Common Law vs. Marriage: Is There Really a Difference?

Common Law Vs. Marriage…

When it comes to common law relationships, there are some important differences you need to be aware of. Here are three:

  1. Property Division Issues: these rules are different from married couples. Living together or co-habitating in a marriage- like relationship is often referred to as living “common-law”.  To separate as a married couple means you can share in the increase value of money and other property acquired during marriage. However this does not apply to common-law couples. Usually each partner keeps his or her own asset and they divide those things they own together. You may make a claim against the other person’s share, but this is not an automatic right like it is with married couples. It is important that you review your particular circumstances with a lawyer who can help guide you and make you clear of your rights and obligations.
  2. CPP Benefits: The Canada Pension Plan does give common law partners some rights that are similar to that of married couples. One example of this is the splitting of CPP credits accumulated during the relationship between the two partners. The difference is there are time limits for filing this request depending on whether you are married or common –law.
  3. Wills and Inheritance: These rules are also different between married couples and common-law partners. Unlike married couples who have a right to share in their deceased spouse’s property, whether or not they were included in the will or left anything.  Common-law partners do not inherit any of their partner’s estate unlike specifically listed in the will.

Special situations may always exist, it is therefore very important they your particular situation be assessed by a legal practitioner who can help you make the right decisions and inform you of your legal obligations. However, that being said if the two of you are in agreement to settle in a way that is outside of the normal legal boundaries than that is your personal choice. Remember a Mediator or financial divorce professional can help make this a much better experience if there is co-operation from the start.

By Jo-Anne Fiore

PCCS Accredited Family Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst


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About the Author:

PCCS (also known as Peel Counselling & Consulting Services) began in 1992 as a private practice of Debra Rodrigues. Over the years it has grown well beyond Peel region into Peel, Halton, Dufferin, and the GTA. In fact, Ms. Rodrigues receives calls from persons around the world to conduct mediation.

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