Before they marry two people can make an agreement called an ante-nuptial contract. Usually this agreement excludes (or cuts out) community of property. This means the husband and wife each own and control their own things – they have separate estates.
Under the Matrimonial Property Act of 1984 the accrual system automatically applies to their marriage, UNLESS they agree in their ante-nuptial contract that they do not want the accrual system.
‘Accrual’ means increase. The accrual system recognises that during a marriage the husband and wife keep on adding to their joint property. For example, They may add to their property by both working and bringing money into the marriage. Or one spouse may add indirectly by staying home and looking after the home and children so that they do not need to employ someone to do that. The accrual system allows both partners to benefit from the growth to either of their property during the marriage.
While the marriage lasts, the husband controls his own separate estate and the wife controls hers. But if they divorce or when one spouse dies, any increase in the value of both estates gets shared equally by the partners. If the couple chose not to have the accrual system, in their divorce the partners keep their own things and are responsible for their own debts.
Example of Accrual System
|Value at end of marriage||R30 000||R4 000|
|Value at beginning of marriage||R10 000||R2 000|
|Increase||R20 000||R2 000|
In this example, the husband’s estate has grown by R18 000 more than the wife’s estate during the marriage (i.e. R20 000 – R2 000). She has a claim against him for half of this difference i.e. R9 000 so that they each end up with an accrual of R11 000.