Common-law couples

What's a common-law relationship?

People usually use the term spouse when talking about married couples. But you can also be a spouse under the law if you're not married.

When you live with someone without being married, it's called living in a "marriage-like relationship" (you might call it a common-law relationship). If you do this, the law usually sees you as a spouse after a certain amount of time.

When is a relationship considered common-law?

The amount of time that needs to pass for a relationship to be common-law is different for some federal and provincial laws:

  • some laws treat you as spouses after you've lived together for at least two years
  • other laws treat you as spouses after you've lived together for just one year, or even less
  • BC provincial law treats you as spouses if you've lived together for any length of time and you have a child together (unless you have an issue about dividing property)

How is common-law different from marriage?

It's important that you know your rights and responsibilities if you are or are planning to be in a common-law relationship.

What you need to know before you move in with someone

Describes the legal issues related to common-law relationships (involving property, debt, children, benefits, and wills).

What happens if your common-law partner dies?

About the rights common-law partners have if their partner dies.