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The financial implications of common-law marriage

16 June 2011 by National Bank
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Even if you’ve been living together for 3. 10 or 15 years, common-law spouses have no claim to half the property or support payements in the case of separation, or inheritance in the case of death.

Contenu

In fact, the provisions of family patrimony, the protection of family residences, inheritance, spousal support, loyalty provisions, the civil effects of marriage and civil unions, relief and assistance and the respective responsibilities of household expenses do not apply to unmarried co-habitants.

Unless you have provided for such provisions in a specific co-habitation contract, you are not entitled to the benefits.

In cases where common-law couples have children together, they are subject to the rights and responsibilities of parents, but not spouses.

Social rights, despite no marital rights

The law makes a clear distinction between:

  • Married couples and civil unions, for which there are numerous rules, rights and responsibilities;
  • De facto spouses, defined as two individuals, who have virtually no rights or responsibilities viv a vis one another, except under certain applications of social laws and some specific articles of the Civil Code.
  • In total, there are 28 laws and 11 regulations under 13 ministries at the provincial level, as well as 68 federal statutes under 20 ministries which recognize the rights and obligations of common-law spouses.

    For example, tax laws and the Quebec Pension Act recognize common-law unions and provide provisions that are similar to those of married spouses.

    Common-law spouses and social law: a definition open to interpretation

    According to both federal and provincial law, the definition of spouses varies from one territory to another.

    For that reason, familiarizing yourself with the laws of the various agencies and ministries in your region can help avoid surprises.

    You can usually find the information in printed forms or on the websites of the respective agencies.

    Among the laws and regulations that recognize common-law spouses, most notable are:

    Quebec Government:

    • the Taxation Act;
    • the Automobile Insurance Act;
    • the Legal Aid Act;
    • the Workers’ Compensation Act;
    • the Student Financial Assistance Act;
    • the Insurance Act;
    • the Labour Standards Act;
    • the Quebec Pension Plan Act;
    • the Family Assistance Act;
    • the Supplemental Pension Act.
    • Federal Government:

      • the Employment Insurance Act;
      • the Old Age Security Act;
      • the Veterans Benefits Act;
      • the Income Tax Act;
      • the Canada Pension Plan Act.
      • For each of the above-noted laws, it is recommended that you inquire about any restrictions, requirements and rights and obligations of spouses.

        For more information:

        De facto union

        Marriage or civil union

        Comparisons between married and unmarried cohabitants

        Lola affair

        Quebec's Court of Appeal recently deemed it discriminatory to deprive common-law spouses of the right afforded to married couples when it comes to seeking alimony. The Supreme Court of Canada should take note of the affair in the coming months.

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