Two people cohabit if they live together without formalising their union through marriage or a registered partnership. This is true for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
This way of living together does not require compliance with any special rules. Couples in this arrangement have a large degree of freedom, but do not enjoy the same rights as married couples or couples in a registered partnership.
The law considers two people who cohabit as two single persons and not a couple.
This means in particular that:
You cannot take the surname of your partner.
Each member of the couple must complete their own tax declaration individually.
If your partner purchases property in their name, you have no rights to it.
If you separate, you are not entitled to maintenance payments, even if you have reduced or given up gainful employment during your partnership in order to look after the joint children or the household.
If you separate, you have no entitlement to OASI (AHV/AVS) contributions paid by your partner during your cohabitation.
Neither partner is subject to a legal obligation to help the other partner (as in the event of illness) or to support the other partner. In some cases, however, the financial situation of one partner does have an influence (e.g. as far as social assistance and enforcement proceedings are concerned).
Children of the couple
Paternity of a partner who is not married to the mother of his son or daughter is established through the recognition procedure. A child’s father and mother can also submit an application for joint parental responsibility if the child requests such recognition. The procedure for obtaining joint parental responsibility is set out on the page about parental responsibility. Partners who obtain joint parental responsibility can also give their joint children the father’s surname.
Children of one partner
A partner in a cohabiting couple also has the option of adopting the other partner’s children. To do so requires meeting certain conditions and following a precise procedure, as indicated on the page about adoption.
A cohabiting partner is not a legal heir. When one partner dies, the other partner does not automatically inherit the deceased partner’s property. Each partner can of course leave everything they wish to the other partner in a will.
Please note: even if a will leaves property to the surviving partner, the deceased partner’s legal heirs are entitled to a part of the estate (known as the statutory entitlement). Also, be aware that there is an inheritance tax[BTFB3] .
Cohabiting partners are not entitled to an OASI survivor’s pension. However, the regulations of certain pension funds (second pillar) provide for a surviving partner’s allowance. To find out about your rights, contact your pension fund.
This is a written agreement for couples who decide not to get married nor to enter into a registered partnership , but want to clearly define certain rules for the relationship.
A cohabitation agreement can contain any information the partners decide to include, such as the inventory of assets, the division of daily expenses, child support, the division of assets, maintenance payments in the event of separation or even a life insurance policy for the surviving partner.
This type of agreement is binding and its provisions can be enforced by a court if necessary.
A lawyer will best be able to provide detailed information on cohabitation and on standard or personalised cohabitation agreements.