Common Law Relationship

Welcome to, Canada's leading resource for couples who are separating

The latest Canadian census shows that common law relationships are the fastest growing family structure. More and more people are "shacking up" as unmarried partners.

Yet, the legal rights of Canadians living together outside of marriage are unknown or misunderstood - even by those who live in common law relationships. Many people assume -- quite incorrectly -- that people in these relationships have the same legal rights as married couples.

My site is exclusively devoted to explaining the legal rights of partners living common law in Canada when their relationship ends, either through separation or one partner passing away.

Find out the basics common law rights in Canada here.

About to start living with someone? Click here to learn how to PROTECT YOURSELF.

Click here to find out the main differences in rights upon separation between marriage and common law relationships in Canada.

Click here to find out the main similarities in rights upon separation between marriage and common law relationships in Canada.

Note: In some provinces, common law partners can register as domestic partners and be entitled to the rights and benefits of a "spouse."

In Manitoba, since 2004, there is a new law that after living together for a certain period of time, the property rights of unmarried couples will be the same as the property rights of unmarried couples. Find out about the Manitoba regime. The same thing is true for Saskatchewan.

This site is limited to separation and family law issues that are specific to common law relationships. A lot of separation and family law issues are the same regardless of whether you're married or not. For these issues, please visit my main family law website.

A quick summary of the similarities and differences between married and unmarried couples is as follows:

Married Common Law Ontario
Equalization payment upon separation yes no, but may be claim for unjust enrichment
Possession of the matrimonial home upon separation yes no
Special treatment of matrimonial home in dividing property yes no
Spousal support yes yes, if lived together for 3 years or are in a relationship of some permanence and have children
Time limit to apply for spousal support no yes in several provinces
Order restraining depletion of property yes no, but can use Rules of Civil Procedure for similar sorts of orders
Child support yes yes
Child custody yes yes
Succession rights if partner dies intestate yes no, but may be claim for unjust enrichment
Dependant's relief on death of partner yes yes
Equalization payment on death yes no, but may be claim for unjust enrichment
Possession of matrimonial home on death yes no, but may be able to claim as an incident of support


Common Law Marriage

Note that there is no such thing as common law marriage in any province in Canada. No matter how long you live with your common law partner, you will never be considered married for legal purposes.

Property Rights for Common Law Ontario

Unjust Enrichment - how property is divided on common law separation in Ontario.

Find out the defences to a claim for unjust enrichment.

Read about some example cases of unjust enrichment.

Find out the issues to consider in a case of unjust enrichment.

Remedies - what will a court do if it finds that there has been an unjust enrichment.

Resulting trusts: your other option.


Note: Each of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut have their own separate statututory regimes regarding common law rights. So your rights upon separation will vary depending on where you live when you separation.