Many people choose to enter into a permanent relationship with another person (whether of the same or opposite sex) with the intention of living together as married persons, without actually getting married. Unfortunately, limited legal protection is afforded to partners in such relationships, and where the relationship terminates, one partner may be gravely disadvantaged by the lack of a prior agreement regulating  assets, maintenance, and the like.

The only way to ensure that both parties are protected in the event that the relationship breaks down, is for them to enter into an agreement in which they regulate their financial and proprietary affairs. This agreement, which is often referred to as a ‘domestic partnership agreement’ or ‘cohabitation agreement’, records the expectations that each partner may have regarding their financial contribution to the joint household and assets acquired individually or jointly. This agreement provides the parties with an opportunity to iron out concerns that may otherwise arise in future, such as the division of movable and or immovable property and maintenance for either party.

A cohabitation agreement, however, cannot contain any provisions that are illegal or contrary to public policy. The agreement is also only enforceable between the parties thereto and is not binding on third parties, as in the case of civil marriages.