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Consequences of cohabitation

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Whilst many young adults prefer the sanctity of exchanging vows and entering into a marriage, more and more couples opt for less traditional forms of commitment and choose simply to live together – to cohabit.

The term cohabitation refers to a couple living together as spouses, regardless of gender, without entering into a civil marriage – and hence without the application of the familiar patrimonial consequences that follow from a civil marriage.

What happens in the event that the relationship dissolves, whether as a result of a break-up or death? The spouse(s) is now faced with questions regarding ownership of assets acquired jointly, liability for debts, rent, cellphone accounts and a host of other issues. Then only to learn that, contrary to the consequences of a civil marriage that is regulated by specific legislation, there is no “law of cohabitation”. No amount of time spent living together will convert the cohabitation relationship into one where legal rights and duties automatically flow from the relationship.

How does one address this? Couples who cohabit are encouraged to conclude a Cohabitation Agreement or Domestic Partnership Agreement to arrange their rights and obligations towards each other. Such agreement records the parties’ wishes regarding finances, the joint household and any assets acquired individually or jointly whilst they are in a long-term relationship. Should the relationship dissolve, couples are able to do so with certainty regarding the patrimonial consequences.

Another important document to consider in conjunction with the above agreement is a Will. A cohabitation agreement cannot regulate inheritance in the event of death. In order to ensure that your assets devolve to the person(s) intended, it is vital for both parties to ensure that they have a valid Will in place.

For more information, contact us on 041 363 6044 or email us at

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This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and is produced for information purposes only and to provide a general understanding of the legal position relating to the topic. It is recommended that advice relating to the specific circumstances of your situation be sought from our attorneys before acting upon the content of this article. This article was written at a particular point in time and accordingly may not always reflect the most recent legal developments, if any, applicable to the relevant topic. Kaplan Blumberg and its partners and/or employees, are not responsible for any consequences which may follow upon any decision taken to act upon the information provided in this article.

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