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Common Law Separation in Canada

Common Law Separation in Canada

There was a time when traditional marriage was the only kind of relationship that was accepted both socially and legally. However, with time, society’s perspective on relationships in general has become more progressive and accepting. Nowadays, different types of relationships are accepted both legally and socially. One of these types in Canada is common law separation.

Contrary to popular belief, common-law relationships are not as uncommon as one might claim. A study shows that every 1 in 5 couples is in a common-law relationship in Canada. Moreover, as time passed, people began to prefer common law and other types of relationships instead of being legally married and bound to someone.

A lot of people find the entire ordeal of being married to be a hassle and daunting. At the same time, some people also believe that marriage is a tradition that is outdated and unnecessary. On the other hand, some people are simply not ready to get married. For people in these categories, non-marital legal relationships, such as common-law relationships, are perfect and suit them the best.

If you are interested in knowing, then below is a list of some of the types of relationships people are beginning to prefer over marriage.

  • Common-Law Relationships
  • Civil Union
  • Relationships and Registered Domestic Partnerships

In this article, we will discuss the common-law relationship in Canada and all the laws and legal rights you need to know about if you are in a common-law relationship.

What is a Common-Law Relationship?

When a couple has been together for a long time and shares a spousal relationship without being married, it is then known as a common-law relationship. The couples who are in common-law relationships live together and share the lifestyle of married couples. They even share their finances and have the right to each other’s property. The only thing that makes them different from legally married couples is the lack of a marriage license and certificate.

How is Property Divided in a Common-Law Relationship?

In a common-law relationship, a couple might lead a life like a married couple and enjoy certain spousal benefits; however, when the relationship ends, the couple does not get the same legal rights as married couples do under the Family Law Act.

Everything you bought belongs to you in a common-law relationship, and everything your partner bought belongs to them. However, if you both bought something, such as the house, together, then you can either divide the property or agree on who will get the property. The same rulings go for debts, taxes, and other property and assets.

Therefore, in simple words, anything you solely paid for belongs to you. On the other hand, anything that you and your partner paid for together belongs to both of you, and you need to decide how you want to divide those belongings.

Common Law Separation Agreement

If you are in a common-law relationship, you will not have to go through the hassle of divorce and its lengthy process. A couple can dissolve a common-law relationship anytime one or both partners are inclined to.

As no legal separation agreement for common law or forms state or prove your common-law relationship, most couples do not bother with any of the legal procedures. However, if you are not comfortable not having any legal backup, then you and your partner can always draft up a cohabitation agreement.

Simply put, a cohabitation agreement is like a pseudo-marriage certificate. At the beginning of your common-law relationship, you and your partner can sign the cohabitation agreement, making a statement and a claim about your common-law relationship.

The cohabitation agreement document will consist of terms and conditions with additional clauses about your finances, property, assets, debts, and parenting rights. You can also outline any other issue that you and your partner believe is vital and must be included in the document.

At some point, if you and your partner choose to dissolve and end your common-law relationship, you can refer to the cohabitation agreement to understand and know where you both stand regarding everything. This way, you can avoid the hassle of dragging the issues you both cannot agree upon to court and making the entire process longer than required.

Common Law Spousal Support

Often in common-law relationships, the partners are not obligated to each other financially after their relationship is dissolved. However, if you and your partner were in a relationship for three or more years, then spousal support is an obligation. If a child is involved, furthermore, then both spousal and child support are obligatory.


To conclude, common-law relationships are always a safer option than marriage if you and your partner are still not certain about being legally bound together. It is also highly advisable and recommended to get married to your partner only when you are certain you are ready for that phase in life and that kind of responsibility.

If you and your partner still need some time to decide mutually about marriage but would still love to be together and live together, then being in a common-law relationship will be an excellent decision. This will not only help you decide and give you more time, but it will also help you deduce how you feel about constantly living and sharing a lifestyle with your partner.

You can experience the ups and downs of married life without actually being married. You will understand how you and your partner deal with each other and individually in certain situations, as well as how marriage would work out between you two. Furthermore, if you both decide to go on separate ways, you can easily do that without a divorce’s lengthy and challenging process.

Thus, a common-law relationship is a decent and excellent idea for people who prefer being in a healthy long-term spousal relationship without being legally and traditionally married due to personal preferences. You will enjoy a lot of spousal benefits, but you will also have complete and absolute control over the ins and outs of your lifestyle without legal interventions.


What am I entitled to in a common-law separation in Canada?

In a common-law separation in Canada, entitlements can vary depending on the province or territory you reside in. Generally, the division of assets and liabilities acquired during the relationship is based on principles of fairness. Factors like the length of the relationship, contributions made by each partner, and financial dependency are considered. It's advisable to seek legal advice to better understand your specific entitlements.

What happens if you break up with your common-law partner?

When a common-law relationship ends, there might be a need to divide property and assets and possibly address support payments. Resolving these issues may involve negotiation, mediation, or legal proceedings. Seeking legal counsel can help you understand your rights and obligations during and after the separation.

Are common-law wives entitled to half?

Unlike in a formal marriage, where the division of assets often follows a 50/50 split, in a common-law relationship, entitlements are based on contributions, financial dependency, and other relevant factors. There's no automatic entitlement to a 50/50 split for common-law partners. Each case is assessed individually based on its unique circumstances.

What not to do during separation?

During separation, it's important to avoid actions that could negatively impact the legal or emotional aspects of the process. Avoid hiding assets, making large financial changes, involving children in conflicts, or acting out of revenge. Maintaining civility, seeking mediation if needed, and adhering to legal advice can ease the separation process.

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