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Simon Dippenaar
Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
B.Bus.Sci (UCT), LLB (UCT), PDLP (UCT)
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Not married – when the inevitable happens

What happens to the estate on death when a couple is not legally married

We recently wrote about the consequences of the death of a spouse in terms of the different marital regimes (featured on FIN24 and our blog here). A reader wrote to tell us of losing her life partner – they were never married – and her shock upon learning she had no legal right to his estate, despite living together for many years.

So we thought it would be helpful to clarify the situation surrounding the death of a non-married life partner. Although the trend in both civil and customary marriages is slightly upward, there are still many people, both heterosexual and same-sex, who choose to live together without entering into a legal union. This is often called a domestic partnership, but this term does not (yet) have any legal standing.

No such thing as common-law marriage

We’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating, because there are still many misconceptions. Common-law marriage does not exist. Living together as man and wife for a certain number of years or even having children together does not confer any type of legal status. This can be achieved via a cohabitation agreement, but does not occur automatically by virtue of the tenure of the relationship. If you have been labouring under the assumption that you have certain rights as common-law husband and wife, it’s important that you take alternative steps to secure your future.

When bereavement strikes

Hopefully you and your partner will live long, healthy lives unmarked by tragedy. But whether through accident or old age, one of you will probably predecease the other. If many of your assets are jointly owned, and if there are surviving parents or children, whether from your relationship or a previous one, the situation can be complex and potentially financially damaging for the surviving partner.

What happens in the event of death with no other contracts

Let’s assume for a moment there is no cohabitation agreement in place and your partner did not leave a will, or the will does not include you (for example, the will was drawn up before you met and was never updated). In this case, to all intents and purposes you have no automatic rights to half the estate. Of course if an asset, such as a house, is jointly owned, you will still own your half (provided both names are on the deeds; it may be more difficult to prove your contribution to household upkeep if the house is in only one name). But that might not help you if a distant relation lays claim to the other half. You would have to buy them out, which might entail selling the house. null

The principle of reciprocal duty of support between unmarried persons has been tested in the Constitutional Court. A landmark case in 2006 resulted in victory for the surviving partner of a same-sex couple, who successfully challenged the parents’ claim to inherit from their deceased son. However, it is crucial to note that this judgement was handed down before same-sex marriage became legal in South Africa. Since the option of marriage was not available to this couple, the Court ruled that the law was discriminatory. In subsequent challenges, the Court has made it quite clear that marriage is available to anyone who wants it, and if a couple chooses not to marry, they are also choosing to exclude themselves from the legal consequences of marriage – the rights and obligations that arise uniquely from marriage, whether civil or customary or civil union.

Will you or will you not?

There are two ways you can protect your partner and yourself from being financially compromised by the other’s death: a cohabitation agreement and a will. We recommend having both. A cohabitation agreement is a relatively simple contract that includes details of a couple’s assets, property and the financial contributions each partner makes to the joint home. It is valid when ratified by an appointed lawyer.

You can download a cohabitation agreement template here.

Secondly, you should both have a will (everyone should have a will). A will sets out an individual’s wishes for the disposal of their assets after death. In the absence of a will, the Intestate Succession Act No. 81 of 1987 applies. While this Act endeavours to ensure fair distribution of assets, it may not be in line with your express wishes. A will makes sure you look after one another in the event of the other’s death.

It’s important to note that, unlike a marriage, it is simple to unwind or change a cohabitation agreement or will. If your circumstances change and you want to amend your will, you can do so simply by making a new will or adding a codicil – a sort of appendix – to it (if the changes are very small) and having it signed by two witnesses. A cohabitation agreement can be updated in the same way. In fact, it is important you remember to do this, should you split up, or your ex-partner may inherit your assets against your wishes!

