Cohabitation Agreements

News_Item_Cohabitation_Agreements

NATASHA TRUYENS

Snr. Associate | Attorney

ISABEL PRETORIUS

Associate | Attorney

Cohabitation agreements are often likened to ante-nuptial marriage contracts. This is because they are ordinarily used to protect the interests – and clarify the expectations – of a couple that is entering into a long-term relationship. For instance, if you want to formalise your relationship without getting married, you can enter into a cohabitation agreement that will address aspects like financial interests, living expenses, property ownership and children while you are together, and in the event of the relationship break-up or dispute.

We’ve had cases where partners in a long-term relationship were told about a ‘6-month rule’ that says that living together for an extended period translates to some sort of common law marriage. Unfortunately, South Africa’s laws do not recognise such an arrangement. As a result, many women are left completely defenseless in terms of property ownership, inheritance and maintenance when a relationship ends or their partner dies without leaving any Last Will and Testament.

Cohabitation agreements are also not exclusively available to partners who are involved in a romantic relationship. If two people live together for “convenience”, i.e. they reside together to limit the burden of unnecessary costs, they can also enter into a co habitation agreement. This will make provision for when one of the friends wishes to vacate the communal property, and there are certain disputes regarding the division of movable assets that was purchased during the co-habitation.

Apart from the “standard cohabitation agreement”, partners also have the option to enter into a notarial cohabitation agreement. This merely indicates that the agreement is signed in the presence of a notary public. This is usually advisable for individuals who need to travel to a different country and who require a Spousal Visa. If parties are in a long-term relationship and wish to document the terms thereof (to make provision for the repercussions should the relationship end) a standard cohabitation agreement would be sufficient.

Every relationship and living arrangement is unique in nature – so in the same way that an engaged couple would seek the assistance of a family law expert to draw up their ante-nuptial agreement, it is a good idea to consult our Attorneys who will help you draw up a bespoke Cohabitation contract that takes into account your unique financial, property, living and family situation.

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