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PROPERLY EXECUTING A WILL IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT


I gave instructions to my attorney to prepare a last will and testament for me as my will no longer reflected my wishes. At my request, my attorney emailed the will to me with clear instructions as to how I should go about signing it. I asked my neighbours to act and sign as witnesses. My neighbours signed the will on all the pages and left before I signed. I then signed the will on all the pages. I am now worried about the validity of my will as the email from my attorney states that I have to sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. Is my will valid?

The formalities for the valid execution of a will are set out in the Wills Act. Section 2 of the Wills Act, Act 7 of 1953, reads: “No will executed… shall be valid unless the will is signed at the end thereof by the testator… and such signature is made by the testator… in the presence of two or more competent witnesses present at the same time and such witnesses attest and sign the will in the presence of the testator and of each other…”. Therefore, in order for a will to be valid, it has to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, both witnesses being present when the will is signed by the testator. The two witnesses signed your will in the presence of each other, but not in your presence.

A similar set of facts presented itself in a court case recently heard by the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court. In this matter, the two daughters of the deceased, who lost out on their inheritance in terms of the will of their father, claimed that it was never their father’s intention for his much younger lover to inherit his total estate. The testator was 85 years old at the time of his death and he had been living with a woman 38 years his junior for 8 years.

The deceased executed two wills during his lifetime. One on 6 November 2011 (“the 2011 will”) and another on 7 January 2014 (“the 2014 will”). The 2014 will was signed shortly before his death leaving the bulk of his estate to his much younger lover. The daughters of the deceased claimed the 2014 will was invalid as there were “suspicious” circumstances. They claimed their father either did not sign the 2014 will himself or, if he did, that he lacked the mental capacity to execute a valid will by reason of dementia. The daughters of the deceased were not successful in proving that the deceased’s signature was a forgery despite the fact that three handwriting experts testified.

Another witness called to testify was a witness to the 2014 will. Her testimony focused on the circumstances surrounding the signing of the 2014 will. She signed the will as a witness. She testified that she and her husband met the deceased in the street. As they were acquainted they naturally engaged in social conversation. She and her husband were informed that the deceased was on his way to the police station to sign a will. She and her husband were asked if they would accompany the deceased in order to sign the will as witnesses. They were assured that the process would not take long so they agreed to assist.

She and her husband signed the will and immediately left. They were the first to sign the will. At the time they signed the will the deceased had not signed the will. They left before witnessing the deceased signing the will.  Hence, the 2014 will was not signed by the deceased in their presence even though it reflects their respective signatures as witnesses.

The evidence assessed collectively established that the deceased signed the 2011 will and also that he signed the 2014 will. However, the 2014 will was signed by the deceased after the two witnesses to the will had already left and therefore was signed in their absence.

The court referred to Section 2 of the Wills Act in terms whereof no will is valid unless the signature made by the testator is made “in the presence of two or more competent witnesses present at the same time”. The court confirmed that this requirement is mandatory and, if not met, the will is not valid for want of compliance with a statutorily required formality.

The court therefore found the 2014 will to be invalid and, as there was no evidence that there was any irregularity in the execution of the 2011 will, the 2011 will was declared the will of the deceased.

This judgement of the High Court once again emphasizes the importance of complying with the Wills Act. Your will is invalid, and it is advisable for you to print the will again and to sign it in the presence of two competent witnesses or, even better, for you to make an appointment with your attorney in order to sign the will at his office.

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 List:

  • Twine and Another v Naidoo and Another [2017] ZAGPJHC 288; [2018] 1 All SA 297 (GJ)
  • Wills Act, Act 7 of 1953

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.

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 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.

DOES SOUTH AFRICA HAVE A PUBLIC RETIREMENT INSURANCE SCHEME?

My husband’s employer made provision for an occupational retirement vehicle, but my employer refuses to do so. Is there any possible recourse for me in this situation?

There is currently no public retirement insurance scheme in South Africa. This is quite a predicament for most South Africans, as the majority of persons employed in the informal economy would have to rely on an old age grant (which is currently R1, 690.00 and will increase with R10.00 on the 1st of October 2018) rather than occupational retirement. This leaves one with the alternative options of either a private retirement fund or a provident fund.

