Common Law Relationships

Date Posted: January 24, 2023 3:55 am

Common Law Relationships

Most couples who wish to spend the rest of their lives together marry each other. Entering into marriage constitutes mutual legal rights and obligations. Likewise, ending the marriage has legal consequences (marital property division, spousal support, tax implications, life insurance, etc.).

Unlike married couples, some people live together without entering a legally regulated community. Find out below the nature of their relationship and what rights and obligations (if any) they have in New Brunswick, Canada.

What is a Common Law Relationship?

A common-law relationship is a community of two people living together without constituting marriage. The New Brunswick Family Law Act defines a common-law partner as a person who cohabits in a marital relationship with another person if the persons are not married to each other. In contrast to married couples, who enter into legal marriage by participating in a religious or civil ceremony, common-law couples initiate their relationship by simply starting to live together. They are not required to undergo specific formalities or have witnesses. The law (the Marriage Act in New Brunswick) regulates the rights and responsibilities of legally married couples. Contrary to that, statutory law does not define mutual rights and obligations in common-law relationships.

What is the Minimal Period Couples Have to Live Together Before Acquiring Rights in Common Law Relationship?

Common-law relationships are relationships independent from any legal formalities, including time requirements. That means these relationships exist from day one of living together as a couple. The situation is different regarding mutual as a couple rights and obligations. The couple must live together for a certain period of time. In addition, the person seeking financial assistance must be in financial need (substantially dependent on their partner). If the couple has a child, the obligation to support the partner arises after they start living together. Within these general rules, employers, insurance carriers, and pension funds can define more detailed requirements regarding common-law relationships.

Minimal Period Couples

Can the Passage of Time Transform the Common-Law Relationship into the Legal Marriage?

No. The time spent together does not affect the common-law legal status. Regardless of the length of life together, the couple can never become legally married. Consequently, common-law couples never acquire certain rights married persons have (for example, an equal share in marital property).

What About the Same-Sex Couples Living in Common Law Relationships – Do They Have Equal Rights?

Yes. In New Brunswick, the Family Law Act treats same-sex couples equally with other persons living together in a common-law relationship or a marriage. That applies to financial support and other rights common-law couples acquire after a specific period of living together. However, some government service providers may set different or more detailed rules regarding pensions, life insurance, and taxes. To see what regulation applies to your unique situation, look at these rules and regulations.

Are Children of Unmarried Couples Illegitimate?

New Brunswick law does not make a difference between children born in legal marriages and children born and raised in common-law relationships. All children are equal under the law, meaning children of unmarried couples have the same rights as children of married couples. That includes the right healthy childhood, education, protection from violence, exploitation, harmful work, sexual abuse, and other fundamental rights guaranteed by domestic and international law.


Can Unmarried Parents Get Child Support After Separating From Their Partner?

As mentioned, all children are equal under the law in New Brunswick. No child can be left without financial support if its parents separate. Likewise, no parent can avoid the obligation of providing financial support to their children. The same rules apply regardless of the nature of the relationship (marriage or common law). In practice, the parent who does not have the majority of parenting time pays child support to the custodial parent.

Do Common-Law Couples Must Undergo Divorce?

No. Unlike married couples, common-law couples do not have to go through the divorce procedure to end their relationship. Instead of engaging in costly and time-consuming divorce litigation, all it takes for unmarried couples is to stop living together. The common-law relationship is informal from day one until the end. Most couples do sign a separation agreement with their lawyers.

Who Gets the House After Common-Law Couples End Their Relationship?

The family house the unmarried couple lives (alone or with children) is a valuable property. The standards for dividing the family home are different from those applied in the case of furniture or kitchen appliances. In New Brunswick, the courts use the so-called constructive trust doctrine when determining who gets the house after ending the common-law relationship. It considers various circumstances, including the contribution to its purchase, maintenance, or reconstruction. In addition, the courts look at the role of the stay-at-home parent. Their contribution is often more significant than earning an income and should not be disregarded.

A Lawyer You Can Trust

As a prominent family law lawyer practicing in New Brunswick, Jack Haller possesses in-depth knowledge of legal rules dealing with common-law relationships.

Two decades of trial and counseling experience are an irreplaceable asset, enabling Mr. Haller to help you navigate the complex tax, insurance, pension, and property aspects of common-law relationships. 

If you find yourself in need of legal assistance, Jack is at your disposal from day one. Providing accurate facts about your case is all you need to do. Drafting agreements, motions, and applications and representing his clients in Family Court is Jack’s job and an area where he excels since June 2004.

His attention to detail and undivided focus on your interests are unmatched among the competition.

Please reach out today to schedule your free consultation at 506-204-1203 or email us at