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Can Common Law Get Spousal Support?

Can Common Law Get Spousal Support

Many couples choose to live together without getting married. These are called common-law relationships in Canada. But very few people know what happens financially if a common-law partnership breaks down. Can a common-law partner get spousal support from the other? We will find out in this short guide.

What is a Common Law Relationship?

A common-law relationship is known as a domestic partnership. It exists when two people live together for a sustained period. In this period, they are considered a couple for all intents and purposes without being legally married. The definition of “sustained period” can vary by state and jurisdiction in Canada.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is called alimony in some terms. It is financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other after separation or divorce. Spousal support helps the financially weaker spouse maintain a standard of living comparable to what they enjoyed during the marriage.

What are the Factors Considered for Determining Spousal Support Amount?

There are five major factors you must go through while determining spousal support— Income inequality, contribution to the relationship, length of the relationship, standard of living and childcare. Couples should consider these factors to get fair treatment as their appeal.

  • Income Inequality: The greater the disparity between the partners’ incomes, the more likely spousal support will be awarded, and the amount will likely be higher.
  • Contributions to the Relationship: The court may consider one partner’s contributions to the relationship, such as raising children or sacrificing career opportunities to support the other’s career.
  • Length of the Relationship: Generally, longer relationships lead to longer spousal support obligations.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: The court considers the standard of living the couple enjoys during the marriage to determine a fair level of support.
  • Childcare and Custody: If children are involved, the custodial parent’s needs may be prioritized, and childcare costs might be factored into spousal support calculations.

How Much Spousal Support Required for Common-Law Couples?

Married couples have a more standard process to determine their spousal support. Unfortunately, determining spousal support for common-law partners can be more complicated. The court considers factors like relationship duration, income, necessity, and ability to pay.

  • The Length of the Relationship: Similar to married couples, longer common-law relationships can lead to a greater entitlement to spousal support.
  • Spouse’s Incomes: The income disparity between the partners plays a crucial role.
  • Necessity of Support: The partner needing financial assistance must demonstrate their need for support and inability to maintain themselves adequately.
  • Ability to Pay the Spouse: The spouse paying support must have the financial means to do so without undue hardship.

What are the Differences in Jurisdiction for Spousal Support?

Common-law spousal support varies by jurisdiction. Some regions have specific guidelines and criteria, while others may have more flexible interpretations. For the best results, you can consult one of our lawyers familiar with family law in your area for specific details.

What are the Court Procedures and Legal Remedies?

Courts follow some legal processes for spousal support inquiry. We have made a short step-by-step breakdown of the process.

Phase 1: Start a Spousal Support Claim

The process typically involves filing a formal claim with the court. Legal representation is highly recommended.

Phase 2: Decision of the Court

After considering all arguments and evidence, the court will rule on the spousal support amount and duration (if any).

Phase 3: Options for Mediation and Settlement

Couples can attempt mediation or negotiate a settlement agreement outside of court to avoid a lengthy and potentially expensive legal battle.

Phase 4: Support Orders and Agreements

Court-ordered support or a negotiated settlement agreement outlines the amount and duration of spousal support payments.

Phase 5: Enforcement and Changes

The court can enforce support orders if payments are not made. Changes to the support order may be possible under certain circumstances with further court involvement.

What are the Pros and Cons of Common Law?

Based on past judicial rulings (precedents), common law offers advantages and disadvantages.


  • Common law can evolve to fit new situations. Judges can interpret existing precedents to address emerging issues.
  • Past rulings provide a framework for future cases, offering security and consistency.
  • Previously decided cases are public records, allowing participants to understand how similar situations were handled.


  • Relying on precedents requires extensive research to identify relevant past cases.
  • Similar facts don’t guarantee the same outcome. Subtle differences can lead to different rulings.
  • Common law can adapt slowly to rapidly changing social and technological landscapes.

Final Sentence

Common-law partners may be eligible for spousal support after separation, but the process is easier than married couples. Navigating spousal support after a common-law separation can burden you. While the concept of spousal support exists for common-law partners in Regina, the specifics and legalities differ from married couples. 

So, consulting a lawyer specializing in Saskatchewan family law is the best course of action to protect your rights. It will also bring you a fair outcome. 


Can you get spousal support if you are common law in Ontario?

Two situations can establish common law rights in Ontario—Living together for at least three years or having a child with your partner. Like married couples, courts consider factors like income disparity, contributions to the relationship, and living standards during living together to determine the amount and duration of support.

Can I bring my common-law partner to Canada from abroad?

The “Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada” class might be your answer. To qualify, they must live with you in Canada and hold valid temporary residence status.  However, exemptions based on specific public policy guidelines set in 2005 may apply.

Who is eligible for spousal support in Regina?

Eligibility for spousal support in Regina hinges on your specific situation. Common-law partners may qualify under certain circumstances, but the court considers factors like income disparity, relationship contributions, and length. 

How is spousal support determined for common-law spouses?

Spousal support for common-law spouses is determined through a process similar to that of legally married couples. Courts assess factors such as the length of the relationship, the financial situation of each spouse, the contributions made during the relationship (financial and non-financial), the standard of living established during the relationship, and the needs and obligations of each spouse. 

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