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Cohabiting in 2018

African couple in new house

By Motlagae Konyana

Living with your romantic partner without marriage has become increasingly common in our society.  A lot of couples tend to stay together because thats how they can spend more time together in this busy life that we live while other couples may live together because it makes financial sense to combine the expenses as a couple.

Living together as a couple may be romantic and can be seen as a commitment step in the right direction for your relationship.  However there is no law in South Africa that regulates the rights of partners in a cohabitation relationship regardless of how long they have been living together for.

Before moving in together here are some of the factors that you and partner should consider:

  • Property – our love nest

Will the home you live in be co-owned, who will get what if you break up? If you are renting, who stays on and pays the rent when you part ways?
Do you move into one’s place or you find a new place that you both will like.

  • Children

In the event that you break up and you have children, who will be the primary care-giver of the children? Would the they move to stay with the primary care-giver,  far away? Additionally, there is no obligation on cohabitants to maintain each other, and they have no enforceable right to claim maintenance.You need to also discuss the visitation rights and learn to co-parent with your partner should you break up.  Also discuss what is the best way to raise the child together as co-parents.

  • Family and Friends boundaries
    You should also remember to discuss the implications of living together may cause your family and friends – for example your cousin from a different city can’t come stay over for more than a week without you discussing it with your partner.Moreover, it might be strange to your traditional cousin who comes from the rural areas to understand that you are cohabiting without paying lobola.

Your mom also can’t do her normal ice cream visits since you are now living with your partner and she might not approve that you are living with a man who has not paid lobola for you.  It is a tough one,  most of us tend to kept our living arrangements mum to avoid the difficult questions of when will he marry you,  when are you having children.

  • Finances

Who pays for what in the house? Shared responsibilities work out easily if they are communicated.  If there is any credit taken on behalf of the couple, for example, a car, whose responsibility will it be to pay it if there’s a breakup? Who does the car belong to? If there are any collective debts, who will pay for them if the relationship ends? Because there is no law that regulates cohabitation in south Africa, debt that is acquire for the relationship by one party will remain your debt and not affect your partner should you separate.

  • Insurance and policies

How insurance policies are managed should ideally be covered in the cohabitation agreement. This is to avoid finding yourself in a situation in which the policy has been terminated without consultation. Should your partner die, it could cause complications especially if you have children and there is no will in place.  Ensure that you have policies and insurance for the children so that they can still be taken care of should you not be able to.

Cohabiting might make financial sense to you and your partner, and could be romantic, l however there are many more factors that you both need to consider. It’s important to have those uncomfortable conversations about the future and the eventuality of you breaking up.

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