Chapter 37 – Civil Union Marriage Law According to Zimbabwe | Legal Articles


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Chapter 37 – Civil Union Marriage Law According to Zimbabwe

Chapter 37 – Marriage Law According to Zimbabwe

Originally, civil union marriage was referred to in Chapter 37 of the Marriage Act. However, the new Act refers to civil marriage in chapter 5 clause 11. The type of marriage recognised in this section of the act is universally described as a civil union marriage or monogamous union.

The term monogamy is used to describe an exclusive union between no more than two people. Only marriages between a man and a woman are described as civil marriages. A criminal offence called bigamy is committed when either partner attempts to marry another partner while still married to each other.

This offense is punishable by arrest, a sentence of up to 6 months in jail as well as a level 5 fine.

Who is Allowed to Enter into a Civil Union Marriage?
  • Residents or citizens of Zimbabwe who are not currently married
  • Any woman and man who are above the age of 18 and in a loving relationship
  • Any couple who is in a customary marriage who wish to enter into a civil marriage regardless of traditional, religious or cultural dogma
  • Any person who does not suffer from mental illness

A civil union must be entirely consensual. No individual or couple may be forced into marriage out of fear due to any reason.

Unregistered Customary Marriage

The following persons are considered unmarried according to Zimbabwean law:

  • Any person who is currently in an unregistered customary marriage where lobola has been paid for or by either partner. Because the payment of lobola is considered an unregistered customary marriage and not a legal civil union marriage, any person in such a union may enter into a civil marriage with a different partner. In order for the customary union to be properly dissolved, the property acquired during the union and before the separation must be equally shared
  • Any person who has never entered into a “Chapter 37” civil union
  • Any person previously in a registered customary marriage or legal civil union marriage who has been widowed or legally divorced
  • Any person in a registered customary marriage and wishes to enter into a civil marriage with one spouse
Is Lobola Customary Marriage?

The payment of lobola is a customary practice and not required for a civil union to be solemnised. Most Zimbabweans will still pay lobola out of respect for the cultural practice, before entering into a civil union.

A civil union that is entered into by a couple, without the payment of lobola, is a legally binding union even without the approval of their parents.

Civil Union Marriage Requirements

An application for a marriage licence must be made at the nearest Magistrates Court. While making this application, any person may ask that the marriage register is checked to confirm that both partners are legally allowed to marry.

Marriage Banns is a legal requirement for a civil union to be solemnised. This requires that the couples’ intent to marry must be publicly announced by their pastor a total of three times, if they are marrying in a church.

If the marriage is taking place in court, the Marriage Banns are published by the Magistrate. There are no limitations on the time or place that the ceremony may take place as long as the Marriage Officer is in agreement. Marriage by proxy is forbidden; a civil union may only be performed if both partners are present.

Two adults over the age of 18 years are required to attend the ceremony and sign the marriage register to bear witness to the marital union. Only a person who has been designated the legal powers may officiate a civil union marriage ceremony.

The Marriage Certificate

After their marriage, a couple will be issued with one original marriage certificate. It’s advised that copies of the certificate are made and kept safe as they will be required in the following cases:

  • Suing of adultery damages in the case of infidelity
  • Deriving spousal benefits during the marriage and after death of either spouse
  • Inheritance in the event of death
  • Resolution of conflict in the case of divorce
Civil Union Marriage in Community of Property

Many people have the idea that civil marriage according to “Chapter 37” may provide them with maximum benefits should they get divorced or their spouse be deceased.

However, as you inherit your partners assets, you also inherit their liabilities. Should your partner leave behind unpaid debt worth millions, that debt automatically and legally becomes yours.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated – Civil Union Marriage Laws

For more information about customary law unions and civil union marriage under the Zimbabwean law, contact our attorneys in Cape Town or Johannesburg.

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