So you move in together while you’re in love and dating but what are the legal implications of living together? Hemantha Ramdhani explains.....
With couples moving in together before (and sometimes instead of) marrying, they often fail to realise what this means for them legally speak.
The Domestic Partnerships Bill has yet to be accepted
So in determining the legal implications of living together, the following needs to be taken into account:
There is no such thing as common law marriage in South Africa
A couple living together needs to have some kind of formal cohabitation agreement in place so they’re protected.
Couples living together are in a domestic partnership
There can be many forms of domestic partnerships. Usually, the term refers to a permanent and stable monogamous relationship between two people who choose not to or aren’t able to marry but share the same responsibilities and obligations of a married couple.
Are domestic partnerships recognised in terms of the Civil Union Act?
No. There is no duty of support between the parties and each party’s estate remains separate from the other party’s estate. So if one of the parties die without leaving a will their partner is not legally entitled to inherit, or to claim maintenance from the deceased’s estate.
There are legal remedies available to a couple living together
However, there are legal remedies available if you can prove the existence of a universal partnership. This isn’t easy to do, and requires proof of all of the following:-
That each party has brought something into the partnership, and
That the partnership was carried on for their joint benefit, and
That the object was to make a profit.
As a result there are many unfortunate cases of life partners left destitute after decades of cohabitation.
Protect yourself and be wise
Domestic partnerships are not recognised in law and there are no legal duties attaching to these relationships. If you do not enter into a contract the law does not provide any protection. Where parties fail to enter into a contract, the law will deem there to be no legal relationship that existed between the two parties.