What you need to know about a cohabitation agreement

Illustration by Getty Images
Illustration by Getty Images
  • Cohabitation between a couple who is not married isn't new.
  • Some see it as practice to see whether or not the couple can withstand each other's living habits.
  • Now, there is a legal route couples can go about to ensure their assets are protected.

Some couples might not be ready for marriage or want to get married even though the relationship is serious and live together. However, like in any other relationship, especially one that isn't legally binding, a law expert says it is wise to get a Cohabitation Agreement.

Attorney and founder of Sister In Law, Tebello Motshwane, a cohabitation agreement is a written agreement between an unmarried couple who intend to live together indefinitely.

It formalises and regulates the obligations towards each other. For legal certainty and protection, it is advisable that each party has a Will in place that will dictate what should happen to their assets in the event of death.

Attorney Simon Dippenaar says, "Cohabitation agreements usually deal with the common household, the joint expenses and each party's rights and responsibilities. Couples seldom enter into such an agreement, but it can provide certainty if the relationship fails, allowing each party to rely on the terms of the agreement and their respective contractual rights and obligations."

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The terms of this cohabitation contract include:

-  A description of the parties.

- There will be a declaration that signing the agreement does not mean that the parties will be considered as spouses.

- A declaration that sex will not be paid for.

- Financial disclosure.

- Joint property and expenses.

- Separately owned property and a clause providing for how assets will be distributed in the event of the relationship coming to an end.

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Tebello also added that most people aren't aware of this information which is the main reason why she shares it on her social media platforms. "I have come to learn that the information which I share on my platforms never gets old in that there is always someone who reaches out saying they never knew of a certain legal fact or a certain contract. I have to admit, though, that more and more couples are using a cohabitation agreement to safeguard their interests (assets) in the event of the relationship not working out. This agreement has created some autonomy for couples who do not wish to get married but elect to live together and share household responsibilities."

Would you consider getting a cohabitation agreement with your partner? Tell us here.

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Using this agreement may cause thoughts of separation in couples, and Tebello says even though people have this information, this is one of the reasons they don't use it. 

"It is difficult to say how often couples make use of this kind of agreement. Some people learn about their options and never really apply what they have learned. Things like cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts still need to be demystified - there are couples who believe that getting into these kinds of agreements means that the couple is already contemplating a separation."

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