While common law marriages are legally recognised in the USA and Australia, the same cannot be said for South Africa. As local specialist divorce lawyers, the team at the Law Offices of Karen Olivier is here to provide a clear definition of the common law marriage and unpack some of the potential problems that come with this type of relationship.

Defining a Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage refers to the union between partners who choose not to be officially married but who live together as husband and wife (or as wife and wife, or husband and husband).

This situation, which is also referred to as “life partnership” or “cohabitation” is becoming more common as many younger couples choose not to go through with the expenses and formalities of a traditional marriage.

The Potential Problems that May Be Faced in a Common Law Marriage

While common law marriages are quite prevalent, it should be noted that these types of partnerships are not recognized by the South African legal system, and being in a “life partnership” with someone does not offer the same legal protection and benefits as being in a registered marriage.

Over time, many potential problems could arise, especially if you and your partner were to split up. As you were never a registered spouse, you won’t have the same rights when it comes to property division and maintenance. If your partner were to pass away, you may not receive an equitable share of your partner’s estate.

How to Legally Protect Yourself as a Common Law Spouse

If you are a common law spouse, it is very important that you take the necessary steps to legally protect yourself, especially if you and your partner have children together or if you are financially dependent on your partner. A family lawyer can offer expert advice and help you create a cohabitation agreement.

Are you looking for a highly experienced specialist divorce lawyer in South Africa? Here at the Law Offices of Karen Olivier, we have dealt with a diverse range of cases and our team is here to ensure that your voice is heard. Please contact us today to set up an appointment and learn more about our family law services.