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Common Law vs. Married Spouses — Do They Have the Same Legal Rights When Separating?

The short answer: Not necessarily.

If you are considering getting separated, knowing your family law rights and how the type of union you have with your spouse affects those rights is extremely important. These differences will dictate what kind of settlement you can expect once your separation is finalized and what you and your lawyer can negotiate on. But first, let’s define these two types of relationships.

Marriage is a traditional union between two people in which a ceremony is conducted by someone who is licensed by the government to provide a marriage certificate. It is legally binding and requires a formal divorce to end.

How long does it take to obtain a divorce? | Simard & Associates

Common Law
A common law relationship is one in which the spouses live the same way as a married couple, but have not gotten married. Instead, the nature of the relationship is used to define it as common law.

How to determine if you are in a common law relationship | Simard & Associates

The Similarities and Differences
Regardless of which type of relationship you have with your spouse, if you have children together, the law surrounding custody and child support remain the same. Similarly, you could have a right to spousal support if, for instance, you were not the financial provider in the relationship. Where your rights in a common law relationship differ from a traditional marriage is with regards to the division of property. When a traditional marriage ends, both parties have a right to equalize their property. In a common law relationship, you do not have the same rights, which could be to your advantage or detriment depending on who in the union held the most property.

How is property split if a common-law relationship ends? | Common Law vs. Married Spouses | Simard & Associates

Ultimately, having a lawyer you trust to counsel you during your separation is the best way to ensure you understand your rights and reach a fair settlement.

Need an experienced family lawyer? | Simard & AssociatesContact Simard and Associates by calling 613 446 5060 or fill out our form if you need legal counselling for a separation. For more valuable insight, read our blog on FAQs about Family Law!

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