What is a Common Law Spouse in South Africa

Relationships can last from a few days to weeks, from a few weeks to months, or from a few months to years. Here we will have a look at what is a common law spouse in South Africa.

Many can start when the couple’s young and develop into adulthood and beyond.

Some people will grow deeper and closer, and others will grow apart.

Being in a relationship is not for the faint of heart, as it takes commitment and perseverance.

What is a Common Law SpouseThere are some that take the relationship further, with marriage, and others choose to share a home.

Times have changed considerably, seeing that many would rather move in together, then take the marital route.

There are aspects that people do not consider in the making of this decision, which will affect them greatly.

It includes the financial, as well as, legal aspects of their lives.

So What is a Common Law Spouse?

Wedded couples have legal protection, due to their legitimate binding.

The unmarried pairs, however, get no legal support.

It is where the “common law spouse” term comes into play.

A common law spouse is a partner, whether man or woman, who lives with their partner in the same household.

This partnership is deemed as not forming part of a legitimate commitment.

It does not matter how long the period is or was that you had been together.

Nor is it important what you put into the household, during your involvement.

Even if you:

  • Added to the funding of the house’s bond,
  • Paid for the water and electrical bill,
  • Assisted in car or school payments,
  • Bought groceries for the household,
  • Or financially collaborated on anything else.


You will unfortunately not receive the lawful support similar to those who are married or those who have been unified legally.

Benefits Lost Without Legitimate Binding – What is a Common Law Spouse

A relationship without any legitimate binding halters either partner the benefit of:

  • Inheriting any shared possessions and assets, in the matter of death;
  • Equal rights to shared funds and material goods, in the event of breaking up;
  • A lot of documentation, time and expenditures, in making a claim to receive a dead partner’s belongings, or to be given a fair share after both going their separate ways.


Some criteria that equalise a common law spouse and a lawful partner:

  • The Act that is to defend partners in violent home environments.
  • A specified medical aid condition that takes any partner (legal or not) into account, considering them as dependants.
  • The Acts revolving around regulating taxes sees any partner as the spouse, whether married or not.
  • Life coverage can include unlawful partners, but need to be clearly documented and stated, to prevent future misunderstandings.
  • Being a parent or not, is both legal, as long as the child’s biology matches yours.


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All info was correct at time of publishing