Domestic Partnership Bill

In 2008 Parliament proposed a Domestic Partnership Bill that would formalise the circumstances of couples who choose to cohabit rather than marry. If enacted, it will provide the option to register a relationship as a domestic partnership, creating similar rights and responsibilities as a marriage or civil union. However, we are still waiting for this Bill to become law. Meanwhile, the information in this article represents the current situation.

Let us Help

Don’t take chances with your future – or that of your children. Simon Dippenaar and Associates are experts in family and divorce law. If you and your partner are choosing cohabitation as a long-term option, we can help you draw up a cohabitation agreement and a will. Call us on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

For more on how to choose a divorce lawyer click here.

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Child maintenance – marriage is irrelevant

unmarried fathers child maintenance
Unmarried fathers have the same duty to maintain their children as married dads.

Unmarried fathers have the same duty to maintain their children as married dads

This article focuses on child maintenance. In a recent article we talked about the rights of parents, specifically unmarried fathers. A man who was never married to the mother of his child/ren does not have the same inherent rights as a married father, but parental rights are easily established, according to the Children’s Act of 2005. The Act is premised on the principle of the best interests of the child, and in most cases it is in children’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents, married or not.

Child maintenance – who pays?

We learn from an early age that every right is accompanied by a responsibility. What are the legal duties of parents, and particularly of unmarried fathers, when it comes to supporting a child? Who is responsible for maintaining the child and what costs are included in the legal definition of support?

Divorced or unmarried – it’s all the same

The law may make a minor distinction between unmarried fathers and those who were at some point married to the mother of their child in terms of rights, but when it comes to supporting the child there is no difference. Although there is considerable discussion of maintenance for minor children in the Divorce Act (indeed a court can withhold a decree absolute if the child support arrangements are not deemed satisfactory), the Maintenance Act of 1998 contains the crux of the law.

The Maintenance Act clearly states that “the parents’ respective shares of such obligation are apportioned between them…and…the duty exists, irrespective of whether a child is born in or out of wedlock or is born of a first or subsequent marriage.” In simple terms, all parents carry the responsibility to financially support their children. This is the case even if conception was unplanned or the relationship between mother and father was casual.

What does child maintenance include?

The law takes into account the respective means of both parents, and there are no fixed amounts or minimums applied by the courts. Parents have a duty to provide reasonable requirements for a child’s upbringing. This includes food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and education. The court will take into consideration the ability of each parent to pay, and the obligation on each will not necessarily be identical. The court strives for fairness rather than equality. Equal contributions could be very unfair to one party if the other party has significantly higher earnings. However, the higher earning capacity of one parent does NOT release the other parent from the reciprocal duty to support the child.

All children are equal

The birth of subsequent children to either parent does not lessen or dissolve the obligation to support the first or earlier-born child or children. Take the case of an unintended pregnancy in a teenage relationship. Years later the father marries and starts a new family. He is still responsible for the upbringing of the child he fathered in his teens. Furthermore, the arrival of more children on the scene may not jeopardise the wellbeing of the first child. The court’s view is that the parents should adjust their own standard of living rather than compromise that of the child’s.

Furthermore, where a change in circumstances of a parent, such as unemployment, results in a considerable decrease in their ability to contribute to child support, the court may require the parent to access capital such as a pension fund or retrenchment payout. In some circumstances grandparents may even be held liable to support the child. If a parent is genuinely unable to pay, for example if he is incapable of working due to serious illness, the duty of support lapses, but it does not lapse if someone voluntarily makes himself unemployed for the purpose of avoiding maintenance payments.

Responsibilities trump rights

Occasionally a parent’s access to a child may be restricted. This could happen if a parent’s behaviour is dangerous or detrimental to the child, either physically or emotionally. It is not completely unheard of for mothers to have restricted or supervised access to a child, for example if there is an alcohol or substance abuse problem, but it is a sad fact that it is more commonly men who pose a threat to the women and children in their lives, given the prevalence of domestic violence in our society. Some men also choose not to be involved in their children’s lives, for a variety of reasons. None of these scenarios absolve them of the responsibility to support their children. Rights may be forfeited or left unrealised, but responsibilities remain.

