Statistics have shown that fewer couples are getting married compared to ten years ago, and more couples are moving in together without getting married, which is known as cohabitation.
While there are several reasons why partners choose to move in together rather than getting married right away, only a small fraction of people take the time to understand what they are getting into before moving in with their partner. This may result in various complications or misunderstandings in the future if both partners don’t fully understand what a cohabitation relationship entails. Here, written in collaboration with Hippo.co.za, are a few things you should know considering moving in with your partner, or if you are already living together and want to know about the laws that deal with cohabitation.
What are you entitled to?
In the South African legal system couples living together without being legally married to each other are not automatically considered legal spouses, regardless of how many years they’ve been living together. The cohabitation relationship does not confer any rights or responsibilities on either party. This means for example, when a couple ends their relationship, no party is responsible for maintaining the other, except if there is a child involved, where child support would be required.
Partners living together also can’t open a joint account at a South African bank, however, a partner is allowed to have co-signing rights. But, the bank account holder will be responsible for settling the debt for any overdraft accounts or loans. You can find out more about these cohabitation laws by reading ‘The Legal Implications Of Living Together’.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
If you’re thinking of entering a cohabitation relationship or are in one already you will be happy to know there is a way to secure your assets by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. According to Vermeulen Attorneys, “a Cohabitation Agreement is a binding contract entered into between two parties who are cohabiting or who intend to cohabit wherein various of the aspects of their relationship is formalized and which agreement, if drafted properly, gives substantial protection to both parties in the cohabitation relationship”.
You can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement at any time before the cohabitation relationship comes to an end. Vermeulen Attorneys, however, advises to sign this agreement before the cohabitation relationship starts “to ensure there is absolute certainty in the relationship from the beginning”.
The following are some of the things a Cohabitation Agreement will address:
- The assets and liabilities of the parties involved. This agreement is particularly useful when there is an immovable property which you and your partner would like to buy together.
- It will outline who will be responsible for what expenses in the household.
- Matters regarding Life Insurance and pension funds. You and your partner may, for example, agree that you will nominate each other as beneficiaries on your various policies.
- What steps will be taken to vacate the shared home in the event that the cohabitation relationship comes to an end.
When there are children involved
If a couple is unmarried but has a child together, even if the father is no longer living with the mother of the child, he will still be granted full parental responsibilities and rights if he consents to be identified as the father of the minor child, according to Vermeulen Attorneys. The parental responsibilities may include contact, care, guardianship, and maintenance.
If you are planning to move in with your significant other, to make sure you protect your rights during the course of the relationship, it is up to you to make sure you do the necessary research and prepare the necessary documents to avoid any form of misunderstandings that may occur in the course of your cohabitation.