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Marriages

How can a person get married in South Africa?

  • A 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.

What is a civil marriage?

  • It is a marriage that can only be entered into between a man and a woman.
  • A civil marriage will automatically be in community of property, unless the persons enters into an ante nuptial contract indicating that the marriage will be out of community of property, with or without the accrual system.

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).

What is a civil union?

  • It is a marriage entered into between two persons of the same sex.
  • A civil union will automatically be in community of property, unless it is stipulated otherwise in an ante nuptial contract.

What is a religious marriage?

  • It is a marriage entered into in terms of a religion such as the Islamic and Hindu faith.
  • Even though it is not recognised in South African law, some limited protection is granted to a religious marriage in the following instances:
    • a spouse may, upon the death of the other spouse, approach a Magistrate’s Court for a maintenance order against the deceased spouse’s estate;
    • a spouse may inherit in terms of the law of intestate succession (when a person dies with no Will); and
    • spouses are protected against domestic violence.
  • A religious marriage must be treated as a marriage out of community of property without the accrual system.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS:

ANTE NUPTIAL 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.

MARRIAGE OFFICER: a person who is authorised to conclude a marriage between two persons, such as ministers of a religion or a person who is appointed as a marriage officer by the Minister of Home Affairs.

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. 

MONOGAMOUS MARRIAGE: refers to a marriage where a man has one wife at a time.

POLYGAMOUS MARRIAGE: refers to a marriage where a man has more than one wife at a time.

How can LegalWise assist you?

Should you require an explanation of your rights on this topic, please contact your nearest Branch.


How can LegalWise assist you?

Should you require an explanation of your rights on this topic, please contact your nearest Branch.

DISCLAIMER:

The information contained on this website is aimed at providing members of the public with self-help guidance on the law. The information applies to South Africa, unless it is specifically stated that the information applies to another country. Although LegalWise has tried to ensure that the information is accurate and current, it is important to remember that the law constantly changes. And, although LegalWise has tried to provide information of a high quality, we cannot guarantee that the information will be updated and/or be without errors or omissions. As a result, LegalWise, its employees, agents or representatives will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable for the consequences resulting from, the use of or the inability to use the information, or, any negligence by us relating to the information so used. The information contained on this website has not been provided to meet the individual requirements of a specific person and we insist that legal advice be obtained relating to a person’s unique circumstances.