DOES the law recognise polygamous marriages?

In South Africa, polygamous marriages are common.

After Andile’s family negotiated a marriage with his second wife’s family, he was afraid it wouldn’t be legally recognised by the Department of Home Affairs.

So, he decided to get legal help because he didn’t want any of his wives or children to suffer if he passed away.

This because they wouldn’t be able to enjoy similar legal rights to that of a wife in a civil marriage.

What does the law say?

According to the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998, polygamous marriages are recognised under South African law.

In order for such a union to be legally valid, it needs to comply with the requirements of a valid customary marriage in South Africa:

.Both parties must be above the age of 18.

. Both parties must have consented to the marriage under customary law.

. Customary law must be followed to negotiate and celebrate the marriage.

. If lobola has been paid, it proves the marriage was negotiated according to custom. But this isn’t a necessary requirement for a valid marriage.

Does Andile have to register the marriage?

It’s important for him to register the customary marriage. This ensures all the customary marriages he enters into are valid.

Not registering a customary marriage doesn’t invalidate it, but if a second wife is married without the first one being registered, the first marriage will be invalidated.

What happens to the joint estate?

The husband must apply to the high court for permission to enter into a polygamous marriage and provide a written contract stating how the property in the marriages will be regulated to protect the interests of all spouses.

What can Scorpion do for Andile?

1. Give legal advice on the law, including customary and civil law.

2. Help Andile determine whether his marriage is legally valid or not.

3. Provide general advice on antenuptial contracts.

The way forward

Andile now knows his marriages are valid, according to South African law.

He also knows he should register his customary unions to ensure none of them are invalidated.

Scorpion Legal Protection can assist policyholders with queries related to customary law.

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