If you have entered into a common-law marriage, it helps to be clear on what your rights are. It also helps to dispel a few of the myths about what happens if you separate or divorce:
- The laws are the same Canada-wide
Common-law partnerships are regulated by the individual provinces in Canada. So, while common-law partners in B.C are granted the same fundamental rights as married couples after living together for two years, the same does not apply in all provinces.
In Quebec, common-law partnerships are not recognized at all – though if there are children in the relationship, this usually affects the legal standing of the partnership.
In Alberta, common-law partners are termed “adult interdependent partners”. When a couple has lived together for at least three years or has a child and live together, it is regarded as a common-law relationship.
- Common-law partnership assets are divided equally in a separation
Property acquired during a common-law partnership is not necessarily subject to equal division in Alberta as it would be in a marriage.
If you have been living together as adult interdependent partners for three years or there are children from the partnership, assets may be divided equally during a separation.
Also, if there is a separate cohabitation agreement or another legal agreement between the couple, this can affect property division.
- Spousal support cannot be awarded in a common-law partnership breakup
Few separating couples engaged in a common-law relationship will address spousal support but in some cases, it may be necessary.
Spousal support may be recommended if the breakup of a long-standing relationship results in “economic consequences” for one partner – the same as a married spouse would receive support in this situation.