Some employees are lucky enough to be given the choice between a pension or a provident fund, when they are employed. However, there is no statutory obligation on an employer to provide such a choice to their employee. In the case of a provident fund, the contributions of members are not allowed as tax deductions and, when the member reaches the retirement age, the whole benefit will be paid out in a lump sum. In contrast, with a pension fund, the member gets one third of the total benefit in a cash lump sum and the other two-thirds is paid out in the form of a pension over the rest of the member’s life. The contributions to a pension fund are deductible for tax, which offers the member some tax benefits.

Independent contractors, the self-employed, and other persons who do not qualify to join occupational retirement funds, are left with no other option but to turn to private retirement annuities. The high-income employees also tend to invest their monies in this option to secure a comfortable retirement.

The private retirement scheme option has now taken up the responsibility of a social insurance scheme.

In his budget speech on the 21st of February 2018, the Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, declared that the old age grant would increase by the 1st of October 2018. This is the last option for those whose retirement plans have failed, or the only option for most informal economy employees or low-income employees.

With the lack of a public retirement insurance scheme, employees who are not fortunate enough to be given the option of an occupational retirement vehicle are left with no other alternative but to turn to a private insurance scheme. This decision is however also dependant on a “practicable” salary. There is currently no statutory obligation on employers to provide for an occupational retirement scheme.

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:

THE A, B AND C OF SERVICE OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS

How are legal documents supposed to be served, and what is regarded as invalid service?

Purpose of service of legal documents:

The fundamental rule with regards to service is that the court must be satisfied that the defendant or respondent has received these documents and is therefore aware that legal proceedings are being brought against him/her. Erasmus stated in his book, Superior Court Practice: “It is a cornerstone of our legal system that a person is entitled to notice of legal proceedings against him”.

Service on person’s residence or place of business:

The ideal would be that the service of all legal documents should be effected via personal service. However, due to the fact that people on the wrong side of the law are often very evasive, service can be effected on any person above the age of 16 years, who is apparently resident at the residence of the person to be served/employed at the place of business of the person to be served.[1]

Service on a domicilium address:

A domicilium address is a regular term of the most modern contracts and means that the contracting party chooses an address where all legal notices and documents may be served, by delivering or leaving the document to be served at such address.[2] This could be a potentially dangerous term, especially with regards to contracts which are being renewed annually, but of which the content is not necessarily updated as regularly as it should be. It often leads to documents being served at an address where a person is no longer resident or carrying on business, and where the person has neglected to update such information in the contracts which he/she concluded.

Service of legal documents on a company/closed corporation:

Service of legal documents in which a company or closed corporation are to be served, are effected by serving such documentation at the company/closed corporation’s registered address or principle place of business.[3] Because a company/closed corporation’s principle place of business often differs from their registered address, this could also lead to a company/closed corporation changing the place at which it conducts business, but neglecting to change their registered address, causing legal documents served at the registered address not coming under its attention.

Invalid Service

Rule 9(3) of the Magistrate’s Court Rules determines that a court may, if there is reason to doubt whether the process served has come to the actual knowledge of the person to be served, treat such service as invalid. Thus if a judgment was granted against a defendant on whom there did not occur proper service of the summons as explained above, it would be a ground for rescission of such judgment.

Preferable method of service:

Personal service should be used whenever possible, and the other methods of service provided for in the rules should only be used where the Defendant is elusive or untraceable. In O’Donoghue v Human[4]  the following is stated: “what the Court requires in regard to service of a summons is that it be served in the best possible manner likely to bring the summons to the attention of the defendant. Rule 4 appears to contemplate that, if possible, service should be personal, and that only if the defendant or respondent cannot after diligent search be found may some other authorised form of service be adopted. The whole purpose is to take the most effective steps possible to ensure that the summons comes to the Defendant’s notice.”

[1] Rule 9(a) – (c) of the Magistrate’s Courts Rules

[2] Rule 9(d) of the Magistrate’s Court Rules

[3] Rule 9(e) of the Magistrate’s Court Rules

[4] 1969 (4) SA 35 (E) par. 4

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:

  • Magistrate’s Court Rules
  • O’Donoghue v Human 1969 (4) SA 35 (E)

CAN MEDIATION SAVE YOU SIGNIFICANT COSTS THAN LITIGATION?

