Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Love and the Law

Published:Monday | February 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The things we do in the name of love can and often do have legal consequences, such as:

1. When you get engaged, breaking that engagement could either mean that the woman is entitled to keep the ring - she could choose to sell to a 'cash for gold' trader - or the man ends up with a ring for which he has no use. The result will depend on who is responsible for breaching the contract to marry.

2. By getting married without signing a prenuptial agreement, a happy couple takes the risk that they may become embroiled in protracted litigation over matrimonial property issues if the marriage breaks down.

3. No couple wants to discuss the possibility of death shortly after marriage or while on a honeymoon, although a will automatically becomes void after marriage. The risk of not preparing a new will immediately after getting married is that either spouse could die intestate.

4. If a single man and a single woman decide to cohabit, they do so with the certainty that if they continue to do so for at least five years, they will become common-law spouses and treated in law as if they were married.

5. As common-law spouses who never signed a cohabitation agreement, each spouse could become liable to the other for maintenance, and be open to a claim from the other to an interest in property.

6. Without a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement, a spouse who allows a property registered in his or her name to become the family home, will be open to a claim being made by the other spouse to a 50 per cent interest in that home.

7. Being married means that if you die without leaving behind a will, your widow or widower will get the lion's share of your estate.

8. Even if you die leaving behind a will, your widow or widower may challenge that will on grounds that you failed to make adequate financial provision for him or her under your will.

9. If you accept your spouse's child as a child of your family, you may be liable to maintain that child, even after you separate from your spouse.

10. If a child is born to your wife during the course of your marriage, you will be presumed to be the father of that child.

Even after contemplating the fact that love connections can lead to dire, often unintended, consequences, would you say that it is worth the price?

• Sherry-Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Please send

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