INFO YOU CAN USE: A common-law spouse’s entitlements

THERE are a number of legal requirements for a couple to be classified as common-law spouses.

The concept of common-law spouses is only recognised in very few Acts of Parliament, and in the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act, 2004, it refers to a single woman/man who has cohabited with a single man/woman as if he/she were in law her/his husband/wife for a period of not less than five years.

The terms "single woman" and "single man" are stated to include widow, widower, or divorcée. The provision makes it quite clear that in order to be included in the term "spouse" both parties cohabiting must be single — that is, unmarried or widowed or divorced.

In order to be classified as a common-law spouse the single woman must cohabit with the single man, that is to say live together in a conjugal/sexual relationship as if they were in law husband and wife, which brings into play all or most the facets which husbands and wives have and engage in jointly in their lives together.

Once the criteria is met to be defined as a common-law spouse, the law extends equitable division of properties on the breakdown of those unions, as obtains in marriage.

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