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You’re not married but you’re living together (called cohabitation). What are your legal rights if you separate? Do you have a claim on any monies? Scorpion Legal Protection gives you 3 must-know facts about cohabitation.
Cohabitation is when two people who are in a relationship (whether heterosexual or same sex relationship) live together without being married to each other in any legal or official sense. There is a common belief that if you are living with your partner for a certain amount of time, you eventually automatically become what is known as ‘common law married’ and get the same benefits as legally married couples. This is not true. Married couples must be registered with the state by getting a marriage certificate – whether through civil marriage or customary marriage.
If your partner does not leave behind a valid will stating what you will inherit and has not listed you as a beneficiary on any life policies, investments, or their pension or provident fund that pays out upon death, you do not qualify to inherit from their estate. If your life partner is the legal owner of the house, as a cohabitant you do not have a right to occupy the house and could be kicked out.
When no will is present, the deceased person’s estate is divided according to the law of Intestate Succession, which is specific about dividing the estate among blood relatives and legal spouses. (You can read more about who gets what in intestate succession here.)
The obligation to pay maintenance for children is not affected by whether or not the parents were married – the biological parents of the child remain responsible for maintaining the child. If you and your partner split up, your partner, as the biological father of the child, will still be responsible for paying maintenance for the child if you were not married. You can also still claim for your child from your partner’s estate if they die.
You may also be interested in:
What happens if you don’t have a will?
Marriage contracts: pros and cons
Marrying for SA citizenship
We have a team of lawyers available to answer your legal questions every first Thursday of the month from 11:30 to 13:30 on the Scorpion Legal Protection Facebook page for free. Have your legal question answered on the spot at the Scorpion Live Q&A.
* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 2 August 2022
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