Common Law

Common Law

Common law couples have similar rights to married couples, with the exception of matrimonial property division and the matrimonial home. Spousal support, child support, and child custody and access can all apply.

Spousal support for common law couples is determined by the Family Law Act. Spousal support for married spouses is most often determined by the Divorce Act. See our Spousal Support article for more information.

Custody and access for common law couples is determined by the Children’s Law Reform Act. It is a more fleshed out statute than the Divorce Act with slightly different legal terms. But by and large, it is very similar to the scheme under the Divorce Act. In either case, the best interests of the child is going to determine custody and access, not the best interests of the parents. A family lawyer can better assist you with your custody and access issues.

Child Support will also be very similarly calculated. The table amounts will almost always be paid.

Common law couples, in jurisdictions in which there is no unified family court, would apply to the provincial court in order to have their case heard. The court fees for filing in provincial court are far less than those in the Superior court.

Common law couples cannot legally obtain a divorce. Divorce is only legally applicable to married couples. The technical term for common law couples who are “divorcing” is separation. We often speak of divorce loosely, however, in the eyes of the law a divorce is only applicable to married couples. And both married couples and common law couples can separate. For example, a married couple can stay married but live separate and apart. These couples can obtain child support, spousal support, property division, and custody and access, even though they are not divorced. A family lawyer can better advise you of your legal rights upon divorce or separation, whether you are married or common law.