Kate* wishes she listened to that small voice inside her.

* Not her real name. Based on a true story.

They were madly in love. Kate was already in her late 30s and Tim was in his mid40s. Kate had one daughter from a previous relationship and Tim had two kids from his first marriage. When Tim popped the question, Kate did not even think twice about accepting. He had a good job, was responsible and had his own home. Kate also had her own home and another one in the Eastern Cape, and her mom lived in it.

They were so busy with the wedding arrangements, travelling between Joburg and the Eastern Cape, Kate didn’t have time to think about anything else. A good friend asked:“Have you signed the antenuptial contract?” She just smiled at her friend and said nothing. Her friend didn’t want to interfere so she left it at that. Kate thought about it while she was on her own and decided to talk to Tim about it. When she mentioned it to Tim, he just laughed and said, “This is till death to us part, baby. An old man like me wouldn’t think of divorcing ever again, once was more than enough.” Kate felt reassured and didn’t think about it again. After all, Tim had as much as her to lose if they ever divorced, she thought.

One year into the marriage, Tim resigned from his job to start his own business. He had been promised a big contract by a very big company and thought it was worth it. Only, the promise never became reality. He submitted one proposal after the other, waited and waited, he called until he stopped calling. Months turned into years. When I met Kate, she looked drained and tired. Three years had gone by and Tim was unable to get a job.

“I can no longer take this,” Kate said to me. “I didn’t marry him for money but I cannot handle it anymore. I still love him but it’s hard looking after a man. He doesn’t say much, doesn’t go out and he is always in front of the TV! I have tried helping him but I think he doesn’t want any help. I don’t think he will ever find a job again. I wish I had listened to my friend and married him out of community of property. His ex-wife and children want maintenance too. This is no longer working for me. I’m so scared of divorcing him because I would lose out on a lot. My mother has been staying in my home in the Eastern Cape and she would also lose her home. What do I do?”

To find out more about different kinds of marriage contracts, visit a book store near you on 13 September for Phumelele Ndumo’s 2nd book, From Debt to Riches.

To find out more about different kinds of marriage contracts, visit a book store near you on 13 September for Phumelele Ndumo’s 2nd book, From Debt to Riches.

I told Kate she could still change her matrimonial system. She was married in community of property and she and Tim could change that to “out of community of property”. However, Tim would have to agree to that, she would need an attorney or an advocate to assist her, and she would need to pay between R15 000 and R30 000. What if Tim doesn’t want to change? Or what if he filed for divorce when she suggested that they change their matrimonial system?

So before you say “I do”, make sure that you have thought the matter through and entered into the kind of contract that suits your needs. Trying to do it after you get married might be too difficult. We all change and sometimes we change for the better and at other times we change for the worse. You don’t know how the person you are marrying today will change in future. You must safeguard yourself and what you have worked hard for.