When does it end?

You might think the duty to provide financial support ends when the child reaches the age of majority (18). This is not the case. The law states that parents remain responsible for children until they are self-supporting. So university students over the age of 18 can reasonably expect their parents to continue supporting them. However, the nature of support changes when a child reaches majority. At this stage parents are only responsible for essentials, e.g. accommodation and food.

When do these responsibilities NOT apply?

There are a few situations where biological parents do not carry any responsibility for the upbringing and financial support of their children. Men who donate sperm and women who donate eggs (“biological material”) are not deemed to be the legal parents of any children born as a result of this donation and do not have any responsibility to support them. Surrogate mothers who carry a child for someone else are also not entitled to parental rights, nor do they have the corresponding responsibilities, according to the Children’s Act.

If he still won’t pay

A maintenance order may be made as a result of a divorce decree or an unmarried mother may seek child support from the father of her child. Sometimes, despite court orders, payments lapse. This can cause extreme difficulty if the income of one parent alone is insufficient to cover the costs of raising the child. But often the parent in these circumstances…usually the mother…feels powerless to enforce the maintenance order. We can help. If you are not receiving the financial support you are owed by the father of your child, call Simon at Simon Dippenaar & Associates on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za. We will ensure you get the child maintenance you are due.

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Unmarried father – know your rights

unmarried father

I’m not married to the mother of my child. What are my rights as an unmarried father?

What are my rights as an unmarried father?

Traditionally, two people fell in love, got married, and then (usually but not always) had children. In that order. Pregnancy outside of wedlock carried stigma and young women were often sent away to have the baby, who might then be raised as the “child” of the grandparents. An unmarried father rarely claimed a right to be involved in the child’s life.

But that was then and this is now. In the post-millennial era, many couples choose to start a family before or without getting married. Some of these relationships stand the test of time without legal sanction. Others, just like some marriages, break down. Where the parents and child/ren live as a family unit, the rights of each parent individually rarely come under scrutiny.

However, what are the rights of the father if the unmarried couple splits up, either before the child is born or while the child is a minor, or indeed if conception occurs as part of a casual encounter? While we always strive to be gender-neutral in our approach, the rights of the mother in law are incontrovertible, even if the child’s primary residence is the father’s home, and so this article deals with the rights of the father.

Children’s Act 2005

Prior to 2007, when the Children’s Act of 2005 came into force, an unmarried father did not have parental rights and responsibilities in respect of his child/ren. In order to secure those rights, he would have to approach a court. We know one couple who, although still together after 30 years, never wanted to marry. They had two children and fully intended to raise their daughters together. However, they had the wisdom to recognise that sometimes relationships don’t last. Mom suggested that Dad adopt his own children. This ensured, should there ever be acrimony between them in the future, Dad’s rights to his girls would not be compromised. Fortunately that card never had to be played. And thankfully fathers don’t have to go to these absurd lengths today.

The Children’s Act is a progressive piece of legislation that seeks to align the rights of children with the Constitution. One critical component of the Act is the definition of parental responsibilities and rights. The Children’s Act is built on the principle of the best interests of the child. These come before the interests of the parents, guardian, or anyone else. In determining the rights of the parents, the interests of the child are paramount.

What do we mean by “parental rights”?

The Children’s Act defines parental rights and responsibilities as four discrete activities. They are:

    1. To care for the child
    1. To maintain contact with the child
    1. To act as guardian of the child
  1. To contribute to the maintenance of the child

In this article we are focusing on rights, but will expand on the implications for responsibilities in a future article.

Mom’s rights

This is easy. The biological mother of a child has full parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child, whether or not she is or ever was married to the child’s father. Case closed. These rights may be withdrawn or compromised by court order if some aspect of her behaviour is not in the child’s best interests, but these are her inherent rights as biological mother.

