We do not wish to marry; how do we regulate our relationship?

“South Africans are losing interest in marriage”, this is the essence of the recent study done by Stats SA on the number of marriages and divorces being concluded by South Africans over the last ten years.

The study noted how, despite the number of marriages entered having increased since the Covid-19 lockdown period, there is still a decline in the solemnisation of marriages with the highest number of marriages having been concluded in 2012.

At present, there have been an increase in civil marriages, customary marriages and civil unions, and it is worth noting that the number of registered civil unions increased by 52.3% in 2021 – compared to the preceding year.

However, the number of divorces is ever-increasing as an increase of 13.1% has been noted during 2021 in comparison to 2020. The ten-year-long trend, being that the majority of divorces are instituted by black African couples, has been maintained; and it has also become apparent that more women are instituting divorce at 54.8% compared to men. Further, 56.6% of divorces in 2021 affected children younger than 18 years.

As a consequence of the above discussion, it is crucial to note that many South Africans may be living as domestic partners with or without children without any agreement regulating the nature of their relationships – considering that Parliament has not approved the Draft Domestic Partnerships Bill, 2008 at present.

The lack of statutory regulation of these relationships, which are neither civil marriages, civil unions or customary marriages, does not mean that they should not be regulated by a partnership/spousal agreement with or without the incorporation of a parenting plan. An agreement to this effect may assist parties in domestic partnerships to regulate the terms applicable to their partnerships as well as the obligations which they wish to apply about maintenance, household contributions and assets, and their children. Divorced and/or separated parents may also enter into a parenting plan regarding the parenting arrangements in respect of their minor children.

It is therefore advisable to consult with your family attorney and your life partner or ex-spouse or ex-partner to ensure that you enter into an agreement which will make navigating your relationship, whether you are still in one or have separated, more convenient.

Disclaimer: This article is the personal opinion/view of the author(s) and is not that of the firm. The content is provided for information only and should not be seen as an exact or complete exposition of the law. Accordingly, no reliance should be placed on the content for any reason whatsoever and no action should be taken on the basis thereof unless its application and accuracy have been confirmed by a legal advisor. The firm and author(s) cannot be held liable for any prejudice or damage resulting from action taken based on this content without further written confirmation by the author(s).

March 9, 2023
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