Civil Unions in South Africa
If you are not married, but in a Civil Union in terms of the Civil Unions Act 17, 2006, or if you intend to enter into such a union, much of what applies to any marriage, applies to you.
The act introduced important changes to the contractual capacity of some unmarried persons. It recognizes civil unions and provides opportunity for unmarried couples to formalize their voluntary union either by way of marriage or civil partnership. The act deals with the legal consequences of civil unions. A civil union is defined in s1 of the act as the voluntary union of two persons who are both 18 years of age or older. The voluntary union must be solemnised and registered by way of either a marriage or a civil partnership, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Act. It is a union to the exclusion, while it lasts, of all others.
A civil union partner is a spouse in a marriage or a partner in a civil partnership, concluded in terms of the Act. The act basically provides for a partnership to be formalized. The parties to the union need to undergo an official ceremony (similar to marriage.) The consequences are the same as when one marries. Such partners are as if married in community of property unless they have contracted differently before the formal union ( Such a contract is similar to an ANC, ante-nuptial contract or pre-nuptial agreement.)
Section 13 of the act states: “Legal consequences of civil union
(1) The legal consequences of a marriage contemplated in the Marriage Act apply, with such changes as may be required by the context, to a civil union.
(2) With the exception of the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act, any reference to-
(a) marriage in any other law, including the common law, includes, with such changes as may be required by the context, a civil union; and
(b) husband, wife or spouse in any other law, including the common law, includes a civil union partner."