Dad’s rights

The Children’s Act recognises that children need both parents, whether married or not, and it seeks to grant parental rights to unmarried dads without too much complexity. The biological father of a child has full parental rights and responsibilities if he’s married to the child’s mother or was married to the child’s mother at conception, birth, or any time between the two events. However, we’re discussing unmarried fathers.

An unmarried biological father automatically acquires full parental responsibilities if:

    • When the child is born, he and the mother are living together as life partners, OR
  • If he is not living with the mother, he satisfies these conditions:
      • He consents to being or applies to be identified as the child’s father, or he pays damages in terms of customary law
    • He contributes or has attempted to contribute to the child’s upbringing and towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period

As long as he meets these requirements, the unmarried father automatically acquires parental rights and responsibilities.

Same-sex relationships

Same-sex marriages are legal in South Africa, and the laws that apply to children of same-sex marriages are the same as those that apply to children in heterosexual marriages. In a future post we will look at the circumstances surrounding the rights of unmarried parents in same-sex relationships, and at surrogacy.

If you have been denied your rights…

Despite legal rights, some fathers have difficulty maintaining contact with a child when estranged from the mother. This can be due to lack of awareness of rights or obstructive behaviour by the other parent. If you need help to enjoy your full parental rights and responsibilities, call Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za. We believe it is in the best interests of the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents and we will help you achieve that.

What about maintenance?

We’ll look at the laws surrounding child support and maintenance in a future article.

Further reading

For more about interim maintenance for children, that is pending divorce, click here.

For more about relocating with children post divorce click here.

For information about taking a child abroad click here.

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Co-parenting with a narcissist? There are ways to cope.

Co-parenting: This is the last in our three-part series on coping with, divorcing and raising children with someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). For more information on NPD and the personality traits it manifests, see our article on Narcissistic Abuse. To learn more about aspects of divorce involving a narcissist, see our article: When It All Gets Too Much – Divorcing A Narcissist.

Co-Parenting

 

The divorce is final, but you still have to deal with your narcissist ex. How to ensure co-parenting  with a narcissist doesn’t become a battleground

In this final article, we look at the challenges inherent in co-parenting after the divorce. What are some of the tactics you can expect, and what are the strategies that will enable you to cope?

 

It’s not a gender thing

NPD is more prevalent in males than females, but that doesn’t mean fathers are always the protagonists and mothers always the victims in a difficult co-parenting situation. Either parent can make the other’s life hell after the divorce. Statistically, more divorces are initiated by women than men; and women are more likely to have custodial responsibility for children. But in this article we make no assumptions about the sex of the narcissist partner or the custodial partner and will use gender-neutral language throughout.

 

Don’t expect things to be different

Divorce often brings with it tremendous relief. The dying days of the marriage were tense, the divorce was fraught with conflict and emotional strain, and now you just want to get on with life in peace. But you have a child or children and you are both committed to being the best parents you can be and collaborating to give your children a good and happy upbringing. Right? Don’t bet on it.

The narcissistic personality is not suddenly going to change. And there is nothing like the co-parenting arena to bring out the worst in the narcissist. Firstly, if they do not have custody or joint custody, they have the opportunity to show the world how victimised they are, how you have wrenched their children away from them. Secondly, children can be strategic weapons. From bad-mouthing you to your children, to picking them up or returning them late from access visits, to disrupting the children’s routine just to get at you (e.g. allowing them to stay up too late and returning tired, cranky kids to you the next day), the narcissist has a whole new set of tools in the toolbox with which to torment you and bolster their own ego.

 

Some tactics they may employ and ways you can respond

The previous two articles in this series (Narcissistic Abuse, When It All Gets Too Much – Divorcing A Narcissist)  outlined some strategies and coping mechanisms for relating to a narcissist in a conflict-free manner. The guidelines for moving into the co-parenting environment follow the same principles and include some specific tips for managing the post-divorce relationship.

