Married or Not – The Legalities of Living Together

By on 2017/07/11

Advice and Realities from a Family Lawyer

The Pew Research Center reports that millennials are significantly less likely to be married than previous generations in their 20s.  In Manitoba, couples living together in a common law relationship can have rights and obligations identical to those of married couples.

Are you part of a “common law couple”?

The definition of “common law” for family law purposes can vary depending on the subject matter.  If you have registered your relationship in the Vital Statistics Registry or if you have lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least three years, you and your partner meet the definition of common law. Being “common law” gives you the right to share in property and seek common law partner support.  You may also seek common law partner support (but not property division) if you have lived together for at least a year and are together the parents of a child. It is important to note that the definition of common law can vary for other purposes such as the Income Tax Act, the Pension Benefits Act and others.

  • Whether you are thinking of living together or marrying (or even if you are already), the best time to start talking about property and financial issues is now.
  • Studies show people are getting married later in life after they have had an opportunity to acquire homes, investments and other assets that they would like to protect.
  • According to Statistics Canada, about 38 per cent of all 2004 marriages will have ended in divorce by 2035 (before their 30th wedding anniversary).
  • Many of those who end a relationship and repartner, find it important to think about protecting their children and assets, since they already have experienced the pain of disentangling lives.

A cohabitation and prenuptial agreement can help you agree in advance on how you will handle your financial rights and obligations during your relationship, if your relationship ends, or if one of you dies.  Having an agreement in place will clarify your intentions and reduce or limit disagreements about support and property rights should your relationship end by separation, divorce or death.

Reaching agreements when you are entering into a relationship may be easier than trying to sort it out when the relationship ends. Entering into an Agreement early on may allow you to move forward in your relationship with less concern about future contingencies.

Cohabitation and prenuptial agreements and spousal agreements often include provisions detailing:

  • How you will handle household expenses while you are together. This can include major expenses such as housing, as well as minor ones;
  • What will happen to your residence in the event your relationship ends;
  • Whether and how you will share property you each bring into your relationship;
  • Whether and how you will acquire property you intend to share or keep separate;
  • What will happen to your property in the event your relationship ends by separation or divorce;
  • How you will deal with debt while you are together or in the event your relationship ends;
  • How you will deal with spousal or common law partner support if the relationship ends (note that the Court has the ability to make Orders for support that are different than what has been agreed in appropriate circumstances);
  • How you want to deal with financial and property matters in the event one of you dies while you are together.

Cohabitation and prenuptial agreements and spousal agreements do not generally contain future provisions respecting children. Decisions about children are made in their best interests at the appropriate time, and so cannot be determined in advance.

Read up on the importance of cohabitation agreements in Manitoba, and why you should get a lawyer involved here.

Taylor McCaffrey’s family law lawyers have experience in all methods of dispute resolution, including negotiation, arbitration, mediation, collaborative family law and litigation. Our lawyers are sensitive to emotional issues and events that often arise from a family breakdown. We believe that clients should make decisions from an informed perspective and we strive to provide our clients with an understanding of the legal principles and court processes that may affect them.

Contact Sharon Kravetsky, partner at Taylor McCaffrey LLP  to discuss how the law may apply to your particular circumstances and the benefits for you of a cohabitation and prenuptial agreement or a spousal agreement.

DISCLAIMER: This article is presented for informational purposes only.  The views expressed are solely the author(s)’ and should not be attributed to any other party, including Taylor McCaffrey LLP.  While care is taken to ensure accuracy, before relying upon the information in this article you should seek and be guided by legal advice based on your specific circumstances.  The information in this article does not constitute legal advice or solicitation and does not create a solicitor-client relationship.  Any unsolicited information sent to the author(s) cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

If you would like legal advice, kindly contact the author(s) directly or the firm's Managing Partner Norm Snyder at nksnyder@tmlawyers.com, or 204.988.0302.