Misconceptions about rights of common law couples in Canada


common law coupleA recent ruling in Canada gives common-law -partners equal rights as those of married couples after they cohabit for a period of two years or more. This has paved the way of how such couples should be treated in the other provinces.

Common-law partners live together in an arrangement similar to marriage, but without any ceremony or legal proofs. But living in a “common law relation” is a complicated issue and the meaning differs across Canada.

There are some great misconceptions about common-law partnerships.

1.       These unions are considered to be the same across the country – Legally, common-law relationships belong to provincial jurisdiction. What constitutes a common-law relationship and how it is looked upon legally differs in every province. The recent B.C. ruling considers common-law partners to be the same as married couples and brings common-law couples under the purview of “spouse”. Couples who have lived together for two years or more now have equal rights and obligations as married couples.

In Alberta, common-law couples are known as “adult interdependent partners.” This happens when the couple has lived together for a period of three years or more or has an issue and is still living together

 2.          Children do not affect the common-law relation – The presence of children does affect a common-law relationship when viewed from the eyes of the law. When a cohabiting couple has an issue, they are commonly viewed as common law couples. If a couple lives together and has a child, but only one of them is the owner of a house, the other can claim for partial use of the house immediately after separation for the sake of the child.

3.          In case of a break-up, the assets are divided – Living together in a common-law relationship similar to marriage might give equal status, but it does not provide division of property acquired during the subsistence of the relationship unless an agreement was made between the couple. In Ontario, there is nothing called “matrimonial property” in these relationships. But if you have been living as a common law couple and you have contributed to a home or for its renovations or have maintained it, you can make a claim for property. As per the recent B.C. ruling, now such couples living together for two years or more are entitled to equal split of shared debts and assets.

4.        Spousal support is not granted during a break up – In some cases a common-law-partner will get spousal support. It is possible depending upon many factors. Unlike marriage, spousal support is not granted automatically. But when one party is entitled to it, the court may grant the same depending upon the duration of stay. if one of the partners choose to give up career for taking care of the child, he or she is also entitled to get spousal support during a break up.