 

Boundaries

If boundaries were important before, they are absolutely critical now. Your lives are separate. If you were the one who initiated the divorce, your ex may not want to accept that, but you must firmly and calmly establish and continually reassert your boundaries. Do whatever it takes to enforce your limits, whether that means never inviting your ex into your home, or ending a phone call if the conversation turns abusive, etc. Just be sure to keep your emotions under control and remain courteous at all times. Don’t give the narcissist any (legitimate) grounds for criticising your behaviour.

 

Toxic communication

Your only communication will be about the children, but that won’t stop the narcissist from using it to undermine, belittle or even threaten you. If you get stuck in traffic and are late for a pick-up, be prepared for an angry confrontation or hostile messages on your phone. Try to confine your communication to email or SMS/WhatsApp messages. Email is better for sorting out detailed arrangements, such as school holidays, and you can use short messaging for more immediate concerns, such as reminders about after-school activities or play dates. Make sure your messages are only about these matters and don’t engage in exchanges about personal issues. Avoid phone conversations as much as possible.

 

Triangulation

This term has been adopted by Erin Leonard PhD, a psychologist who specialises in relationships and parenting, to describe the manipulation of the other parent via the children. This often takes the form of lining the children up as allies while positioning the other parent as the opposition. As much as it may gall you to do so, the best response is to ignore it. Determine whether or not your children’s safety is at risk. If it is not, then accept that your rules will not always be upheld in the other household, and the children will survive. You may not approve of sweets before dinner or a later bedtime, but unless your child’s health is seriously jeopardised it is not worth provoking a major conflict. If it blows up, in the children’s eyes the narcissist will be proved right – you are the bad guy, the killjoy, and the other parent is much more fun. If it is a non-issue for you, it will be for the kids too.

Furthermore, children are very adaptable and quickly understand that they have a different routine with each parent. It’s not that rules don’t apply; kids simply know they live by a different set of rules in the other home. Unless those rules are unreasonably harsh, or your kids are subject to discriminatory treatment relative to step-siblings, you must learn to accept them. Reinforce your own values and structures in your home, and as the children grow they will see for themselves how your conduct differs from that of their other parent.

 

Parallel parenting

Sometimes co-parenting doesn’t work. The conflict doesn’t go away and the stress involved is unhealthy for you and the children. You want a friendly relationship for the sake of the children, but friendship is just not on the cards. In that case, forget co-parenting and embark on parallel parenting instead. Parallel parenting means using the tactics described in this article to the full. Limit communication, set clear boundaries, don’t get embroiled in a tug-of-war with the kids’ affections, and remain calm and collected at all times.

In addition, you can’t play happy families at child-related functions. For example, don’t include your ex in a child’s birthday party. It is not reasonable for either of you to expect to mingle amicably with other parents when you can’t be civil to each other. Hold separate birthday parties instead or trade off the host responsibility year to year.  If your child is in a school production, attend on different occasions. If there is only one performance, don’t sit together. When parent-teacher night comes around, only one of you should go. The other can schedule a separate meeting if your communication is so fraught you can’t even share the outcome.

 

If the worst happens

No, we’re not talking about death. But if the narcissist parent ultimately forsakes their parental responsibilities and abandons their children (data from the UK shows that one in five fathers loses touch with his children within two years of a break-up), you may feel a combination of anger and relief, but your children will be heartbroken. They may blame you. Worse, they may blame themselves. Whatever their reaction, your love and affection must be unstinting. Furthermore, though you may do so through gritted teeth, you must provide constant reassurance of the other parent’s love. Stress that the absent parent is very sad and is missing them, but for reasons it may be hard to understand is not able to be in their lives right now. Children can cope with being abandoned; the thought of not being loved does far more lasting damage.

 

We can help Co-parenting

SD Law & Associates are experts in divorce and family law and have helped many clients navigate divorce from a narcissist and negotiate custody or access to children. If you are considering divorce or need help with co-parenting arrangements we can support you through the process with compassion. Contact us on 086 099 5146 or 076 116 0623. Or contact us.

