What Common-Law Spouses Need To Know About Divorce

Law Blog

Many of the provinces in Canada recognize some type of common-law marriage. In order to be recognized as common-law spouses, you and your significant other usually need to cohabitate, be in a relationship of some permanence, and hold yourselves out as a couple to those around you. Depending upon what province you live in, you may need to live together for a specific length of time to qualify. It's convenient to be able to receive many of the rights and privileges of married couples without the hassle and expense of getting married, but you may find yourself at a loss for what to do if the relationship ends. Take a look at some things you need to know about common-law divorce.

Divorce is a Misnomer

The first thing that you need to know is that there is no legal divorce needed to dissolve a common-law relationship. Just as you didn't have to go through a legal procedure to be married, you don't need to go through a legal procedure to end your relationship.

You can dissolve a common-law partnership simply by deciding to do so. You're entitled to everything that you brought into the relationship and any property that was bought in your own name during the relationship. You're also solely responsible for your own debts.

Joint Property

Any property or assets that you and your partner own together – for instance, a home or a bank account – should be split evenly down the middle and divided between the two of you. When it comes to property, one partner can buy the other out, or the property can be sold and the proceeds divided evenly.

If there is a dispute about who owns what or how an asset should be divided, the matter can be settled in court. When one partner unfairly benefits at the expense of the other, it's known as unjust enrichment. You'll need to prove that your partner was unjustly enriched at your expense.

Support and Custody

While you're not entitled to your partner's assets or responsible for their debts, there is one way in which common-law separations are similar to traditional divorces, and that's in the matter of child custody and various support issues.

You're entitled to child support from your partner if you have the physical custody of mutual children, and you may be entitled to spousal support if you were reliant on your partner's income – for example, if you were a stay at home parent. Child custody can be decided by mutual agreement or determined by the court, but either way it's important to have the terms of custody and visitation spelled out in a legal document to protect the rights of both parents and ensure that the needs of the children are being met.

A divorce lawyer is an expert in family law and can help common law spouses who need help fighting for equitable distribution of assets or support in court or who need assistance creating a legal custody agreement. If you're separating from your common-law spouse, contact a divorce lawyer in your area to ensure your rights are protected.  

Visit a website like http://www.heritagelawgroup.com/ to learn more.


30 December 2015