Litigation is the primary method of dispute resolution in the South African justice system. Essentially, litigation is the institutionalised process adopted by the court system as the method of resolving disputes. The process is characterised by a number of deficiencies, which include the adversarial nature of the process, which often creates further conflict between disputing parties and often results in permanently destroyed relationships. Further shortcomings include the highly complex, costly and time-consuming nature of litigation. Court rolls have become overburdened due to the rapidly increasing volume of litigation at court. This often results in extensive waiting periods before matters are heard at court and further infringes the attainment of access to justice. As a result, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes are posed as a viable alternative to the process of litigation.

There are certain areas of law, which make provision for mediation to be used as a mechanism for resolving disputes between the parties. The compulsory practice of mediation within the field of family law is currently affected through statutes found within this area of law. The Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act 24 of 1987 is an example of this. This piece of legislation necessitates the compulsory process of mediation. The legislature’s rationale for incorporating the process of mediation into legislation stemmed from the critical problem that family-law legal practitioners in the past often viewed divorce solely as a legal event. One of the main objectives of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“LRA”) as explained in the preamble of the LRA, is to ‘provide simple procedures for the resolution of labour disputes through statutory conciliation, mediation and arbitration’ through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration or through accredited independent ADR services. The central objective of the LRA is promoting healthy industrial relations. South African law also makes provision for the practice and benefits of mediation outside of the abovementioned family and labour areas.

Reality is that most disputes are resolved within a non-legal context by means of informal dispute resolution processes such as negotiation and mediation. Mandatory court-based mediation provides that whenever an appearance to defend is instituted in action proceedings, or a notice of intention to oppose is delivered in application proceedings, the matter must first be referred to mediation in an attempt to settle and resolve the dispute. In the event of the disputants being unable to resolve their dispute or conclude a settlement agreement during the mediation process, the matter is then referred back to the conventional process of litigation to be adjudicated at court, as a defended action or opposed application procedure. The implementation of voluntary court-based mediation may be the answer in settling disputes, which can be resolved without approaching our courts for litigation.

Depending on the nature of your dispute, mediation may assist one in resolving your matter in an amicable manner for both parties, speedily, and in a more cost-effective manner as opposed to dragging your dispute through the lengthy process of litigation, based on the fact that it Is the primary method of resolving disputes.

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:

  • Maclons W, Mandatory Court Based Mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution Process in the South African Civil Justice System (Unpublished, University of the Western Cape, 2014)
  • Faris, JA, An Analysis Of The Theory and Principles Of Alternative Dispute Resolution (University of South Africa 1995)
  • The Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act 24 of 1987
  • The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995
  • Rule 3 of the 2011 Draft Set of Rules. Law Society of South Africa ‘Draft mediation rules’ available at http://www.lssa.org.za/upload/DRAFT%20MEDIATION%20RULES%20APPROVED%20BY%20BOARD%2019%2011.pdf

THE DIFFICULTIES IN RELOCATING A CHILD OF DIVORCED PARENTS

I have divorced my husband and I am now the primary caregiver of our minor child. I received a job offer in another country and I would really like to accept it. My ex-husband and father of my minor child won’t consent to the relocation of our minor child. Will I get permission from the court to relocate?

In the case of relocation disputes where the primary caregiver wants to relocate, there are certain factors the court considers before granting the relocation. These factors are listed in Section 7 of the Children’s Act.

As one can imagine, family law and divorces are difficult topics; especially when minor children are involved. In the event the parties separate, the minor children will need to be in the primary care of one parent and the other parent will have rights and responsibilities in respect of the minor child but does not necessarily have to live with the child.

The issue that arises in situations as outlined above is where the primary care-giver wants to relocate to another country and the other parent won’t give consent (hereafter “the disputing party”). The difficult part of disputes relating to relocation is that there are numerous competing rights. The Children’s Act (“the Act”) regulates and makes provision for those rights.

