This is an old myth that probably started with American tv shows, because the this is American legislation. It’s a very dangerous misconception, because a lot of people who are cohabiting don’t prepare themselves for the day they might not be together anymore – it’s a shock to the system when faced with this fact at the worst time possible.

South Africa has no common-law legislation in place. Therefore, no duties and responsibilities that applies to spouses exist between partners living together. This is a big problem since cohabitation has increased by 100% in the last few years. It’s scary to think that you really have no financial protection with cohabitation. This also applies to when a partner dies.

There is hope on the horizon with a new law that’s being passed called the Domestic Partnership Bill. However there has been a few cases where the courts have assisted in cohabitation cases. In these cases, the courts can rule the partnership as a universal partnership and split all assets between the parties. But before you sigh that sigh of relief; it’s incredibly hard to prove a universal partnership. There are certain requirements for a universal partnership to be acknowledged as such:

  • The aim of the partnership had to be to make profit.
  • Both parties had to contribute to the enterprise.
  • The partnership should have benefited both partners.
  • The contract between the parties must be legitimate.

This is only to establish that you were in a universal partnership to proceed in placing a claim. To be successful with your claim further requirements must be established:

  • Both partners contributed to a specific venture either financially or with labour or skills.
  • The venture benefited both partners
  • The aim of the venture was to make a profit
  • The normal partnership became a universal partnership

But there’s also no reason to get discouraged. Recently the court ruled in favour of a female partner. Since she had a 30% interest, she was awarded the equivalent of 30% of the assets etc… This does not pertain to maintenance.