Common Law Spouses

Many people today cohabit in a relationship but are not married. We used to call them common law spouses. Since 2002, the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act was introduced, they are now called adult interdependent partners (“AIP”), although the term “common law spouses” is still mostly used for easy understanding. The present legislation (Section 3 of the Act) states that you are the AIP of another person if you have lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence for a continuous period of not less than 3 years, or of some permanence, if you have a child of the relationship by birth or adoption or if you entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with the other person.

The threshold to be met is to show that you and your partner have a relationship of interdependence. Section 2 of the Act provides factors to help you to determine whether or not you and your partner are in such a relationship:

  • Whether or not you have a conjugal relationship;
  • The degree of exclusivity of your relationship;
  • Your and your partner’s conduct and habits regarding the household activities and living arrangements;
  • The degree to which you and your partner hold yourselves out to others as an economic and domestic unit;
  • The degree to which you and your partner formalize your legal obligations, intentions and responsibilities towards one another;
  • The extent you and your partner have contributed, directly or indirectly, to the other’s well- being or mutual well-being;
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence and any arrangements for financial support between you and your partner;
  • The care and support of the children you may need to support; and
  • Whether or not you and your partner own, use or purchase the property.

If you have a child with your partner and you separate, the same guidelines apply with respect to paying child support according to the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

You may also be required to pay spousal support to your partner if you separate, depending on the facts of your case.

At present there is no legislation governing the division of property when you are in a common law relationship. The principles of division of property for common law spouses is set out in case law and is very case specific. You should consult with a lawyer with respect to division of common law property.

Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, S.A. 2002 c. A-4.5