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FAQs

Living Common-Law

What is a common-law relationship?
How long must a common-law couple live together before they have all the rights of a married couple?
How long do we have to live together before we have rights as a common law couple?
Do same sex couples living common-law have the same rights?
If we have children and are not married or living together, will they be considered “illegitimate”?
I have separated from my common-law partner. Can I get child support for our child?
Do we have to get a divorce to end our relationship?
How do we divide our property if our common law relationship ends?
What about our house?

What is a common-law relationship?

A common-law relationship is one where two people live together, but are not legally married to each other.

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How long must a common-law couple live together before they have all the rights of a married couple?

No amount of time together changes a common-law relationship into a marriage.  Although certain laws apply to common-law couples such as income tax, insurance, pension or support, common-law couples do not have a right to marital property when they split up (an equal division) no matter how long they lived together.

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How long do we have to live together before we have rights as a common law couple? 

The amount of time you must live together before you are entitled to particular rights can vary. For example, in New Brunswick a legal obligation to support a common-law partner arises when they have lived with each other for three years and one person is substantially dependent on the other. This obligation arises after one year of living together where you have a child together.  Federal laws, employers, insurance plans, and pension plans may set out different criteria for recognizing common-law relationships. You should look at the different laws and policies to determine how they define a common-law relationship.

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Do same sex couples living common-law have the same rights?

Yes, in New Brunswick same-sex couples have the same right to “support” under the Family Services Act as other people who are living together in a family relationship.  You should look at the different laws and policies to determine how they define a common-law relationship.

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If we have children and are not married or living together, will they be considered “illegitimate”?

In New Brunswick, all children are legitimate - including children born to unmarried parents. Your children will have the same legal status as children of married couples.

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I have separated from my common-law partner. Can I get child support for our child?

All parents, whether married or not, have the same obligations to their children. Both parents are required to financially support their children, but it is generally the parent who does not have custody that pays the child support.

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Do we have to get a divorce to end our relationship?

No, only legally married couples need to get a divorce. To end your relationship you would just stop living together.

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How do we divide our property if our common law relationship ends?

Generally, any property that you bring into or buy during the relationship is your own. If a common-law couple breaks up, the person who has paid for the item or whose name is on the deed may be the only one entitled to it. If you and your partner bought something together, such as furniture or a car, you both own it. If you separate, you must decide how to divide it. For example, you can sell it and split the proceeds. If you cannot agree, you may have to go to court and have a judge decide for you.

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What about our house?

The rights to an equal division of marital property given to married couples under the Marital Property Act are not given to common-law couples. The person whose name is on the deed owns the property. However, if it was purchased, developed, or maintained with your contribution of labour, time, or money, you may be entitled to some of it. The courts are using a legal doctrine called ‘constructive trust’ to help people in common-law relationships who are not eligible to apply under marital property laws. The amount that you can receive will depend on the extent of your contribution. The court considers home-making and child care to be important contributions. You will need to talk to a lawyer.

*For more information, please refer to Living Common-Law.

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