they were married and if he has not waived his right to have the marriage annulled.[6]

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.

Bibliography:

  • Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th, 2009, 92 – 94.
  • Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd, 2010, 37.
  • Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[1] Section 30(1) of the Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[2] Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 92.

[3] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[4] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[5] Heaton J, South African Family Law, 3rd ed. (2010) 38; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

[6] Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd ed. (2010) 37; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

A promise to marry

A3blIn this article the legal consequences of breaking off an engagement will be discussed.

Is it a contract, and if it is, can you institute a claim for damages due to a breach of this contract?

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.

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.

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 or she would have been had the engagement never been entered into. Further, the innocent party may keep or claim back the engagement ring as part of costs incurred.

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 or 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.

Bibliography:

  • 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.

The new South African Immigration Regulations tightens screws for foreign spouses

A3blThis article looks at the New South African Immigration Regulations that came into effect on 26 May 2014 and how it affects a spouse attempting to renew or obtain a spousal visa.

A Newlands family was torn apart after South Africa’s new regulations barred Louise Johnson from returning to South Africa after going on a family holiday in Namibia.

Section 27 of the new regulations declared Louise Johnson, a Danish-born spouse of a South African, as an undesirable person. People who are travelling on an expired visa will be declared as undesirable people. This is very controversial because many foreigners, such as Louise, have applied well within the time limit, which is 60 days before the expiry thereof, and have still not received their renewed visa.

In order to apply for a spousal and life partner visa one must prove that the relationship has existed for two years before an application for this visa is made. One must also prove that the relationship still exists after two years. Further, if you are married to or in a life partnership with a South African citizen or a permanent resident holder, you have to be married for a continuous period of five years before an application for permanent residency can be launched.

Visa renewals often take months to process and in the past a receipt issued by the Department of Home Affairs, indicating that an application was pending would suffice. The new regulations bring this to an end. Foreigners who remain in South Africa for anywhere between one to thirty days after the expiry date of their valid visa will be deemed to be undesirable for a period of twelve months. A second transgression within a period of twenty-four months will render them “undesirable” for a period of two years and should they overstay for more than thirty days they will be classified as “undesirable” for five years.

For example Olivia Lock, a British National, who is married to a South African, was prohibited from returning to South Africa for 12 months in May, due to leaving South Africa on an expired visa whilst awaiting the outcome of a renewal of her visa. United States citizen, Shaima Herman, married to a South African, was also declared an “undesirable person”, after a two-year wait for the approval of her spousal visa. Her husband indicated that she had visited the Department of Home Affairs on 14 separate occasions and yet her visa remains delayed.

Haniff Hoosen from the Democratic Alliance stated that: “Media reports and public outcry suggest that in less than a month the new regulations have already ripped apart families, dissuaded investors, and led to the suspension and even cancellation of multimillion-rand film and tourism ventures”. He called for the regulations to be reviewed and debated by Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, asserted that the new immigration regulations proposing to be in the best interests of South Africa’s security, is an insufficient excuse for inefficient policy. He further states that: “Omissions and lack of definitions and criteria raised serious concerns about the new regulations, which would be subject to “misappropriation and abuse” by the Department of Home Affairs and its officials.”

It is very likely that one can expect to see court cases challenging these regulations very soon but in the meantime one should not travel out of South Africa without a valid visa, or you will be declared an “undesirable person”.

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.

International love meets the law

A4blA South Africa citizen “x” decides that he is going to study in England after leaving school. During this time abroad he meets the love of his life “y”, a British citizen. Both parties decide that they want to marry each other and are now unsure if the marriage will be valid once they return back to South Africa.

The abovementioned marriage and/ or relationship adequately demonstrate the need for private international law. Men and women of different domiciles and nationalities may fall in love and marry in the country where they happen to reside. Generally speaking, the formal validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where the marriage was solemnized. This is based on the common law doctrine of thelaw of the country were the marriage was solemnized ( lex loci celebrationis).

This rule is also subject to the  fraud of the law (fraus legis) doctrine that will prevent parties from deliberately solemnizing their marriage elsewhere to escape some essential requirements of thelaw of the place of a party’s dwelling house (lex domicilii). Kassim v Ghumran & another 1981 Zimbabwe LR 22, may be considered more fully to illustrate the principle of evasion. Here Ghumran and Kassim had eloped from Zimbabwe to Malawi in order to marry. Kassim was only 15 years old and the consent of her parents, which was not obatined, was required for her marriage under the law of Zimbabwe. Kassim’s father sought an order declaring that the Malawian Marriage is void. The court held that where one or both parties were domiciled in the area of the court and had their marriage deliberately solemnized elsewhere to escape an essential requirement of the lex domicilii acted in fraudem legis. 

The last exception to the lex loci celebrationis is the principle of public policy. The marriage will be against public policy if it offends fundamental moral principles of that society. Since the marriage relationship is one of the fundamental institutions of our society, it follows, none the less, that public policy will raise its head here. It does so primarily in two broad areas; marriages tainted by incest, want of age, or lack of consent and polygamous marriages, especially before the recognition of customary marriages is South Africa. The consensus seems to be that the union of siblings (whether of half or full blood) and the union of any blood relatives in the direct line will be against public policy (contra bonis mores).

Therefore their marriage will be valid in South Africa if they complied with the abovementioned international private law principles and that the marriage was legally conclude in accordance with the laws of England. It is also important to note that the legal consequences of the marriage will be governed by different international private law principles and the validity of the marriage will be determined according to the abovementioned principles.

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.

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