“In South Africa, common law marriages are not recognized." 

This means that should you be living with someone, you are unfortunately not automatically regarded as your partner's spouse, even though you may have been living together for a number of years.

There is no legislation in South Africa that regulates domestic partnerships (cohabitation relationship) despite the fact that people have been living in domestic partnerships for centuries. The lack of recognition of domestic partnerships has to do with the fact that marriage is accepted as a cornerstone of society, a better environment for raising children and an integral social institution, while domestic partnerships are seen as a threat to the institution of marriage.

With a normal marriage, the couple need to decide whether they want to sign an antenuptial contract to be out of community of property, with or without the accrual system, or whether it’s going to be in community of property. However, a live-in relationships needs to be registered under the Civil Union Act, and is officially called a civil union. The rights of each couple will depend on the type of civil union which is registered.  

In an age where most marriages fail, parties with a trail of prior relationships and marriages behind them may prefer to live together, rather than marry. Same-sex or heterosexual partners who choose not to get married should sign a domestic partnership (also called a life partnership or cohabitation) agreement to protect them should their relationship end. It is cheaper than ending up in court!