Co-habitation does not confer marital status
It is actually becoming fashionable to live together. Many years ago, a lady could only do so if her parents were in the village and had no means of knowing that their daughter lived with a man. Many were lucky, their relationships ended up in marriage and others were not so lucky.
Some remain unmarried to date, and have resigned their parents to accepting that situation, with the introduction of grandchildren. Many more have become single parents by virtue of the decision to co-habit, where the relationships have gone wrong. Hear Charity’s story:
“I moved into Emeka’s flat at age 19 about three months after we started dating. I actually got evicted from my own flat because I lost my job and could no longer pay my rent. Since we were in love with each other it was the expected thing to do.
He housed, fed and bedded me until I got another job. He convinced me there was no reason to spend money on renting new digs for myself so we continued to live as man and wife. We referred to each other as husband and wife more than enough times. After two years, I got pregnant and had the twins. Emeka was overjoyed.
My parents did not like the fact that I had become what my father; in his civil service english, called a common law wife. They grudgingly accepted my new status, as they awaited Emeka’s people to make marriage overtures.
Suddenly tension started to build up. I got desperate. Which woman wants to lose her husband to another woman? I quickly got pregnant again, so as to secure my place in his heart; I could see the way he doted over the twins. I had a daughter and needless to say, we now had the perfect family; two sons and a daughter.
Emeka spoiled them all rotten, and we lived happily until I started to notice that he wasn’t really warm towards me as before; rather all I saw in his expressions and body language was distance.
When I couldn’t take it any longer, I discussed it with him and he told me very bare facedly that he did not have any feelings for me anymore. He said he was not in love with anyone else, was sorry but wanted to be free to love again.
The love he had for me had gone cold, and he appreciated the efforts I was making, but it wasn’t doing anything for him. I was a 25 year old lady, with three children, who ended up with nothing from what I thought we built up together. I was not entitled to any portion of his house, even though I had contributed money to buy iron rods at a stage. I was left with nothing and at my age, taking three children with me when I left was not an option.’’
This typifies the story of many relationships gone wrong. When this happens the women get bitter and hardened in their hearts. Some take the children with them, and subject the kids to difficult circumstances that they need not be part of because they do not ask for maintenance for the child.
The fact remains that when a relationship breaks up it is not about the children, but it is a tearing apart of the relationship between the man and his woman. Many women complain about the man’s irresponsible behaviour towards the children, in the matter of maintenance and other provisions, yet prevent the father any access to the child. It becomes a roller coaster of a time for parents and children alike.
The men very stoically carry on as if they don’t care; many of them mask their true feelings by ‘punishing’ the mother financially. The truth is that when the children are old enough, they seek their fathers out. Many of the extended family members, wickedly, comfort the men with this reality; that they won’t go to their graves without the comfort from the child(ren).
Living together can be fun, but just as in a divorce, the decision to start to live apart can be very stressful too. Couples who have lived or are living together hardly have any rights compared with their married counterparts. Couples who are in void or voidable marriages do not have any rights, and may as well simply be living together.
Despite the fact that the woman has taken the man’s surname and pre-fixed it with Mrs, it does not change the status of her relationship from live-in lover to wife.
Where the parties have not split up and are living together when one dies, he/she cannot inherit as a spouse, unless he/she has made a will, and even then the partner gets to pay death tax as a beneficiary as they are not regarded to be a spouse.
Where the partner has not made a will, even the laws of intestacy do not support the partner.
If you are an unmarried father, you need to make a written declaration, to take with you to register the child’s birth, as it is only the mother who has automatic parental rights over the child. If you think you can do so without the declaration, your child’s birth may not have you noted as the natural father.
While it is not the most romantic thing to do; consider making a co-habitation agreement.