What you need to know about common-law relationships

The legal rights of common-law couples are dealt with differently across the country. Some provinces, like British Columbia, offer more modern approaches to ending common-law relationships, providing similar protections to those of married couples.

Other provinces, such as Ontario, rely on other means of fighting for the rights of common-law couples, such as fighting for unjust enrichment when it comes to the division of property.

An article by BNN Bloomberg outlines the state of common-law relationships across Canada. According to the article, 21% of Canadians are in a common-law relationship (14.4% of Ontarians are in common-law relationships). But the article states that many couples don’t realize the legal impact common-law status can have on their future.

Family Law

Spousal support, division of property, the matrimonial home – legislation and guidelines for these items are only for legally married couples. For common-law couples, they essentially get to walk away from a relationship with whatever property they brought into the relationship. Meaning, if Partner A owned a home, and Partner B moved in as a common-law partner, Partner B has no rights to the home if the couple separates.

Estate Law

If you partner has a will, that should allow their directives to be administered without major issues. However, if your partner dies without a will, under estate laws, common-law partners don’t have many rights.

If you wish to end a common-law relationship, it’s best to consult with an experienced family lawyer. Or, if you are just starting out in a common-law relationship and want to know how to protect your rights in the event of a break-up, a family lawyer can also walk you through the benefits of a cohabitation or separation agreement.