 

Further reading

For more about the rights of an unmarried father click here.

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Postnuptial contract – No ANC?

Postnuptial contract

No antenuptial contract? You can draw up a postnuptial contract instead.

Postnuptial contract explained

It is becoming more and more common for couples planning marriage to draw up an antenuptial contract (ANC), in which they define the division of property in the event of divorce (see What is an antenuptial contract?). Generally, marriages involving an ANC are out of community of property, that is, each party retains the right of possession of property owned prior to the marriage. Any increases in value of the property after the marriage may accrue to both parties or may remain the property of the original owner, depending on whether the marriage is with or without accrual.

If there is no ANC, the marriage is automatically in community of property. In other words, all assets, whether brought to the marriage or acquired afterwards, are the joint property of both spouses and are divided equally in the event of divorce. Traditionally, this afforded women a degree of financial protection.

The type of marriage you have…either in community of property or out of community of property, with or without accrual…is called your marital regime.

On reflection…

Sometimes a couple decides to change their marital regime. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common is that no ANC was drawn up before the wedding, and at a later date the couple chooses to change the regime to out of community of property. This may be because of subsequent independent business interests of one or both parties or simply because the couple married some time ago when ANCs were less prevalent.

High Court approval is required

Both parties must agree the change of regime, but it is not sufficient to have an attorney draw up a new contract (called a postnuptial contract). The postnuptial contract must be approved by the High Court. Approval is rarely withheld, but certain conditions must be satisfied.

Requirements for a postnuptial contract

The Court will want to be convinced that the following requirements have been fulfilled before granting the change of regime.

  • There must be sound reasons for the proposed change. These must be fully motivated in the application.
  • Sufficient notice of the proposed change must be given to all creditors of the spouses. Creditors must be named in the application.
  • The Court must be satisfied that no other person will be prejudiced by the proposed change. This could be a child of the marriage or other dependant, and the application must contain a statement specifying that there is no prejudice to any third party.

The process to change the marital regime

Registering a postnuptial contract is not difficult but there is a process that must be followed, and timelines to be observed. This is how it works:

  • Notice must be given to the registrar of deeds, as per section 97(1) of the Deeds Registry Act.
  • The draft postnuptial contract proposed must be annexed to the application and initialled.
  • Notice of intent to make the application must be published in the Government Gazette and two local newspapers at least two weeks before the application will be heard.
  • The notice must expressly state the date the application will be made and allow any interested party to make representations in writing to the registrar of the High Court.
  • Two weeks’ notice must be given by registered post to all known creditors of the spouses and a list of creditors must be included in the application, together with proof that they have been given notice.
  • The application must include information about both parties’ assets and liabilities so that the Court can be satisfied there are sound reasons for the proposed change and determine any possible prejudice to a third party.

There are a few additional technical requirements which your lawyer will go through with you to ensure a compliant…and hopefully successful…application.

 

Don’t DIY – let an expert help you

Simon Dippenaar and Associates are experts in family law. We have handled hundreds of antenuptial and postnuptial contracts and can ensure your application meets all the legal requirements. Contact us on 086 099 5146 or 076 116 0623 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.  

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Accrual: to accrue or not to accrue?

Accrual and antenuptial contracts: to accrue or not to accrue

Community of property under the accrual system: make sure your antenuptial contract reflects your intentions

These days many couples contemplating marriage consider drawing up an antenuptial contract (ANC), often with the accrual. Historically, most marriages were ‘in community of property’, and this regime provided a degree of protection to women, who traditionally carried out household duties while men earned the family income. In the absence of her own earnings, a woman needed the security of joint marital property, particularly if the marriage ended in divorce. An equal division of property ensured a woman who had no assets of her own was not thrust into penury by the dissolution of her marriage.

