Exploring Universal Partnerships and Putative Marriages as Tools for Awarding Partnership Property in Contemporary Family Law

  • Elsje Bonthuys WITS
Keywords: universal partnerships, customary marriage, putative marriage, Muslim marriage, Hindu marriage, bigamy, marriage out of community of property


Following upon the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment in Butters v Mncora, 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.


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Author Biography

Elsje Bonthuys, WITS
Professor, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand




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