In order to have a full understanding of the issues that arise here, a breakdown of the various rights should be discussed. Firstly, the right to freedom of movement and association of the primary caregiver may become a problem. Secondly, the rights of the opposing parent to be in contact with the minor child. Lastly, the rights of the minor child are restricted, i.e. the right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with his parents.  The infringement of these rights can, by their very nature, turn into a dispute.

Where the dispute cannot be resolved between the parties through negotiation, the parties would rather opt for mediation than litigation. The reason for choosing the former is because of the nature of the dispute – it is a family matter and there are minor children involved. Litigation is a more strenuous route of dispute resolution, thus not the most suitable given the circumstances.

Where the court is tasked with making a ruling in a relocation dispute, there are certain factors the court considers. Section 7 of the Act sets out a list of these factors.

If the parties are divorced, the court will consider whether there is a court order in existence prohibiting the removal of the child from the court’s jurisdiction. In some case, the parties agree in their settlement agreement to never remove the minor children from the Republic of South Africa.

In the event the court has to consider the right to contact with the minor child, the court looks at the meaning of the word “contact” as used in the Children’s Act. It is important to keep in mind that “contact” does not only mean the physical seeing of each other in flesh, but also communications via laptop and/or cell phone. This form of contact is easier to make use of in our era.

The court will consider the reason for the relocation as a factor in these matters. The reason for this consideration is because the best interest of the child is of utmost importance. If the reason for relocation is, for example, to contribute to the child’s education or safety (something that would be considered positive), the court is likely to be more pleased.

The court will also consider the relationship the child has with the parents. If the opposing parent has a great relationship with the minor child and sees the child every alternate weekend or holiday and will now only be able to email the child- the court will have to consider this and the possible influence the absence of the opposing party would have on the minor child, if relocation is granted.

This will also become clearer when the court considers the choice of the minor to relocate or not.

The court also considers the stability factor. This includes the court considering the life outside the home of the minor. It is important to know whether the child is happy where he/she is, how well the child does at school, whether he/she has family members living nearby and whether he/she visits on a regular basis.

As with the conflicting rights of the parties, the court kept the best interest of the child in mind, whilst considering the abovementioned factors. The court in the AC v KC case also applied the “reasonable person’s test” and the court held that “one must think oneself into the shoes of the proverbial bonus paterfamilias or the reasonable man”. Even though the reasonable person test was used in AC v KC, the best interest of the child is the most important factor.

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:

  • Children’s Act 38 of 2005
  • A.C. v K.C. (A 389/08) [2008] ZAGPHC 369
  • Jackson v Jackson (18/2001) [2001] ZASCA 139

CAN THE POLICE SEARCH A PERSON WITHOUT A WARRANT OF ARREST?

This article focuses on primarily whether the police may search a person without a warrant of arrest. On the face of it, it would appear that the search and seizure of a person and premises are in contravention with the Bill of Rights, more specifically section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

With the enactment of the Constitution, there have been a number of constraints on search and seizure powers by police officials. Section 14(a) of the Constitution specifically protects the right not to have a person or their home searched. A person’s home, it is widely accepted, constitutes the highest expectation of privacy. According to section 36 of the Constitution, rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited by a law of general application, if the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

The Criminal Procedure Act allows the police to search any person or any container or premise of that person without a search warrant. It also allows the police to seize any article reasonably believed to have been used to commit a crime or that is reasonably believed to be evidence that could assist the state in proving that an offence was committed. This can be done only if the owner gives consent for the search or if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a search warrant would have been issued and a delay in conducting the search would have defeated the purpose of the search and seizure operation.

What this essentially means is that a police officer can search you personally or can search your car or house even when no search warrant was obtained and even when you did not give permission for such a search. However, such a type of search without a warrant can only be executed where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a search warrant will be issued to the relevant police official should he apply for it and that the delay in obtaining such warrant would defeat the object of the search.

According to the relevant case law, a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a person committed an offence or that a person is in possession of an article used or to be used in the commission of an offence. A mere assertion by a police officer that he or she had such a suspicion without any evidence to back it up will not do. This means that where a police officer stops you in the street and decides that you are a drug dealer merely because of your appearance, he or she will not be able to merely argue that there is a reasonable suspicion that you committed an offence or are in possession of an article used in the commission of an offence and, hence, will not be entitled to search you.

