Unenforceable Clauses In A Marriage Contract

A client asked if he could include a provision in his antenuptial contract that expressly excludes the right of his intended spouse to claim maintenance upon divorce.

Another client asked if the contract could contain a clause deterring the husband-to-be from being involved in an extramarital affair in the future?

Antenuptial Contracts: An Overview

An Antenuptial contract (ANC), often referred to as a prenuptial agreement or marriage contract, is a legal document that couples can enter into before getting married. An ANC is a way for couples to outline their financial arrangements, specifying how their assets and liabilities will be divided if the marriage ends in death or divorce.

Spouses are generally free to include any provision in their ANC. However, the provision may not be contra bonos mores (against the good morals of the public), against nature, reason, public policy, prohibited by any law or purports to take over the powers of the court. Clauses of this nature will be null and void. An ANC may not include clauses that are unreasonable, against public policy or unlawful:

Unreasonable clauses include ones:

  • prohibiting a spouse from working.
  • forcing a spouse to live in a particular area.
  • stating that marital disputes must be referred to arbitration.
  • obliging a spouse to adopt the religion of the other spouse.
  • stating that the parties will not live together as man and wife after the marriage.
  • stating that neither spouse shall have the right to ask for an order of forfeiture or share in the accrual of the other’s estate or claim maintenance following a divorce.

Against public policy:

  • Clauses enforcing a change of religion, gender or race or prohibiting any association.
  • A clause permitting the parties to commit adultery.


  • Clauses allowing or forcing a spouse to commit a crime.

Effect of a clause discouraging infidelity

May an ANC include a clause to deter the husband from being involved in an extramarital affair in the future?

Case law suggests that one must interpret this type of clause in context. For example, the parties had been divorced before because of the husband’s involvement in extramarital affairs.

An example of such a clause:

‘Should it be proven that A be the cause of a future divorce through an extramarital relationship, he will (here reflect an obligation on the husband to give the wife a fixed property, pay her a cash amount, etc.)’

The court will enforce this clause as it seeks to preserve the marriage by discouraging another extramarital affair by the husband.


Whether it possible to include a provision in an antenuptial contract that excludes any right or imposes an obligation after divorce, its enforceability can be a complex and contentious issue. It is crucial to seek legal counsel to ensure that your antenuptial contract is valid and complies with South African laws. Consulting an attorney experienced in family law will help you navigate this sensitive and legally intricate process to create a contract that reflects the intentions and needs of both parties while respecting the principles of fairness and justice.

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