POST-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS: IT IS POSSIBLE TO ALTER THE PROPRIETARY CONSEQUENCES OF MARRIAGE BY COURT ORDER
Under common law the election of a matrimonial property regime became final upon the marriage of the spouses, and they could not change their proprietary relationship, after the marriage was concluded.
This position was amended by the Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984, and more specifically Section 21 (1) thereof. This section provides that parties may jointly apply to the High Court to amend their matrimonial property regime, subject thereto that the following requirements are met:-
The aforementioned amendment can only be implemented after a court order has been obtained, providing consent for the proposed Notarial Contract to be registered in the relevant Deeds Office.
A husband and wife, whether married before or after the commencement of the Matrimonial Property Act (1 November 1984), may jointly apply to court for leave to change the regime which apply to their marriage. This enables spouses to request the court for an order in terms whereof: –
The legislature has not elaborated on the requirement to provide “sound reason” to vary the contractual relationship that exist between the spouses.
Grounds which the courts accepted in the past include:
The court will however not authorise the amendment, where the reasons provided by the parties are frivolous, patently unfair to one spouse or unduly complicated.
In order to make sure that there will be no prejudice suffered by third parties (mainly their creditors), the court may decide to issue an interim order (with a return date), to allow additional opportunity for third parties to state their objections.
Usually, the mere fact that the spouses desire the change, and have agreed upon it for reasons which the Court can understand, should be sufficient.