In terms of the South African Police Act 68 of 1995 the National or Provincial Commissioner may where it is reasonable in the circumstances in order to exercise a power or to perform a function of the service, authorise in writing a member under his command to set up roadblocks on any public road. Any member of the South African Police Service may, without a warrant, search any vehicle at such a roadblock. However, such a search without a warrant in a roadblock may only be conducted upon the written authorisation by the National or Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service.

It is of paramount importance that a police official exercise his or her discretion in conducting a search without a warrant carefully and does not infringe a person’s right to privacy as entrenched in section 14 of the Constitution. It is also important to note that a search and seizure by a police official must be reasonable and justifiable in terms of the Constitution.

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:

  • The Criminal Procedure Act 57 of 1977
  • The South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995
  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,1996
  • Geldenhuys T,The Criminal Procedure Handbook, Juta, August 2010

CHOOSING MEDIATION WHEN RESOLVING DISPUTES

If I suggest mediation to a party with whom I have a dispute, am I signalling that I lack confidence in my own case?

Mediation offers many advantages to parties for resolving a range of disputes, when compared to litigation and arbitration. The mediator must however be properly qualified. Lawyers, who understand mediation, have an important part to play in assisting their clients in the mediation process.

Many disputes which parties take to court are settled just before trial, but after the heavy legal costs of preparing for trial have been incurred.  However, a substantial majority of such disputes could have been resolved much earlier by mediation.

Mediation may be defined as “a confidential, facilitative and voluntary process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the dispute.”

Several aspects of this definition require comment. Mediation usually takes place through an agreement between the parties.  However, in some jurisdictions, court rules can prescribe court-annexed mediation, whereby the parties must first try mediation before they can refer the dispute to court. Unlike litigation or arbitration, where an outcome is imposed, a settlement achieved by mediation only binds the parties once they both agree to it. The mediator’s function is to assist the parties in reaching a settlement.  Also, unless the agreement to mediate provides otherwise, a party may withdraw from mediation at any stage, thereby terminating the process.

Advantages include a considerable saving in time and costs. Moreover, a settlement reached by the parties is typically not just based on their legal rights, but takes their current and future interests into account. Even commercial disputes involve more than legal rights and financial payments.  In the mediation process, broken relationships can be restored. Even if mediation does not fully resolve the dispute, the issues can be substantially narrowed, reducing the duration and costs of subsequent litigation or arbitration. Mediation also takes place “without prejudice”. Parties may freely participate in mediation without the danger of any concessions or admissions made in the attempt to settle being used against that party in subsequent litigation or arbitration. Because of these advantages, in countries like Ireland, a lawyer must certify that the benefits of mediation have been explained to the client before the client commences court proceedings.

Mediation can however have disadvantages. It is not realistically possible to reach a fair settlement before the parties and the mediator have adequate information regarding the dispute, which may be in documents possessed by only one of the parties. There is also the danger of a party agreeing to mediation as a delaying tactic or in an attempt to gauge the strength of the other party’s case, but with no intention of reaching a settlement.

A successful mediation requires the appointment of an appropriately qualified mediator, who should usually have some expertise regarding the subject-matter of the dispute. The mediator must be properly trained and accredited by a reputable mediation service provider and have experience as a mediator. Mediation is a highly flexible process. For example, a mediator may hold side-meetings with one of the parties in the absence of the other, in order to discuss the dispute.  The mediator must win the trust of the parties regarding his or her integrity and ability to conduct the process with competence and firmness. Even if the parties have legal representation, the mediator is primarily responsible for ensuring the fairness of the process.

Lawyers are trained to play an adversarial role to win a case in court for their client. However, a lawyer who understands mediation, can provide valuable assistance in a mediation and the mediator’s task is often easier where the parties have competent lawyers. Their role includes helping the client prepare for the mediation and to understand the process, advising the client during the negotiations and assisting with drafting a settlement agreement once a settlement has been reached.

