At best, marriage can be a bit of a gamble even more so when you are looking for love at a mail-order bride service on the Internet. A mail-order bride is a woman who lists herself in online catalogues and is then selected by a man for marriage. The majority of mail-order brides are mainly from Southeast Asia, countries of the former Soviet Union and from Latin America. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, large numbers of women from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are looking to marry western men.
A leading marriage agency has told Sky News some time ago that the number of Russian and Ukrainian women joining online marriage agencies has tripled since 2005, while the number of Western men signing up as candidates has more than quadrupled in that time. So how does it work? Mail-order bride services are everywhere on the Internet. It is probably more accurate to call the industry the email order bride service with today’s technology. Finding a potential mail-order bride is quite simple, by logging on to one of the many websites, creating an account, and browsing the classified sections of women.
Once you have found the woman of your dreams, you go through the website’s specific process and contact the woman. After going through the necessary steps, you are given the contact information on how to communicate with your potential mail order bride. If after communicating you and the woman agree that you want to marry, you pay the service for the connection and move on with the marriage process. The image of a woman with a husky accent and a pair of legs that run all the way to heaven like the spy in a James Bond movie is tempting. This may also be the reason why many middle aged South African men browse the internet these days in search for a Russian beauty. As one of the mail-order bride sites state: “…The male to female ratio in Russia is 100 to 88 and the economy of Russia isn’t doing that great. Like every woman, Russian girls want to be married to someone who is financially sound and can take good care of the family. This is precisely why Russian women look forward to marrying men from different countries.
There is also a sociological reason behind the number of Russian mail order brides being on the higher side. In Russia, women who are above 30 years of age and are unmarried are looked down upon. So, Russian women who have not been able to find a match in their own country and are on the wrong side of thirty sign up as Russian mail order brides”. As a divorce attorney I have dealt with a couple of matters where the love that once blossomed ended in a nightmare, normally quite soon after the wedding.
The following facts in a recent divorce matter illustrate the possible dangers associated with choosing the wrong spouse. The names of the parties have been changed for sake of confidentiality. Norman divorced 5 years ago and was 65 years of age. He was the CEO of a successful financial services company prior to going on pension. Norman browsed various Russian mail-order bride sites on the internet and met beautiful 28 year old Tatiana fromRussia online. After 3 months of email exchanges Tatiana arrives with her suitcases in Cape Town. Norman is in seventh heaven he can’t believe his eyes. A month later, blinded by love, Norman and Tatiana got married on a wine farm, the wedding cost a staggering R 75 000. In addition Tatiana got a brand new BMW as a wedding gift. Norman was so in love that he forgot to register an ante nuptial contract /pre-nuptial contract and by default the marriage was in community of property. After the wedding they moved into Norman’s beach front apartment in CampsBay. Norman was in love, but for Tatiana it was more a matter of obtaining South African residence and experiencing the luxury of living in beautiful Cape Town. Six months later, one evening while Norman was watching television on the sofa enjoying a good glass of red wine, the South African Police services arrived unexpectedly at their home armed with a restraining order issued in terms of the Domestic Violence Act. Norman was restrained from certain areas in the house and was also prohibited from entering the main bedroom. He was interdicted not to talk to or stalk Tatiana. The reasons listed in the restraining order were inter alia that Norman abused Tatiana emotionally and physically. Norman felt like a prisoner in his own house and had to sleep in the guest room, Tatiana on the other hand armed with Norman’s credit card enjoyed the glamour and glitz of Cape Town’s night life. The following week a divorce summons arrived. Tatiana claimed half of Norman’s estate as they were married in community of property, maintenance of R 25 000 per month and half of Norman’s pension fund. If Norman had concluded an ante nuptial contract prior to his marriage to Tatiana and married her out of community of property without the accrual system or out of community of property including the accrual system with an exclusion of his assets, he would have been in a much better position. The ante nuptial contract is one of the most important documents that a person will ever sign in his or her lifetime.
The problem however is that people somehow disregard the importance of the ante nuptial contract and many embark on marriage without due cognisance of the repercussions that might follow at a later stage, especially when the marriage end in divorce. Somehow many people see the ante nuptial contract as a mere formality, something that needs to be signed prior to the wedding day, without realising the consequences of such an important legal instrument. In most cases the focus is unfortunately more on the wedding ceremony than the ante nuptial contract. No one goes into a marriage contemplating a divorce but when you consider that the ante nuptial contract governs what will happen to your assets and liabilities on divorce or death, it makes lots of sense that considerable thought should be given to concluding it and that its contents should be fully understood by all parties concerned. Unfortunately many people are more drawn into the eyes of their spouse prior to the marriage than to the importance of the wording of a proper ante nuptial contract.
Where spouses did not conclude an ante nuptial contract prior to their wedding day, they will automatically marry in community of property. ‘In community of property’ means that everything the couple owns, and their debts, from before their marriage are put together in a joint estate and everything they earn or buy after their marriage is also part of this joint estate. Any money or possessions belonging to either of the spouses at the time of the marriage, or acquired by them at any time thereafter, cease to be the private property of the one person and become part of a joint estate in which each of the partners has an equal, undivided share. On termination of the marriage, the husband and wife are each entitled to a half-share of the joint estate and they are jointly liable for any liabilities. There is however some protection afforded in a case such as Norman’s. In terms of section 9 of the South African Divorce Act an order for forfeiture of benefits may be granted if the court is satisfied that one spouse will be unduly benefited in relation to the other.
In deciding whether an order for forfeiture should be granted, the court should first determine whether or not the party against whom the order is being sought will in fact be benefited if the order is not made. Once this is established, the court must determine whether the benefit is undue. Factors which the court will take into account when deciding whether the party against whom forfeiture is sought would be unduly benefited or not are the duration of the marriage, the circumstances that gave rise to the breakdown of the marriage and any substantial misconduct on the part of either of the parties. Want to reply to this blog or share your views? #
Bertus Preller Family Law Attorney Abrahams and Gross Inc.