Exploring universal partnerships and putative marriages as tools for awarding partnership property in contemporary family law

  • Elsje Bonthuys


Following upon the Supreme Court of Appeal's judgment in Butters v Mncora 2012 4 SA 1 (SCA), which broadened the criteria and consequences of universal partnerships in cohabitation relationships, this article investigates the potential of universal  partnerships and putative marriages to allocate rights to share in partnership property in other intimate relationships. It traverses several instances in which marriages are  not recognised - bigamous marriages, Muslim and Hindu religious marriages and invalid customary marriages – examining whether the wives in these marriages could use  universal partnerships and putative marriages to claim a share in property. It then  considers the use of universal partnerships to obtain a share of property in civil  marriages out of community of property. It concludes by pointing out several issues  which are in need of clarification and where the common law should be developed to give effect to fundamental constitutional rights.

Keywords: Universal partnerships; customary marriage; putative marriage; Muslim marriage; Hindu marriage; bigamy; marriage out of community of property.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-3781