Mediation has long been used in South Africa for labour disputes, but is increasingly used for family disputes involving children, commercial matters and even in disputes regarding medical negligence. Government’s commitment to mediation’s potential for creating access to justice is demonstrated by a recent amendment to the Magistrates’ Courts Rules enabling pilot schemes for court-annexed mediation in Gauteng and the North West. Based on experience in other countries, court-annexed mediation can substantially reduce congested court rolls. Also, the SA Law Reform Commission is currently working on two separate projects involving mediation – one on family dispute resolution and the second on possible legislation to promote mediation generally. Mediation clearly has an important role to play in promoting access to speedy and affordable justice in South Africa.

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:

  • Brand, Steadman & Todd Commercial Mediation: a User’s Guide (2nd edition 2016)
  • Irish Mediation Act 27 of 2017, definition of “mediation” and section 14
  • Magistrates’ Courts Rules (as amended on 18 March 2014) chapter 2
  • Rycroft “Settlement and the Law” 2013 SALJ 187-209
  • South African Law Reform Commission: Project 94 Alternative Dispute Resolution; Project 100D Family Dispute Resolution.

THE POSSIBILITY OF TERMINATING A SURROGATE AGREEMENT

Partial surrogacy agreements allow for the surrogate mother to terminate the agreement within 60 days after giving birth to the child. This article looks at the different outcomes surrogacy agreements may have.  

I entered into a gestational surrogacy agreement with a married couple. I am currently 8 months pregnant and have formed a bond with the baby. Will I be able to terminate the surrogacy agreement after the birth of the baby? 

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (“the Act”) makes provision for a valid surrogacy agreement. In terms of the Act, a surrogate agreement is concluded when ‘the commissioning parent(s) are not able to give birth to a child and the condition is permanent or irreversible’.

Prior to the introduction of modern technology, specifically that of reproductive techniques, ‘traditional or partial surrogacy’ was the only method available to women who had no uterus or abnormalities of the uterus to have children. Recently, artificial insemination is used to inseminate surrogate hosts in order for the surrogate mother to carry the child. The Act governs the artificial fertilisation of a surrogate mother.

There are two types of surrogacy agreements, namely partial surrogacy and full (gestational) surrogacy. Partial surrogacy is the method used in the case where the husband’s gamete together with the gamete of the surrogate mother, is inseminated into the internal reproductive organs of the surrogate mother. As a result, the child is genetically linked to the father and surrogate mother. Full surrogacy refers to the instance where the gametes of both the commissioning parents are inseminated into the internal reproductive organs of the surrogate mother. In essence, the surrogate mother has no genetic link to the child.

A surrogate to a partial surrogacy agreement has 60 days during which she can terminate the agreement after the birth of the child. However, in terms of gestational surrogacy agreement, the parties to the agreement are not given the option to terminate the agreement. Additionally, in this case, the surrogate mother cannot refuse to relinquish the child to the commissioning parents.

The law of contract in South Africa revolves around two main principles, namely pacta sunt servanda (Latin for “agreements must be kept”) and the freedom to contract.  These principles imply that the obligations arising out of the agreement must be enforced. The reality of these two principles is that they do not exist in isolation, as they are subject to legislative and judicial decisions. Despite meeting the ordinary requirements of a contract, a surrogacy agreement is a unique contract as there are conflicting human rights and interests involved when a dispute arises out of such an agreement.

Forcing a surrogate mother who is not genetically linked to the child to hand the child over to the commissioning parents when she refuses to do so has been described as a sacrifice of a woman’s reproductive autonomy to the principle of pacta sunt servanda. 

The fundamental rights and values of the Constitution cannot be ignored in surrogacy agreements as Section 12(2)(a) – (b) of the Constitution clearly provides “everyone the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make decisions [regarding] reproduction [and] to security in and the control over the body”.

For a surrogacy agreement to be valid it must meet the requirements set in chapter 19 of the Act. When such a surrogacy agreement is invalid, the common law position will apply insofar as the woman who gave birth to the child would be regarded as the legal mother of the child whether or not such a child has a genetic relation with her.

