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Loss of support claims: Unmarried couples come in from the cold

The loss of support claim
If the breadwinner in your family is killed or injured as a result of another person’s wrongdoing, you can claim for maintenance and loss of support under what is known in our common law as a “dependants’ action”.  You will need to show that the breadwinner had a “legally enforceable duty to maintain and support” you.

What happens if you weren’t married?

This action has always been available to families in a formal marriage situation, and our courts have in recent times extended it widely – for example to same-sex couples, divorcees, and widows married under both African customary law and Islamic law.

Now the Supreme Court of Appeal has established a further extension to “unmarried persons in heterosexual relationships who have established a contractual reciprocal duty of support”.

The Court held the Road Accident Fund liable to compensate a woman and her daughter for the death in a traffic accident of the man who had been supporting them.  The couple were unmarried but living in a ‘permanent life partnership’ pending preparations for marriage.

Don’t risk not having a co-habitation agreement

For a loss of support action to succeed it is critical for the claimant/s to be able to prove that a legal “duty of support” existed – highlighting once again the benefit to co-habitants of entering into a formal agreement regulating (at the very least) their financial affairs.

© DotNews, 2005-2012. This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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