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Common Law Marriages in South Africa

Many people live under the assumption that simply living together in the same residence as their partner entitles them to 50% of all belongings when the relationship ends. This is commonly referred to as a Common Law marriage.

The truth however may come as a shock to those living under that guise. There is no such thing as a Common Law marriage in South African law as it is not recognised by the Department of Home Affairs as a marital regime. This makes it very difficult for an aggrieved party to take their partner/ex-partner to court after the relationship ends, wanting a split in the property and assets. The fact of the matter here is that each party will only be entitled to what is theirs – anything purchased together will need to be split. But assets such as property or vehicles will remain in the possession of the person whose name they are registered under. The only thing a partner will be liable to claim from an ex is Child Maintenance should there be children involved.


The challenge with this is unfortunately that when approaching the court, there is no proof of any form of agreement as to how items will be divided between the parties, which leads to a he-said-she-said situation, which is difficult to defend in court.


How do I protect myself while living with my partner?


If you live with a partner or are thinking about living with a partner, a good option would be to create a Civil Contract in the form of a Cohabitation Agreement between yourself and your partner, stipulating the assets each of you is bringing into the household and how things will be divided should the relationship end at any point. This protects you both from unpleasant and often-unsuccessful court battles that go nowhere and only cost you time and legal fees.


United Outcome Mediations can help with the drafting of these agreements to ensure both parties are protected. Contact us for a free consultation should you have any questions or wish to go ahead.

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