Customary vs Civil Law marriage

A customary marriage is defined as two people who are married according to a custom as opposed to the laws of a country. Civil marriage is when two people are married in terms of South African law.

Validity of a customary marriage

Customary marriages are recognised in South African law but in order for this type of marriage to be valid, it has to meet certain requirements as set out in the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120/1998 (the Act) which came into effect on 15 November 2000.

Termination of a customary marriage

Spouses have a duty to register the customary marriage at Home Affairs within three (3) months after the marriage has been concluded. Once the marriage is registered and valid, it can only be terminated by filing for a decree of divorce via court, same as that of a civil marriage. Dissolution by a court must be on grounds of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

In terms of section 7 of the Act all customary marriages are in community of property.

A lot of people are still very unsure about certain tribal customs and whether our law takes them into account. Our Family Law department are experts in all forms of marriage regimes including customary marriage and its dissolution if necessary.

For legal expertise regarding Family Law, Divorce and Matrimonial Law

Juan Smuts        

Wesley Scheepers



The articles on these web pages are provided for general information purposes only. Whilst care has been taken to ensure accuracy, the content provided is not intended to stand alone as legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified attorney on any specific legal problem or matter.