South Africa: The legal rights of unmarried couples


YOU.co.za | December 28, 2015

Many couples opt not to get married. But what financial security and rights do you have when you live together? And what happens if your partner dies?

What is my legal status?

There’s no such concept as common- law marriage in South African law, says Old Mutual legal manager Soré Cloete. People who live together aren’t regarded as legal spouses, no matter how long they’ve lived together or whatever the reason is for them not marrying. This means they’re not covered by the rights of conventionally married couples but they can take steps to ensure their financial security.

Registered relationships

Soré says these relationships can be registered under the Civil Union Act. The registered relationship is then officially a civil union. A couple’s rights depend on the kind of matrimonial property regime they register. They can choose between one that’s out of community of property (with or without accrual) or in community of property; for out of community of property they need to have an antenuptial contract. The aim of the antenuptial contract is among other things to protect each person financially.

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