Answer to a question from a reader

Can you marry someone under customary law if you are already married under civil law to someone else?

The short answer

No, the law is very clear on this.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My husband and I have been married under civil law for 20 years but he married his girlfriend under customary law in 2019. I checked with Home Affairs and our marriage is still intact. What is the status of the second marriage and what can you advise?

The long answer

A person who is married under civil law cannot marry another person under customary law. If you are married under civil law, you are only allowed to have one marriage at a time. That means that your husband’s second marriage under customary law is not a valid legal marriage.

You may want to take advice about what to do from an organisation like the Women’s Legal Centre. It is situated in Cape Town but is working remotely now because of the pandemic. You can contact them here:

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Aug. 13, 2021, 1:05 p.m.

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