Category Archives: Family Law

Dealing with marriage and estate planning

A3_GTIt is important to understand the legal implications of the marital property regime, especially when drafting a Last Will and Testament and also when entering into a marriage, as the regime chosen by the estate planner is going to affect his/her assets.

The most important forms of marriage are: marriage in community of property, marriage out of community of property (without accrual), and marriage out of community of property (with accrual).

Marriage in community of property

  1. There is no prior contractual arrangement, apart from getting married;
  2. Spouses do not have two distinct estates;
  3. There is a joint estate, with each spouse having a 50% share in each and every asset in the estate (no matter in whose name it is registered);
  4. Applies to assets acquired before the marriage and during the marriage;
  5. Should one spouse incur debts in his own name it will automatically bind his/her spouse, who will also become liable for the debt;
  6. If a sequestration takes place (in the case of insolvency), the joint estate is sequestrated.

Marriage out of community of property without the accrual system

  1. An antenuptial contract (ANC) is drawn up by an attorney (who is registered as a notary), before the marriage;
  2. Where there is no contract, the marriage is automatically in community of property;
  3. The values of each spouse’s estate on going into the marriage are stipulated in the contract;
  4. A marriage by ANC means that all property owned by spouses before the date of the marriage will remain the sole property of each spouse;
  5. Each spouse controls his/her own estate exclusively without interference from the other spouse, although each has a duty to contribute to the household expenses according to his/her means;
  6. To allow for assets acquired by spouses during the marriage to remain the sole property of each spouse, the accrual system must be specifically excluded in the ANC.

Marriage out of community of property with the accrual system

  1. The accrual system automatically applies unless expressly excluded in the antenuptial contract;
  2. The accrual system addresses the question of the growth of each spouse’s estate after the date of marriage.

ESTATE PLANNING

Donations between spouses are exempt from donations tax and estate duty.

Marriage in community of property

  1. In the event of the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse will have a claim for 50% of the value of the combined estate, thus reducing the actual value of the estate by 50%. The estate is divided after all the debts have been settled in a deceased estate (not including burial costs and estate duty, as these are the sole obligations of the deceased and not the joint estate).
  2. When drafting a Last Will and Testament, spouses married in community of property need to be aware that it is only half of any asset that he or she is able to bequeath.
  3. Upon the death of one spouse, all banking accounts are frozen (even if they are in the name of one of the spouses), which could affect liquidity.
  4. Donations or bequests to someone married in community of property can be made to exclude the community of property; in other words, if the donor stipulates that the donation must not fall into the joint estate, then the donee can build up a separate estate. However, returns on such separate assets will go back to the joint estate.

Marriage out of community of property without the accrual system

Each estate planner (spouse) retains possession of assets owned prior to the marriage.

Marriage out of community of property with the accrual system

A donation from one spouse to the other spouse is excluded from the calculation of each spouse’s accrual; in other words, the recipient does not include it in his growth and the donor’s accrual is automatically reduced by the donation amount.

DIVORCE

In the event of divorce, the marriage will be dissolved by court decree, which will address such aspects as child maintenance, access, guardianship and custody, spousal maintenance, the division of assets, division of pension interests and so on.

COHABITATION AND DEFINITION OF “SPOUSE”

Cohabitation is defined as a stable, monogamous relationship where a couple who do not wish to or cannot get married, live together as spouses. The Taxation Laws Amendment Act has extended the definition of “spouses” to include “a same sex or heterosexual union which the Commissioner is satisfied is intended to be permanent”.

Many pieces of legislation, including the Pension Funds Amendment Act and the Taxation Laws Amendment Act, now define spouse to include a partner in a cohabitative relationship, the effects of which are that cohabitees will benefit from the Section 4(q) estate duty deduction in the Estate Duty Act, and the donations tax exemptions of the Income Tax Act.

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

Can you apply for a protection order against domestic violence, and what is the meaning of a “domestic relationship”?

article-3-SeptemberThe Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (“the Act”), came into operation on 15 December 1998. The purpose of this Act is to protect victims of domestic abuse.   It sets out the procedure for a person to apply to court for a protection order.

Any person applying for this order is referred to as the “complainant” and the person that committed an act of domestic violence is referred to as the “respondent” by the Act.

There is a whole list of what is considered to be an act of domestic violence and it is not limited to physical violence.  Other acts of violence such as emotional, verbal, physiological, economic and sexual abuse, are all deemed acts of domestic violence.  The list extends the protection to intimidation, harassment, stalking and damage to property.

A “complainant” is any person (including a child in the care of the person), who:

  1. is or has been in a domestic relationship with a respondent and;
  2. who is or has been subjected or allegedly subjected to an act of domestic violence.

The Act requires that the complainant and the respondent have to be or should have been in a domestic relationship. The Act defines a domestic relationship as follows:

“domestic relationship” means a relationship between a complainant and a respondent in any of the following ways:

  • hey are or were married to each other, including marriage according to any law, custom or religion;
  • they (whether they are of the same or of the opposite sex) live or lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, although they are not, or were not, married to each other, or are not able to be married to each other;
  • they are the parents of a child or are persons who have or had parental responsibility for that child (whether or not at the same time);
  • they are family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption;
  • they are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship. including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration; or
  • they share or recently shared the same residence;

The Act casts the protective net very wide, if the definitions of both domestic violence and domestic relationship are considered.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Appeal delivered a judgment that specifically dealt with the interpretation of the definition of a domestic relationship in the Act.  In Daffy v Daffy (2012) 4 ALL SA 607 (SCA) the court held that the concept of “family” in section 1(x)(d) is extremely wide.  More specifically, the definition of a domestic relationship is written poorly, and that the Act does not give a precise meaning in the definition.

The court held that the Act therefore has to be interpreted in order to clearly define the concepts of “domestic relationship”, “family” and “domestic violence”.  In the interpretation of legislation, and this Act specifically, the underlying purpose of the statutory provisions has to be carefully considered and kept in mind. In other words, the reason why this act was passed by government should be taken into account.

The court considered all the surrounding circumstances to determine whether the complainant’s health, safety and well-being were threatened by the respondent’s acts.

In the judgment, the court remarked on other cases where it was held that a domestic relationship involves persons sharing a common household (people living together under one roof). However, the court held that the legislature must have intended a wider definition, but not so wide as to include a mere blood relationship.

The implication of this judgment is far-reaching.

Every matter will have to be individually considered and the relevant factors taken into account. The definitions in the Act can no longer be interpreted as literally as before the Daffy-judgement.   Every court will have to use its discretion to decide whether the persons are indeed in a domestic relationship and can no longer accept that once they fall under the definition, the Act shall apply mutatis mutandis.

Domestic violence reports will have to be considered more carefully, as the complainant and respondent might not be in a domestic relationship and therefore the Act cannot apply.  Those who investigate the claims of domestic violence will have to be alert and attentive to the narrower definition and ensure that the parties are indeed in a “domestic relationship”.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and require a protection order for your own physical and emotional wellbeing, you should obtain legal advice sooner rather than later.  Assistance by an attorney or legal aid clinic in the correct application for a protection order will ensure that the requirements are duly met and that the necessary and correct information be noted in the application.

A victim may also approach the court in his or her personal capacity. The clerks of the domestic violence court will assist you and should be friendly, empathetic and well versed in the requirements of the legislation.

It is of equal importance to obtain legal advice and representation if a protection order is sought against you, particularly as the process is sometimes abused and because of the dire consequences such an order can have on the criminal record of the respondent.

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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The position of same-sex marriages in South Africa

article-5-August-nlIn December 2005, South Africa became the fifth country in the world and the first country on the African continent to recognize the rights of same-sex couples.

The Constitutional Court case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie is the ground-breaking decision which legalized homosexual marriages in South Africa.

The legal question in the Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie was twofold:

Firstly, the court had to decide whether the fact that no provision was made for same-sex marriages in any statute, amounted to the denial of equal protection of the law and unfair discrimination by the state against homosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. Secondly, if such unfair discrimination were to be found, the court had to decide on an appropriate remedy.

Judgement

In a unanimous decision the Constitutional Court declared that the common law definition of marriage, and section 30(1) of the Marriage Act, which excluded same-sex marriages, were inconsistent with sections 9(1) and 9(3) and section 10 of the Constitution that deal with the right to equality and the right to human dignity respectively.

The Court highlighted that South Africa has a multitude of family formations and as such it was held to be inappropriate to enforce any one particular form as the only socially and legally acceptable one. The Court emphasized a constitutional need to acknowledge the long history in South Africa of the marginalization and persecution of gays and lesbians. Further, the Court acknowledged the lack of a comprehensive legal regulation of the family law rights of gays and lesbians.

It was found that excluding same-sex marriage is an indication that homosexuals are to be considered “outsiders”. In the words of Judge Sachs, writing on behalf of the majority: “To penalise people for being who and what they are is profoundly disrespectful of the human personality and violators of equality. Equality means equal concern and respect across difference.” In effect the Court acknowledged a “right to be different”.

Religious arguments

Among the various arguments opposed to the issue at hand were inevitable contentions raised by religious institutions, which the Court respectfully heard. However, it was held that judges would be placed in an intolerable situation if they were called upon to construe religious texts and take sides on issues that have caused deep divisions within religious bodies. In the open and democratic society contemplated by the South African Constitution there must be a mutually respectful co-existence between the secular and the sacred. Furthermore, it was held that the recognition of same-sex marriages would in no way force religious institutions to accept or perform such marriages within their chosen belief, nor would the recognition deprive any religion or heterosexual couple from marrying within the tenets of their beliefs.

Civil Union Act 17 of 2006

The final finding of the Court was that the common law definition of marriage was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it did not permit same-sex couples to enjoy the status and the benefits coupled with responsibilities it accords to heterosexual couples. Furthermore, section 30(1) of the Marriage Act was declared to be invalid to the extent that it gave effect to the exclusion of same-sex marriages. In order to remedy the situation parliament was given 12 months to cure the defect through the implementation of legislation.

Ultimate relief came in the form of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006, which makes provision for same-sex marriages and operates alongside the Marriage Act, such that any individual in South Africa may now conclude a marriage either in its traditional form (under the Marriage Act) or in the form of a civil union (under the Civil Union Act). Civil partnerships (or unions) are entirely the same as marriages insofar as legal consequences are concerned but just differ in name.

Conclusion

One of the most important lessons to be learnt from this case is this statement made by the Court:

“At issue is a need to affirm the very character of our society as one based on tolerance and mutual respect.  The test of tolerance is not how one finds space for people with whom, and practices with which, one feels comfortable, but how one accommodates the expression of what is discomfiting.”

It goes without saying that the enactment of the new Act changes the discriminatory background of common law in respect of same-sex relationships. The consequences of a civil union are now the same as in a marriage of a heterosexual couple. It must be noted that an unregistered same-sex relationship is not governed by the provisions of this Act, and that the law allows for churches to refuse to perform civil unions.

NOTE TO ATTORNEYS: See Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another (CCT 60/04) [2005] ZACC 19; 2006 (3) BCLR 355 (CC); 2006 (1) SA 524 (CC) (1 December 2005);
Also see Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 and The Marriage Act 25 of 1961.

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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Die stand van selfdegeslag-huwelike in Suid-Afrika

article-5-August-nlIn Desember 2005 het Suid-Afrika die vyfde land in die wêreld en die eerste land op die Afrika-kontinent geword wat die regte van paartjies van dieselfde geslag erken.

Die Konstitusionele Hofsaak van Minister van Binnelandse Sake v Fourie is die baanbrekerbesluit wat homoseksuele huwelike in Suid-Afrika gewettig het.

Die regsvraag in Minister van Binnelandse Sake v Fourie was tweeledig:

Eerstens moes die Hof besluit of die feit dat geen voorsiening vir homoseksuele huwelike in enige wet gemaak is nie, neerkom op die ontkenning van gelyke beskerming van die wet en onregverdige diskriminasie deur die staat teen homoseksuele persone op grond van hul seksuele oriëntasie. Tweedens, indien sodanige onregverdige diskriminasie bestaan, moes die  hof besluit op ‘n gepaste remedie.

Uitspraak

In ‘n eenparige besluit het die Konstitusionele Hof verklaar dat die algemene definisie van die huwelik en artikel 30 (1) van die Wet op Huwelike, wat homoseksuele huwelike uitsluit, strydig is met artikel 9 (1) en 9 (3) en artikel 10 van die Grondwet wat handel oor die reg tot gelykheid en die reg op menswaardigheid onderskeidelik.

Die Hof het beklemtoon dat Suid-Afrika verskeie familieverhoudinge het en aldus het die Hof beslis dat nie een spesifieke vorm afgedwing kan word as die enigste sosiaal en wetlik aanvaarbare een nie. Die Hof beklemtoon ‘n grondwetlike noodsaaklikheid om die lang geskiedenis in Suid-Afrika van die marginalisering en vervolging van homoseksuele persone, te erken. Verder erken die Hof die gebrek aan omvattende wetlike regulering van die gesinsregte van homoseksuele persone.

Daar is bevind dat die uitsluiting van homoseksuele huwelike ‘n aanduiding is dat homoseksuele persone beskou word as “buitestaanders”. In die meerderheidsbeslissing van Regter Sachs, skryf hy: To penalise people for being who and what they are is profoundly disrespectful of the human personality and violators of equality. Equality means equal concern and respect across difference.” In wese het die hof die “reg om verskillend te wees”, erken. 

Godsdienstige argumente

Onder die verskeie argumente teen homoseksuele huwelike was onvermydelike standpunte wat deur godsdienstige instellings gehuldig is en wat die Hof met respek aangehoor het. Daar is egter bevind dat regters in ‘n onhoudbare situasie geplaas sou word as daar van hulle verwag sou word om godsdienstige tekste te vertolk en kant te kies oor kwessies wat sterk verdeeldheid binne godsdienstige liggame veroorsaak het. In `n oop en demokratiese samelewing, soos beoog deur die Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet, moet daar  wedersydse respek bestaan ​​tussen die sekulêre en die godsdienstige. Verder was die hof van mening dat erkenning van selfdegeslag-huwelike op geen manier godsdienstige instellings sou dwing om homoseksuele huwelike te aanvaar of sulke huwelike binne hul gekose geloof te moet verrig nie.

Civil Union Act 17 van 2006

Die finale bevinding van die hof was dat die gemenereg-definisie van die huwelik strydig is met die Grondwet en ongeldig is in die mate dat dit nie toelaat dat paartjies van dieselfde geslag die status en die voordele gekoppel met die verantwoordelikhede, wat aan heteroseksuele paartjies verleen word, kan geniet nie. Verder is artikel 30 (1) van die Wet op Huwelike ongeldig verklaar in die mate dat dit uitvoering gee aan die uitsluiting van selfdegeslag-huwelike. Ten einde die situasie reg te stel is die parlement twaalf maande gegun om die defek te genees deur die implementering van wetgewing.

Die finale verligting het gekom in die vorm van die Civil Union Act 17 van 2006, wat voorsiening maak vir selfdegeslag-huwelike en wat, saamgelees met die Wet op Huwelike, beteken dat  enige individu in Suid-Afrika  nou ‘n huwelik kan sluit hetsy in sy tradisionele vorm (kragtens die Wet op Huwelike) of in die vorm van ‘n siviele verbintenis (onder die Civil Union Act). Siviele vennootskappe/verbintenisse is presies dieselfde as huwelike vir sover dit wetlike gevolge betref en verskil bloot in naam.

Gevolgtrekking

Een van die belangrikste lesse wat geleer kan word uit hierdie saak is hierdie verklaring gemaak deur die Hof: “At issue is a need to affirm the very character of our society as one based on tolerance and mutual respect. The test of tolerance is not how one finds space for people with whom, and practices with which, one feels comfortable, but how one accommodates the expression of what is discomfiting.”

Die  inwerkingtreding van die nuwe wet verander dus die diskriminerende agtergrond van die gemenereg ten opsigte van selfdegeslag-verhoudings. Die gevolge van ‘n siviele verbintenis is nou dieselfde as in ‘n huwelik van ‘n heteroseksuele paartjie. Daar moet egter kennis geneem word dat ‘n ongeregistreerde homoseksuele verhouding nie deur die bepalings van hierdie Wet beskerm word nie en dat die wet voorsiening maak vir kerke om te weier om siviele verbintenisse uit te voer.

NOTA AAN PROKUREURS:
Kyk Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another (CCT 60/04) [2005] ZACC 19; 2006 (3) BCLR 355 (CC); 2006 (1) SA 524 (CC) (1 December 2005);
Kyk ook Civil Union Act 17 van 2006, en die Wet op Huwelike 25 van 1961.

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

Kliek hier om die volledige vrywaring te sien

Om te trou of nie te trou…

article1nl-JulyWanneer ‘n man die groot vraag vra aan die liefde van sy lewe en sy aanvaar, kan daar gesê word dat hulle ‘n kontrak aangegaan het om te trou in die toekoms.

Wanneer die verlowing egter verbreek word kom dit dikwels voor dat die verontregte party hul eks wil dagvaar vir die verbreking van die belofte om te trou oftewel troubreuk.

Onlangse regspraak ten opsigte van  troubreuk

Alhoewel daar  frustrasie en hartseer na die verbreking van die verlowing ervaar kan word, is die realiteit dat dit nie so maklik is om te slaag met ‘n monetêre eis teen iemand wat nie hul beloftes nakom nie.

Gemene Reg:

Oor die jare het ons gemene reg die beginsel dat die verontregte party ‘n eis het vir troubreuk erken. Tradisioneel bestaan die eis ​​uit twee dele:

  1. Die deliktuele eis wat die verontregte party sou hê onder  actio  injuriarum vir contumelia, met ander woorde, skadevergoeding vir die vernedering wat veroorsaak word as gevolg van die verbreking van die verhouding; en
  2. Die kontraktuele eis vir die werklike finansiële verlies gely deur die verontregte party as gevolg van die verbreking van die verhouding tussen die partye.

Van Jaarsveld v Bridges (2010) SCA:

In die Appèlhof saak Van Jaarsveld vs Bridges (2010) is bevind dat geen eis bestaan in Suid-Afrikaanse reg ​​anders as werklike uitgawes aangegaan in die beplanning en voorbereiding van die huwelik. Ten opsigte van troubreuk het Harms DP die aandag gevestig op ‘n hof se reg, en belangriker, plig om die gemene reg te ontwikkel, met inagneming van die belang van geregtigheid en op dieselfde tyd die gees, strekking en oogmerke van die Handves van Menseregte.

Harms DP huldig die standpunt dat daar nie sondermeer aanvaar kan word dat die partye wanneer hulle beloof om met mekaar te trou op daardie stadium van hul verhouding sou dink dat ‘n beëindiging van hul verlowing finansiële gevolge sou hê asof hulle in werklikheid getroud is nie. Die aanname van die twee partye is dat hulle huweliksbedeling sal bepaal word deur hul daaropvolgende huwelik. Harms DP het tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat in sy opinie ‘n verlowing meer van ‘n onafdwingbare pactum de contrahendo is wat ‘n spatium deliberandi verskaf- ‘n tyd om mekaar beter te leer ken en om te besluit of partye uiteindelik wil trou met mekaar al dan nie.

ES Cloete v Maritz (2013) WCH:

Die vraag of die eis vir troubreuk ‘n geldige skuldoorsaak in die Suid-Afrikaanse reg is, is  weer vanjaar oorweeg in die Wes-Kaapse Hooggeregshof.

In die saak voor Regter Robert Henney het Mej. Cloete beweer dat Mnr Maritz die groot vraag gevra het in Namibië op die 9 Februarie 1999 met ‘n verloofring en sy het aanvaar. Die verhouding was onstuimig en ‘n dekade later het Maritz die verlowing verbreek en die daaropvolgende troue gekanselleer en haar vertel dat daar ‘n nuwe persoon in sy lewe is.

Cloete het Maritz gedagvaar en beweer dat Maritz se weiering om met haar te trou, neerkom op `n repudiasie van die ooreenkoms wat hulle 10 jaar vroeër gemaak het.

Haar eis:

Daar was drie aspekte tot Cloete se eis:

  1. Sy wou terugbetaling hê van R 26 000,00 wat sy aan hom gegee het in 1994 en 1996 vir ‘n besigheid waarin hy betrokke was.
  2. Sy wou R 6,5 miljoen hê om op te maak vir die finansiële voordele wat sy sou geniet het indien hulle voortgegaan het met die huwelik, insluitende bedrae vir die gebruik en genot van die huis in ooreenstemming met die lewenstyl wat  gehandhaaf is deur die partye tydens hul verhouding. Sy het ook onderhoud geëis van R 8500,00 per maand vir 25 jaar.
  3. Ten slotte wou sy R 250 000,00 hê as skadevergoeding vir die verbreking van sy belofte om te trou met haar; vernedering aan haar persoonlike waardigheid en haar reputasie.

Sy eis:

Maritz het die aantygings ontken en geargumenteer dat Cloete die een was wat die troue gekanselleer het en hy het dit bloot aanvaar.

Maritz het ‘n spesiale pleit geopper dat die “breach of promise to marry” nie ‘n geldige skuldoorsaak is in ons reg is nie gebaseer op die Appèlhof se uitspraak in Van Jaarsveld v Bridges 2010 (4) SA 558 (SCA), ‘n uitspraak wat hierdie hof verplig is om te volg.

Uitspraak:

In sy uitspraak het Regter R Henney gesê: ” Clearly, to hold a party accountable on a rigid contractual footing; where such a party fails to abide by a promise to marry does not reflect the changed mores, morals or public interest of today.”

Regter R Henney het verder gesê: “Dit is my mening dat oorwegings van openbare beleid en ons eie gemeenskap se veranderde gewoontes nie kan toelaat dat ‘n party gedwing word om toekomstige skadevergoeding te betaal op ‘n suiwer kontraktuele grondslag waar so ‘n party wil uittree uit ‘n persoonlike verhouding nie en geag word om troubreuk te pleeg nie. So ‘n situasie is na my mening heeltemal onhoudbaar en kan nie toegelaat word nie. “

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

Slot:
Morele waardes en tye het verander. Egskeiding, was vroeër slegs beskikbaar in die geval van egbreuk of verlating, maar is nou beskikbaar in die geval van onherstelbare verbrokkeling van die huwelik. Daar is geen rede waarom die beëindiging van ‘n verlowing nie  die gebrek aan begeerte om met die betrokke persoon te trou as `n regverdige oorsaak vir die beëindiging van `n verlowing daar kan stel nie. Onwilligheid om te trou stel `n duidelike bewys van die onherstelbare verbrokkeling van die verlowing daar. Dit is onlogies om meer ernstige gevolge te heg aan ‘n verlowing as ‘n huwelik.

Maritz se spesiale pleit is gehandhaaf en daar is bevind dat die eis vir die verbreking van die belofte nie ‘n geldige skuldoorsaak in Suid – Afrikaanse reg daarstel nie. Soos blyk uit die bogenoemde,  bestaan daar slegs `n eis vir die werklike uitgawes aangegaan in die voorbereiding van die huwelik.

Bron:
Ronnilie Theron
Honey Attorneys

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

Kliek hier om die volledige vrywaring te sien

To marry or not to marry…

article1nl-JulyWhen a man proposes marriage to the love of his life and she accepts the proposal and they become engaged they are said to have concluded a contract to marry in the future.

When an engagement is called off one often get the situation where the aggrieved party wants to sue their ex for breach of promise.

Recent case law regarding the breach of promise to marry

Although there is frustration and heartbreak that may be experienced at the end of an engagement, the unfortunate reality of the matter is that it is not that easy to succeed in a monetary claim against somebody who is not intent on fulfilling their promises.

Common Law:

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

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

Van Jaarsveld v Bridges (2010) SCA:

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

In the Judgment Harms DP in respect of breach of promise, draws attention to a court’s right, and more importantly, duty to develop the common law, taking into account the interests of justice and at the same time to promote the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights.

Harms DP said that he is unable to accept that parties when promising to marry each other at that stage of their relationship would contemplate that a breach of their engagement would have financial consequences as if they had in fact married. The assumption of the two parties is that their marital regime will be determined by their subsequent marriage. Harms DP then concluded that in his view an engagement is more of an unenforceable pactum de contrahendo providing a spatium deliberandi:  – “a time to get to know each other better and in which they would decide whether or not to finally get married.”

ES Cloete v A Maritz (2013) WCH:

The question whether or not the claim for breach of promise is a valid cause of action in South African law was once again considered in the Western Cape High Court.

In the Western Cape High Court, Judge Robert Henney was the presiding Judge in the matter of ES Cloete versus A Maritz.

Miss Cloete claimed that Mr Maritz proposed formally to her in Namibia on the 9th February 1999 with an engagement ring and she accepted. The relationship was turbulent and a decade later Maritz called off the engagement and the subsequent wedding telling her that he no longer wanted to marry her or even see her; and that he had someone new in his life.  Cloete instituted action against Maritz and alleged that Maritz’s refusal to marry her amounted to a repudiation of the agreement that they had reached 10 years earlier.

Her Claim:

There were three aspects to Cloete’s claim:

  1. She wanted repayment of R 26 000.00 that she had given him in 1994 and 1996 for a business he was involved in.
  2. She wanted R 6.5 million to make up for the financial benefits she would have enjoyed had they concluded the marriage,  including amounts for the use and enjoyment of the house commensurate with the lifestyle enjoyed and maintained by the parties at the time of their cohabitation. She also wanted maintenance of R 8 500.00 a month for 25 years.
  3. Finally, she wanted R 250 000.00 in damages for breach of promise, impairment to her personal dignity and her reputation.

His Claim:

Maritz denied the allegations that Cloete has made and stated in replying papers that Cloete was in fact the one who had called off their wedding and he had merely accepted it.

Maritz raised a special plea that “breach of promise” did not constitute a valid cause of action based on the Supreme Court of Appeal’s Judgment in Van Jaarsveld v Bridges 2010 (4) SA 558 (SCA), a judgment which this court is obliged to follow.

Judgement:

In his judgment Judge R Henney said: “Clearly, to hold a party accountable on a rigid contractual footing; where such a party fails to abide by a promise to marry does not reflect the changed mores, morals or public interest of today.”

Judge R Henney went on to say in his judgement: “It is my view that considerations of public policy and our own society’s changed mores cannot permit a party to be made to pay prospective damages on a purely contractual footing; where such a party wants to resign from a personal relationship and thus commits a breach of a promise to marry. Such a situation is in my view entirely untenable and cannot be allowed.”

Judge further went on to say:As pointed out by Sinclair, The Law of Marriage Vol 1 (1996), to hold a party liable for contractual damages for breach of promise may in fact lead parties to enter into marriages they do not in good conscience want to enter into, purely due to the fear of being faced with such a claim.  This is an untenable situation.”

Conclusion:

The world has moved on and morals have changed. Divorce, which in earlier days was only available in the event of adultery or desertion, is now available in the event of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There is no reason why a just cause for ending an engagement should not likewise include the lack of desire to marry the particular person, irrespective of the ‘guilt’ of the latter. Unwillingness to marry is clear evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of the engagement. It appears illogical to attach more serious consequences to an engagement than to a marriage

Maritz`s special plea was upheld and it was found that the claim for breach of promise is not a valid cause of action in South African law. As appears from the above decision, no claim in law exist other than actual expenses incurred in the preparing of the marriage. This effectively excluded any damages for breach of the promise to marry.

Source Reference:
Ronnilie Theron
Honey Attorneys

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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With couples increasingly cohabiting before (or instead of) formally marrying, and with the Domestic Partnerships Bill of 2008 still on ice, it bears repeating –

1.     There is no such thing in South Africa as a “Common Law Marriage”

2.     Any cohabiting couple needs to urgently take advice on concluding a formal “cohabitation agreement” – don’t risk not having one! Continue reading

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Dit gebeur toenemend dat paartjies saamwoon voordat hulle in die huwelik tree (of dikwels saamwoon in die plek van die huwelik). Die mees onlangse wetsontwerp hieroor dateer uit 2008 (“the Domestic Partnerships Bill of 2008”) en dit is nog nie afgehandel of in werking gestel nie.

Dit is dus nodig om die huidige regsposisie in Suid Afrika duidelik te stel:  –

1.     Regtens bestaan daar nie ‘n gemeenregtelike huwelik nie (“Common Law Marriage”)

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