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:

  • Brisley v Drotsky 2002 (4) SA 1 (SCA).
  • Lewis SV ‘The Constitutional and Contractual Implications of the Application of Chapter 19 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005’ available at uwc.ac.za/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11394/1828/Lewis_LLM_2011.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed 20 April 2017)
  • http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/health-law/health-law-keyed-to furrow/reproduction-and-birth/johnson-v-calvert/2/
  • Children’s Act 38 of 2005
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
  • Brinsden PR ‘Gestational Surrogacy’ 2003 (9) 5 European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology 483 – 491

CAN TRUSTEES BAN YOUR PET IN A SECTIONAL TITLE SCHEME?

Problems around the ownership of pets are common amongst owners of sectional title properties, but while laws may be imposed by the trustees of the homeowners’ associations, the requirement for a reasonable approach is entrenched in the very laws which govern how a sectional title scheme should be managed.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process and considering all relevant factors, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme.

This is according to the Prescribed conduct rule 1 in Annexure 9 of the Sectional Titles Regulations which deals with the keeping of pets, including reptiles or birds.

It states:

  1. “An owner or occupier of a section shall not, without the consent in writing of the trustees, which approval may not unreasonably be withheld, keep any animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
  2. When granting such approval, the trustees may prescribe any reasonable condition.”

The phrases, “may not unreasonably” and “may prescribe any reasonable”, clearly seek to assist in the creation of harmony amongst a community living side by side in a sectional title development.

These regulations exist to protect the pet owner from unreasonably strict rules, and equally, they must confer on the other owners the right to a nuisance-free and peaceful environment. This means that both parties need to consider each other’s needs.

This consideration, in granting or refusing consent, will be central to inquiry: will it unreasonably interfere with other’s rights to use and enjoy their units; and which conditions would be appropriate in these circumstances to ensure that the risk of nuisance is reduced to a reasonable level?

For this reason, owners or occupiers can only keep pets in a section or on any part of the common property with the written consent of the trustees. However, the trustees cannot unreasonably withhold that permission. An absolute prohibition to keep a pet could be considered unreasonable and if consent to keep a pet is unreasonably withheld, the owner can take the matter to court.

The trustees must furthermore, base their decision on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. The decision to either grant or refuse consent should be recorded in the minutes of the trustee’s meeting, giving reasons that illustrate they have applied their minds to the particular set of facts.

An example of a court case which arose from a dispute regarding permission to keep a pet in a sectional title development was Body Corporate of The Laguna Ridge Scheme No 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D), in which it was held that the trustees are obliged to individually consider each request for permission to keep a pet, and to base their decision on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.

A further extract from this case pointed out that trustees are not entitled to refuse an application on the basis that they are afraid of creating a precedent. The trustees were, in this case, found to have been grossly unreasonable and have failed to apply their minds when they refused the Applicant permission to keep a small dog.

The question of the reasonableness of the actions of the trustees, in granting or withholding permission and setting conditions, will turn on the nature of the pet concerned and the circumstances of the scheme. In dealing with any application for permission to keep a pet, the trustees should consider what type of pet it is, and whether there are already other similar pets at the scheme.

It is unlikely that any action by the trustees to remove a ‘companion animal’ or ‘service animal’, such as a guide dog owned by a blind or partially sighted owner, would be held to be reasonable in the absence of a clear nuisance caused by the animal. The fact that a person sometimes forms an extremely strong emotional tie with their pet could also be an important consideration when the trustees decide whether or not to grant permission.

The trustees are not, however, powerless in situations where the conditions of permission to keep a pet are not being met. The trustees can withdraw permission if it is reasonable to do so. Examples include if the pet is causing a nuisance to other owners or occupiers (e.g. barking persistently), or the pet is considered dangerous to other owners or occupiers.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme. However, the enforcement of this could be tricky for the trustees. The body corporate is not entitled to forcibly remove a pet from an owner’s possession. This can only be achieved by a court order, if – for example – there are too many dogs being kept in an inadequate space, the trustees can get the assistance from the local SPCA who can be contacted to come to the scheme to do an inspection in loco. If it is justified, they will implement the necessary legal steps to have the dogs removed.

Careful consideration and the application of the principles as set out in the rules of the scheme and the above-mentioned regulations will lead not only to peaceful co-existence, but also healthy growth in property values for the developments implementing such approach. A harmonious board of trustees results in a happy community, which in turn will ensure a good name for any development.

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:

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