Ten Little Known Facts about Common-law Relationships
1. Clients often ask “when is a relationship considered common law?” The answer is a relationship is considered “common law” when you begin living together in a relationship akin to marriage. It starts immediately.
2. If you are in a common law relationship and separate, you don’t necessarily have any obligation to your former partner. It depends on your circumstances.
3. Property accumulated during marriage is automatically equalized but in a common law relationship you only have a claim to the other person’s property if you assisted in the acquisition, preservation or maintenance of the asset. For example, if you helped purchase it or improve it, you may have a claim to a share in the property owned by your partner. Your best case is a fifty percent interest but it could be that you only have a minor interest.
4. If you provided house-keeping or child-care services for your partner, it is possible to argue you deserve an interest in your partner’s assets because you freed up your partner’s time for him/her to be able to acquire the assets.
5. The interest you may acquire in your partner’s assets is based on you having a “constructive trust interest” in his or her assets. It is therefore called a “constructive trust claim”.
6. A constructive trust claim is not automatic. It is “judge-made” law so a judge has to determine the amount of your interest unless you and your spouse agree to it.
7. You don’t qualify for spousal support if you lived in a common law relationship for less than 3 years unless you had a child together.
8. Regarding child support, custody and access, it does not matter whether you were married or lived in a common law relationship. You are treated the same.
9. To prove you should be given an interest in your partner’s assets, you need to prove your contribution whether by services or money contributed.
10. If you are entering a common law relationship, it is a good idea to have a cohabitation agreement in place so you both know in advance how property will be divided should you separate in the future.