Home Lifestyle Six Months of Cohabitation Equals Legal Marriage; It’s Not That Simple

Six Months of Cohabitation Equals Legal Marriage; It’s Not That Simple

by Nessa Shera


According to Kenyan Law, if you’ve lived with your partner whom you’ve not yet tied the knot for more than six months, there’s a presumption of Marriage. That’s good news for all you gals who’d like to enjoy the perks that marriage brings without jumping the broom. These unions dubbed as ‘come-we-stay’ arise where a man and a woman live together as a husband and wife, even have children, without actually getting married.

While approval of the union itself does not amount to receiving some kind of marriage certificate, or physical, formal notification of marriage, it provides sufficient grounds to obtain monies, properties, child support, or incentives that come with marriage. However you need to show that there was notable cohabitation between yourself and your partner. Evidence such as pictures, witnesses, among other things, are crucial to show such co-habitation. Hence the ‘come-we-stay’ union is a legal presumption that is used mainly as a ground of evidence. Several articles previously discussing this subject stated that chiefs would be able to consider ‘come-we-stay’ affairs that last more than six months as a marriage and to register them as such. This however cannot guarantee a marriage in stone. Cohabitation can only be confirmed to have attained the status of a marriage through a court declaration.

In a court case, Yawe, a person from Uganda and resident in Nairobi was killed in a road accident in Uganda in 1972. He was a pilot with East African Airways and lived in Nairobi West. After his death, the Appellant Wanjiku claimed to be his widow and that she had 4 of the deceased’s children.  Some Ugandan claimants however denied that she was his wife and claimed that the deceased hadn’t in fact married her. Evidence was called which showed that the deceased lived with the Appellant as a wife, and while once applying for a job, he had named the Appellant as a wife and the two were reputed as man and wife and cohabited as man and wife for over 9 years. The Court held that long cohabitation as man and wife gives rise to presumption of marriage.

The ‘come-we-stay’ marriage union has received a lot of support, as well as negative backlash from many. One such person being Charles Kanjama, a representative from a Christian professionals’ forum who felt like the presumption almost places one in a trap, in a forceful attempt to get married or tricked into marriage. However this isn’t exactly true.

If you’re looking to get full on certified documentation officiallly showing marriage, you’re just going to have to do it the old fashioned way, whether it’s through Civil, Christian, Customary, Islamic, or Hindu marriage. Registration still will require mutual consent. It still looks like those anticipating for a proposal and eventual marriage, may have to continue dealing with the frustration of the wait.

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