Family Law > Marriage > The Rules of Civil Marriage > Marriages in Community of Property
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Marriages in Community of Property

This is the automatic system of marriage. In other words, if you get married without signing any contract, you will automatically be married in community of property.

‘In community of property’ means that everything the couple own, and their debts, from before their marriage are put together in a joint estate. And everything they earn or buy and any debts incurred after their marriage are also part of this joint estate.

There is joint administration of the things the couple own. This means the husband and wife share in controlling their joint property. To protect each spouse, the other partner’s written permission is necessary for big things like buying or selling a house, signing credit agreements, withdrawing money from accounts in the other spouse’s name and so on.

If they get divorced the joint estate gets divided into half. One half belongs to the wife, the other to the husband. Any debts are also shared. The court does have a discretion to order that one spouse will not get his/her half share that he/she will be entitled to by granting an order of forfeiture of benefits or a redistribution of the assets if, taking into account various factors, it believes it would be unfair for everything to be split equally.

In terms of the Matrimonial Property Act (No 88 of 1984), the marital power of a husband over his wife was scrapped. Now a woman married in community of property:

  • Has equal rights to administer the joint estate
  • Can enter into contracts without her husband’s permission
  • Can sue or be sued in her own name

Both men and women must now say what their marital status is when they fill in forms.

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