With so many couples choosing to live together, it’s important to become informed with respect to common law relationships and the laws in your province.
Rights and regulations governing common law vary from province to province and from situation to situation. Consultation with a family law attorney is key to understanding your rights and protecting your assets.
Differences between Marriage and Common Law Unions
Most of the differences between marital and common law unions apply during separation, divorce and death. From a legal perspective, the biggest difference between married and common law spouses is the division of property when the relationship ends. With marriage there is a presumption of an equal division of family assets. Conversely, common law spouses have no automatic or presumptive entitlement to the assets of their common law spouse.
Similarly, family laws provide that you may be entitled to spousal and/or child support when a marriage ends. In common law, relationships of significant duration, or where children are involved, may result in both spousal and child support, but there is no presumptive entitlement.
Cohabitation Agreements for Common Law Couples
You may want to ask your lawyer about drafting a cohabitation agreement, especially if you are wealthier than your partner, received a significant inheritance, own a business or your own home or have children from a previous relationship.
Ten Questions to Ask Your Family Lawyer
1. How long must we live together before we are recognized as a common-law couple?
2. What are the privileges and obligations from entering into a common law relationship?
3. Is my common law spouse eligible for the same benefits as a married spouse?
4. I have children from a previous relationship, what steps do I need to take to protect their interests?
5. Is there a way to keep my property separate from my common law spouse?
6. Do we need to file a joint tax return?
7. What will happen if I am on social assistance and decide to live common law?
8. How do you terminate a common law relationship?
9. Am I responsible for the debts of my partner?
10. Do I need a cohabitation agreement?