Penny Paul

Family Law


Marriage-Like Relationships (Common Law Relationships)

As of March 18th, 2013, the Family Law Act pretty well leveled the playing field for spouses in a marriage-like relationships. A person is a spouse for the purposes of the Act if the person:

  • is married to the other person, or
  • has lived in a marriage - like relationship for a continuous period of two years, or
  • except for part 5 and 6 (property and pensions) has a child with the other person.
If you meet the definition of spouse you may qualify for property rights and spousal support.  You must bring the application no later than two years from the date of separation.  The running of time limits is suspended during any period in which persons are engaged in family dispute resolution with a family dispute professional.

A spouse who lived with the other person's child may also be liable for child support to a step child if:
  • the stepparent contributed to the support of the child for at least one year, and
  • the claim is started within one year of the last contribution.

If you do not meet the definition of spouse for a property claim or are outside the time limits, you may still bring on an action based on your contributions and the principles of unjust enrichment.  Click here for a link to a paper written and presented by Penny Paul for the Continuing Legal Education Advanced Family Law Course on the topic of unjust enrichment and property claims.

Tip – If you do not want to have the Family Law Act apply to your marriage - like relationship you have two choices:

  • separate before you have lived in a marriage - like relationship for two years; or
  • enter into a cohabitation agreement.
Penny Paul has drafted countless cohabitation agreements over 40 years and not one of them has been set aside by a court.
Need to know more - ask Penny Paul! Contact Penny Paul

Common law
"See me before you start living in a "marriage - like relationship."