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What Is Considered Common Law In Canada?

Common-Law In Canada

Are you considered common-law In Canada? Many people contact our lawyer referral service as they wonder if they are considered common law. The Family Law Act was created in 2013. Fast forward many years later and people still seem to have a lot of doubts and misconceptions regarding common law.

Especially when it comes to the complicated common-law relationship. Some people think it’s a regular relationship, others think it’s a marriage. To answer your most important question, a time period does not automatically make you common law. You could be common law at one year or five years, maybe never.

Do you need a family lawyer to push for your rights in Canada? We can connect you with top lawyers that can help in the following places:

  • Vancouver
  • New Westminster
  • Kelowna
  • Duncan
  • Remote services anywhere in BC or Ontario
  • Toronto
  • London Ontario


Just call Clearway toll-free at 1-844-466-6529 or fill out one of our forms. You can also book a free consultation on our main webpage at a time that works for you. A top Canadian lawyer will then call you to discuss your legal issues.

The Family Law Act says that the legal and moral obligations of couples who are in a relationship are like that of a marriage. Such relationships are called common-law relationships. Do keep in mind that this is a very basic definition that is in no way static.

If you want to find out if you are common law or not, you will need a legal opinion letter from a lawyer. Assuming there is nothing extremely complex about your situation, we can do a common law legal opinion letter for $150. This will mean that a lawyer says if they think you are common law or not.

Common Law In Canada

A top family lawyer can help you with the following:

  • child support
  • dealing with family property
  • legal advice regarding living common law
  • cohabitation agreement
  • custody and control


Getting Legal Advice | Custody and Control


The stakes are high in such a situation. By hiring a lawyer you reduce the chances of messing up an extremely important decision of your life. You don’t want to lose your children and assets, so it’s important to take family law seriously. Feel free to talk to one of our agents via our live chat feature.

Keep in mind our intake team cannot provide legal advice. You will need to hire the best family lawyer. You can also call us on our toll-free number 1-844-466-6529.

The Family Law Act says you might be common law if you meet at least one of the following criteria:

You two have been living together for a minimum of 2 years.


You have a child together and you’ve been living for less than 2 years together.

If you fall into either one of these categories, you might be recognized as a spouse. This means that you might become eligible for spousal support, debt and property division, child support, etc. But keep in mind that nothing is black and white in family law. More important than the amount of time you lived together is how you lived together. Did you hold yourself out to be like a married couple? We call this a marriage-like relationship. You might be considered common law much sooner.

Other articles you want to read about common-law in Canada:

Are you Considered Common Law In Canada? Getting Legal Advice

A person is a spouse for the purposes of the act. This is normally true if the person is married to another person, has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years.

A spouse includes a former spouse. A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following:

  1. The date on which they began to live together in a marriage-like relationship
  2. The date of their marriage.

Spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence. This can lead to disputes about the date of separation, which is often very important in family law. The court may consider, as evidence of separation, communication by one spouse to the other spouse. They will look at this communication to examine the intention to separate permanently.

However, different Canadian provinces have different definitions of what may be considered a common-law relationship.

The video below is for another province, but it is still very helpful.

Common-Law Relationships | Conjugal Relationship

Your legal rights as a common-law spouse can depend greatly based on your location. Below are how a few different provinces look at common law:

Nova Scotia: In order to be legally recognized as a spouse, a couple must cohabitate for a minimum of 2 years. Even then, one cannot claim properties or spousal support. If one aims at protecting their rights, they must look to the Nova Scotia Vital Statistics Act. That act states that a couple must be registered as being in a domestic relationship, for them to have legal rights.

Ontario: Common Law in Canada is more of a casual term. A couple needs to be living together for a minimum of 3 years, and even then, the province has no registration for such couples.

Manitoba: It’s the same as above, except couples can get themselves registered at the Vital Statistics Registry.

Common-Law Partnerships | Long Term Relationships

The basic difference between these two relationships is the type of certificates needed. There is also a different level of proof involved in verifying the relationships. Of course, a married couple has a lot more legal benefits than an unmarried one.

For married spouses, there is a requirement for a marriage ceremony to be performed. This must be done by someone with the legal power to marry them. There must also be signatures of witnesses and a marriage certificate.

However, common-law relationships are sometimes misused for fraudulent purposes. This is done to hurry the application process of immigrants. Therefore, a lot more legal proof is required in order to prove your relationship status. If you have an immigration case that is complicated by a common law issue, please contact us. We have both family and immigration lawyers.

Living Common-Law | Getting Legal Advice From A Top Lawyer

Separation is painful, be it from a partner of marriage or a common-law relationship. Canadian law is very specific on the grounds for getting a divorce. But dealing with a common law dispute is hard because the rules are often unclear. Your best bet is often to get a separation agreement done and agree to terms between the two of you. This means you don’t have to wait to see how a judge will rule.

The many steps are basically the same in both processes. This includes the termination of a relationship when one spouse indicates the end of the relationship. The final decision is of course, either taken by the court based on the Family Law Act or decided between the parties in the separation agreement. Again, it’s much cheaper and often faster to deal with the matter between the two parties.

Do You Require A Lawyer For Separation?

The government has taken steps to simplify the process of getting a separation. But people still have difficulty navigating through a complex legal system. While it is possible to do everything on your own, without the help of a lawyer, chances are you are bound to make many mistakes. This is because you are under a lot of physical and emotional stress. This increases your chances of making mistakes you would normally never make. It also hinders your ability to make unbiased and practical decisions that might have a long-term effect on your life.

Are you considered common law? Then you likely have complex questions with no quick answers. If you need legal advice, you can hire a lawyer to provide a legal opinion on your situation. Reach out to our lawyer platform via the live chat function in the bottom right of the screen.

If you want to learn more about family law, see our YouTube videos.