Marriage vs. Common-Law: What is Crucial for You to Know

With the increasing divorce rate in Canada, people are looking for an alternative that works better than marriage. No wonder why I’m getting so many questions about common-law relationships.

Divorce is stressful, expensive, and, most importantly, a threat to mental health. Many people struggle hard to get on their feet after a messy marriage. To them, common-law relationships are a matter of hope.

But, before throwing off marriage entirely, it’s crucial to understand common-law relationships. Many misconceptions need to be brushed off before settling for common-law.

Does A Common-Law Partner Have Property Rights?

Common-law partners do not have statutory property rights like married couples. A common-law partner will only get a share from the properties bought as a joint family venture.

If common-law spouses own a property jointly, one partner can apply to the court for partition. The partner can then sell the property under the partition act.

Property Rights of common law partners

Is Common-Law Spouse Entitled for Child/Spousal Support?

Yes, a common-law spouse is eligible for spousal support under the Family Law Act. There are some qualifications to meet at first for that. The common-law spouses have to stay together for at least 3 years to qualify for spousal support. Or, they have to have a child. The child can be adopted on their own.

There is a difference between a common-law spouse and a married couple regarding child support. Child support for cohabiting couples falls under the Family Law act.  A parent’s obligation under this Act is to support a child when he/she is a minor and is enrolled in a full-time education program.

For married couples, the law goes under the Divorce Act.  It covers more ground than the Family Law Act. According to the Divorce Act, the parents must support their children when they are minors. They also have to help them at their adult age if they cannot earn their livelihood due to illness, disability, or some other causes.


Can A Common-Law Spouse Get Custody/Access of Children?

Whether It’s a common-law relationship or marriage, there is always an option for child custody and child access. For married couples, The child access or custody falls under the Divorce Act.For common-law relationships, it falls under the Children’s Law Reform Act.

The residential arrangement is the same in both acts. It could be sole custody,  shared custody, split custody, or joint custody with access arrangements.

Child custody


Final Words

The common-law relationship may not be a new idea, but its increasing popularity demands attention. Many people think common law works better than marriage. It’s more flexible and less expensive.

However, when a trend starts to grow, certain myths are bound to circle around it. Without understanding the whole situation, you shouldn’t make a call. Whether your decision is to stick to the conventional marriage or go for common-law relationship, you should first consult a family lawyer.

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