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Is cohabitation relationshiplegal in South Africa? Is cohabitation relationshiplegal in South Africa?

Bronze medal Reporter Adv. Thomson Posted 9 Feb 2019 Read More News and Blogs
Is cohabitation relationshiplegal in South Africa?

A cohabitation relationship is two people living together as a couple, much like a marriage, without getting married.South African statistics shows a rising trends in cohabitation.  In South African law, Cohabitation, living together or a domestic partnership is not recognised as a legal relationship.  Many people believe that simply living together with another person for a larger period of time establishes legal rights and duties between them. Their cohabitation does not make up any automatic legal rights and duties between them. Those couples do not have the same rights as married couples under the law.  Although, many people refer to a cohabitation relationship as a common-law marriage, there is no such underlying legal concept which describes a common-law marriage or the implications associated therewith.

There are many reasons why partners decide to move in together rather than getting married, ranging from getting to know each other better, to sharing expenses, etc. But, living in cohabitation or being an unmarried couple sometimes results in big conflicts over assets upon separation or death. when one partner passes away without a valid will, the living cohabitant is not eligible to any portion of the inheritance under the Intestate Succession Act or claim financial support under the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act.


There are several issues which originate from a cohabitation relationship that may be problematic given the nature of such a relationship. A cohabitation relationship can be terminated at any time, when one of the partners does not want to keep with the relationship. Because there is no court order or divorce procedure must be followed.

 In the case of children, the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 governs that the father of a child who is not married to the child’s mother acquires responsibilities and rights. These duty and rights include caring for the child, maintaining contact with the child, performing as a guardian of the child, and providing  the maintenance of the child.  

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