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Enter into a Cohabitation or Life-Partnership Agreement to protect your rights

More and more people choose to live together, without getting married. There is a misconception that they are in a “common-law” marriage. That concept does not exist in South African law.

Cohabitation, sometimes called 'common law marriage' or a ‘vat-en-sit’ relationship is a relationship where two unmarried adults live together and conduct their relationship like a married couple. Many people cohabit, but unfortunately, cohabitation is currently not yet legally recognised, and does not have legal protection.

There is also a wrong assumption that if you stay with your partner for a certain period or if you have children with your partner, your relationship will automatically be regarded as that of spouses and on its dissolution, you will be entitled to certain benefits. The truth is - there is no such thing. Accordingly, you will not be entitled to the same benefits to which married spouses are entitled.

The major difference between cohabitation and marriage is that marriage is legally protected and cohabitation is not.

Cohabitation agreement

Cohabitants need to have an agreement drawn up whereby they create rights and responsibilities for themselves. In the contract, the couple must agree on how they will conduct their living arrangements, and state the rights and responsibilities of each of them in the relationship. They should also state what should happen when the relationship comes to an end. For instance, if you intend to buy a house together with your partner, or one of you buys the house and the other is responsible for buying furniture, paying rates and supplying other household necessities, you must agree on what should happen with regard to the house, furniture and other assets acquired during the relationship, should you decide to terminate the relationship.

Should you require assistance with a cohabitation agreement or should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

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