To paraphrase the Family Law Act, you are generally in a common law relationship if you have lived with your partner for at least 3 years, or you and your spouse have a child together.
Some people are misinformed about their legal rights and obligations as a common law spouse. One of the major differences between the rights of married spouses and common law spouses relates to property. Unlike married couples, common law couples do not share in the property one party bought while living together and do not have the right to divide any increase in value of property brought into the relationship. As such, there is no “matrimonial home” for common law spouses and you do not have an automatic claim to the equity in your common law spouse’s home. However, if during the time you lived in your common law spouse’s home you contributed to the property, you may have a claim and should consult with a lawyer.
Since common law couples do not have the same rights in regards to property as married couples, it should be no surprise that on the death of a common law spouse, the survivor can be left in a difficult situation. If you are in a common law relationship and your spouse dies without a will, his or her property would go to his or her blood relatives. Understandably, if this outcome is not you or your spouse’s intention, it is imperative that you consult with a lawyer to develop an estate plan.
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