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Dr Ilze Van der Merwe
B.A. (Psych) (RAU) B.A Honn (Psych)(RAU) M.A. Research Pysch (Cum Laude)(RAU) M.A. Couns. Psych (Cum Laude)(RAU) D.Litt et Phil.(RAU)
Divorce Attorney Cape Town
Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
B.Bus.Sci (UCT), LLB (UCT), PDLP (UCT)
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Not getting married? Have you got a Universal Partnership Agreement?

Did you know that common law marriages do not exist in South Africa? In fact, there are no laws that regulate or automatically protect a couple that has been living together without a formal and binding agreement, regardless of how long they have been cohabiting.

This is why a Universal Partnership Agreement is so important. It’s your right as an individual, and as a couple, to choose whether or not you want to get married legally. However, in order to protect both of you, it’s always a good idea to have some form of legal agreement in place.

What exactly is a Universal Partnership Agreement?

It’s a legally binding document, drawn up by a lawyer, which states that you and your partner are cohabiting. This agreement then allows you many of the same rights and duties of a married couple.

The legal definition includes that:

  • Both parties must contribute to the partnership
  • The partnership must operate for the benefit of both parties
  • The object of the partnership should be to make a profit

4 benefits of this legally binding agreement

  1. Protect yourself or your partner if one of you passes away – Without the agreement in place, or a valid will, neither of you is entitled to inherit anything from your partner should he/she die.
  2. Partnership assets are shared – Anything that you own as a couple will legally belong to both of you. This gives you some asset and financial security should the relationship end.
  3. You can gain the right to claim maintenance – If one partner is the sole bread winner in the relationship, the other partner has no rights to maintenance without a prior agreement in place. Be sure to ask your lawyer about how to put in provisions to protect both of you in the event of a split.
  4. Children resulting from the relationship are better protected – The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 ensures that both parents are responsible for a child that is born out of wedlock. However, with a Universal Partnership Agreement in place, your children are less likely to be subject to messy court proceedings in the event of a separation.

What if you don’t have an agreement in place before you split up?

Sometimes relationships come to an end suddenly and there was no time to think about the financial repercussions. However, there have been several cases in South Africa where a judge has ruled that the partnership was the equivalent of a marriage or civil union. In each case, a thorough investigation of how the couple lived was done and it was found that they had entered into a universal partnership without a legal contract.

Contact Simon today to have a Universal Partnership Agreement drawn up or to find out what your options are if you didn’t have an agreement in place.

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