Attorney shares advice on critical questions to ask before getting married

Attorney shares advice on critical questions to ask before getting married

Are you planning to take your relationship to the next level? Listen to this crucial advice from an attorney.

Marriage certificate
Marriage certificate / iStock

Marriage is a big step that should not be entered into lightly.

Nthabiseng Ngoepe, a qualified attorney and founder of Kgatla Incorporated, says the mistake that most couples make before entering marriage is to not ask the relevant questions that can have implications later in life.

“We get caught up in the excitement of marriage. We don't ask the right questions,” she says.

The attorney says although there “are privileges attached to marriage”, it also comes with “so much responsibility”.

She says those planning to get married should first start by evaluating themselves - determining if they are low or high risks.

A high-risk person is one with either a lot of debt or someone who is self-employed.

"What are the risks involved in me marrying you? What is your credit profile? Do you have debts?" these are some of the questions Ngoepe says needs to be asked.

She says this is necessary, especially to determine what sort of marital regime you should enter.

Ngoepe says if you marry someone who is a high risk In Community of Property, you will be liable to pay for their debts if they fail to.

“If you are married In Community of Property and they sue your husband for child support, and he doesn't pay. You are liable. They are coming after you,” says Ngoepe.

The attorney says being married In Community of Property means that your partner is entitled to half of your pension fund. 

Customary marriage

The common mistake that people make is to think that after their partner has paid some of the bride price amount, they are married.

Ngoepe says it is important to ensure that everything that needs to constitute your marriage as a customary marriage is done. This will help avoid future surprises, especially in the event of the death of a partner.

She says you need to ask your partner when they are planning to finish paying lobola and not just let it slide.

If lobola is not fully paid, that could mean you are not married.

“Simply paying lobola doesn't mean you are married,” she says.

“There are things that by law needs to happen for us to say this is customary marriage.”

The attorney cautions against investing your finances and helping your partner before the marriage is official, where there is no agreement.

She gives an example of helping your partner build a house, but not ensuring that your name appears on the title deed. If he/she decided to end the relationship, you would have lost all that you financially contributed to the building.

Still on the subject of customary marriage, the attorney says couples should discuss when they are going to Home Affairs to sign.

"It breaks my heart someone pays lobola but refuses to sign,” says Ngoepe.

She says although not signing doesn’t mean your customary marriage is null and void, it is still important to sign to ensure you avoid complications and conflict that might arise in future.

For instance, if you have to go and deal with the estate of your loved one, a marriage certificate will save you the heartache of having to explain and prove that you were married.

Ngoepe adds that a customary marriage automatically means you are married In Community of Property, unless you have an antenuptial contract in place.

She says you will need a lawyer for that, and he/she will need to draft the antenuptial agreement which you would then need to take to Home Affairs.

After signing at Home Affairs, you will need to go back to your lawyer to register your antenuptial agreement.

Ngoepe says failure to register will mean you are married In Community of Property.

"If you fail to register the antenuptial contract within the period stipulated by law, then you are married In Community of Property." 

Don’t leave things to chance

Ngoepe says the worst mistake people make is to leave things to chance. She says you have to take charge of your life as the decisions you make will not only affect you, but can also affect your children after you have passed away.

She says it is very important to talk to your lawyer to ensure you take the right decisions and that your estate and your children will be well taken care of when you pass away.

If issues are not addressed before marriage, Ngoepe says they can be serious 'deal breakers' in a marriage. 

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