You’re getting married! YAY! But what now… who actually marries you and what does it all mean?

The first important thing to note is that there are three Acts that govern marriage in South Africa – the Marriages Act; the Civil Unions Act and Customary Marriages Act.

  • The Marriages Act is for anyone who is marrying someone of the opposite sex, and they can be under 18.
  • The Civil Unions Act is most inclusive Act and applies to anyone over the age of 18, same or opposite sex. It is as legally bunding as the Marriages Act.
  • The Customary Marriages Act governs customary/traditional marriages and affords couples the same legal status as the other two Acts.

 

What is the Civil Union Act and how does it differ from the Marriages Act?

We’re registered under the Civil Unions Act, so that will be the focus of this post.

As mentioned, the Civil Unions Act is a more inclusive Act for marriages in South Africa. Anyone over 18 can get married by someone who is registered under this Act, including same sex or opposite sex couples.

A civil union has the same matrimonial and patrimonial consequences as any other marriage. This means that the same rules apply when it comes to marrying in or out of community of property as well as wills.

How much notice do we need to give?

You can get married anywhere, any time! Because you don’t need any special paperwork, we can do it at the drop of a hat. This applies when you’re both South Africans – it gets a bit more complicated if one or both of you are foreign. But we’ll go into more detail about that in a follow up post.

What paperwork do we need, as South Africans?

  • A copy of your ID
  • 3 x ID photo’s
  • If you have been previously married, Home Affairs will require a copy of the decree of divorce/death certificate (whichever applies) which will be submitted on your behalf
  • If you have an ante-nuptial agreement, you will need a copy of the cover letter from your lawyer.

 

What is the Civil Union Act and how does it differ from the Marriages Act?

The Civil Unions Act 17 of 2006 is a more inclusive Act for marriages in South Africa. Anyone over 18 can get married by someone who is registered under this Act, including same sex or opposite sex couples.

A civil union will have the same matrimonial and patrimonial consequences as a marriage concluded in terms of The Marriage Act 25 of 1961. This means that if the parties to a civil union do not enter into an antenuptial contract, the civil union will be one in community of property and the provisions of the Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984 will apply. The rights afforded and the recognition of these two acts remain the same in South African Law.

What about the Marriage certificate?

You will receive a handwritten, abridged marriage certificate after the ceremony. Once your marriage is registered – this takes about 3 weeks, you can apply at any Home Affairs office for the printed abridged certificate, which you will receive while you wait. An abridged certificate will have both of your full names, ID numbers and marriage date

If you require an unabridged certificate – this has more information and is stamped, you will can apply for one at the same time. It takes about 3 months from Home Affairs. You usually need an unabridged certificate if you’re immigrating or applying for an international passport etc.

Do we have to have an ante-nuptial contract (ANC)?

No, you don’t but it’s advisable. An Antenuptial Contract (ANC)shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle when getting married, but rather as a something to protect both of your assets  and protecting your family. It’s especially important for someone who already has assets like a business, or family obligations like children from a previous marriage.

When it comes to an ANC, you can get married with or without an accrual. Without accrual basically means that what’s your is yours and everything is kept separate, both from before and after the marriage.

With accrual, your assets are still yours but whatever is accrued during your marriage gets split when the marriage ends either by death or divorce.

The most common reason why people elect to marry out of community of property is to protect their assets and their financial position prior to and during the marriage, as well as have some independence. An ANC offers protection to a spouse against being liable for their spouse’s debt, unless they have taken out the debt jointly or a spouse provided personal security for the debt of the other spouse. It also allows the spouses to be able to sign contracts with any third party without the consent of the other spouse.

You’ll have to sign your ANC before you get married and give your marriage officer a letter from your lawyer saying that you have an ANC.

If you do not enter into an ANC prior to the solemnisation of your marriage, you are automatically married IN COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY.

If you have any questions, or need a marriage officer to do your legal marriage or a fully personalised ceremony, get in touch!  

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