Antenuptial contract

As the median age for marriage increases (32 for women, 36 for men), it’s only natural that couples will have well-established careers and independent economic lives before tying the knot. Both parties may own property or other assets. With over 40% of marriages ending in divorce before the 10th wedding anniversary, it is not surprising that many couples choose to walk down the aisle clutching an ANC.

With or without accrual

If an ANC is in place, automatically the marriage is out of community of property. This means that all assets owned by each party before the marriage is solemnised remain the property of the individual. They do not become part of a joint marital estate. However, within this regime, there are still choices to be made. Should the marriage out of community of property be with or without accrual? There is no right or wrong answer; one is not better than the other. There are pros and cons to both and the most suitable option will depend on the couple’s priorities and preferences. Let’s explore the implications of each.

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When the inevitable happens…

What happens to the estate on the death of a spouse depends on the marital regime

By Simon Dippenaar (as featured on FIN24.com)

No one wants to think about dying, but it happens to us all eventually. Since death is the one thing we can’t escape, it makes sense to make the necessary arrangements and then get on with living life to the full. If you are married, it’s important to understand what will happen to the marital property when you die.

You may have an antenuptial contract in place and you may have opted for a particular marital regime for a good reason – but it’s possible your reasoning didn’t extend to the end of your life. What may serve you well when you are young and economically active may not produce the best outcome for you on the death of your spouse. In this article we look at how the different marital regimes impact on the winding-up of the estate on death.

Marriage in community of property

If you and your partner married without an antenuptial contract, you are automatically married in community of property. (See What is an Antenuptial Contract? for the definition of the marital regimes.) All your assets are jointly owned, even if they belonged to you individually before the marriage. As we have explained previously, this joint ownership also extends to liabilities. The marital estate is a joint estate, owned equally by both partners.

In the context of death this means the joint estate is dissolved. After all, there can’t be a joint estate with only one owner. The joint estate must be wound up by an executor in terms of the Administration of Estates Act No 66 of 1965. The executor will pay any debts owed by the estate and collect any money owing to the estate. If there are any outstanding debts of either spouse that pre-date the marriage, these are not settled from the joint estate but from the net half of the debtor, whether they are the deceased or the surviving spouse.

When all debts have been settled, the surviving spouse is entitled to half the net balance of the estate. It’s important to note that this is not an inheritance, and no inheritance tax is payable. It belongs to the surviving spouse because of the matrimonial property system that defined the marriage, i.e. community of property. The other half of the estate goes to the deceased’s heirs.

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When it all gets too much – divorcing a narcissist

Beware of the pitfalls particular to divorce from a narcissist

In our last post we talked about the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and we described some coping strategies that may help to make life with a narcissist bearable. But if it all gets too much, you may feel ending the relationship is the only way out. If you are legally married, that means divorce.

Be prepared. If life with the narcissist was hard, breaking away may be next to impossible. They will not want to let you go; after all, denigrating you bolsters their ego. More importantly, the act of being rejected by you provides the opportunity for a tremendous show of victimisation and a chance to show the world what a terrible person you are.

Some of the tactics the narcissist might employ

For the narcissist your divorce will be a game they have to win. They need to be seen as the victim, and be proven “right”. Your emotional plight is of no concern to them (remember a narcissist is incapable of empathy). It’s important to understand this context from the start so you are equipped to withstand the roller coaster ride you are about to be subjected to. Some tactics the narcissist might use include:

  • Obstructiveness – incurring lots of delays that will frustrate you and/or run up costs
  • Refusal to negotiate – another manoeuvre to prolong the process and wear you down so you capitulate
  • Vilification – be prepared to have your character assassinated
  • Refusal to close the case – even after settlement you may be dragged back into court or suffer endless emails harassing you or complaining about some aspect of your behaviour or parenting skills (we’ll cover this in co-parenting with the narcissist)

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Posted in Abusive Behaviour, Abusive Relationships, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Narcissist, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment