marriage-common-law

Marriage / Common-Law Relationships

Marriage, or the start of a common-law relationship, is, generally, a happy and exciting step in one’s life.  New arrangements are put into place. Goals and expectations are revised to include the goals and expectations of a new partner. Most of us are aware that when we marry or enter in to a common-law relationship, we take on legal obligations in relation to our new partner. However, most people could not clearly identify these legal obligations and many people are not aware that they can change or limit these obligations, with the assistance of a family lawyer. Our family lawyers can assist you in achieving this result, through a “domestic contract”:

  • a Marriage Contract, for married spouses:
  • a Cohabitation Agreement, for common-law partners.

Who Should Consider a Contract?

Marriage - The people who most commonly consider marriage contracts are people who are entering in to second marriages, peoples with significant assets or people with special assets that they want to protect. Having noted this, a marriage contract can be appropriate for anyone who wants an outcome that is different from the outcome that is automatically imposed by law.

For example, if you own a home on the date of your marriage; your home becomes the family home and your marriage proves to be a short one, your spouse could be entitled to one-half of the value of your home, even if you contributed a huge portion of this value prior to your marriage. Some people want to adjust this outcome to achieve a more balanced result.

Common-Law - A greater percentage of people entering in to common-law relationships consider domestic contracts, than do people entering in to marriage. There are a variety of reasons for this. First, statistically, common-law relationships are more likely to break down than are marriages. Second, the legal rights of common-law spouses are much less clearly defined and more confusing than those of married spouses.

Common-law spouses may want security and predictability in the event that their relationship does not last forever. This can be obtained by way of a Cohabitation Agreement.

When Am I In a Common-Law Relationship?

There term “common-law relationship” is an informal one, which describes a relationship that resembles a marriage, but in which the parties to the relationship are not married. It is possible to be in a common-law relationship, as the term is informally used, without acquiring legal obligations to your partner. In order to acquire legal obligations one must meet certain legal criteria. Our family lawyers can educate you as to whether your relationship meets these criteria. The lengthy of your relationship and the birth of a child are critical considerations.

However, you need not worry about these considerations and the legal risks and benefits of cohabitation, if your family lawyer assists you in obtaining a Cohabitation Agreement.

Before you enter a marriage or common-law relationship, consider:

  • Will I have to share my spouse’s debt if our relationship ends?
  • Will I have to share the value of the investments, savings, home and other property that I brought into the relationship with my spouse if our relationship ends.
  • Will I have to share my inheritance with my spouse if our relationship ends?
  • Do I have an obligation to provide support to my spouse’s children of a previous relationship if our relationship ends?
  • Will my children lose any rights to my property if I enter in to a relationship with a new spouse?
  • Will I have an obligation to provide financial support my common-law spouse if our relationship ends?

Can my common-law spouse make a claim against my home, pension, business or other property if our relationship ends?

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