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myrivers 10-19-2006 11:48 AM

3Year CL time period
Hello all, I'm currently separated from my common-law (CL) wife. We moved into gether in dec '99. I was wondering if the common-law relationship started as of dec 2002 after the 3 year period or is it from the time you moved into gether?

I'm trying to determine if the 'common-law' status period was only from 2002 - 2006....4 years total.

Lindsay 10-19-2006 12:24 PM

Hi myrivers,

Great question! I'm sure quite a few people wonder whether common law rights start at the beginning of cohabitation or at the 3-year point of living together.

Let's say you would like to pursue spousal support from your common law spouse. Since you have been together for four years, the entire length of the relationship would be taken into account when determining spousal support, and NOT just from December, 2002 onwards. In other words, once you reach the 3-year mark, the entire relationship comes into play. The same goes for other common law rights. Of course, had you separated before December, 2002, neither of you would be entitled to any common-law rights (as a result of you and your spouse not being considered common law).

I hope that answers your question.

myrivers 10-19-2006 12:55 PM

Years together
Thanks Lindsay. So basically I should have wrote down the date of our first date! For me that would make it 7 years living together plus 1 year as a 'couple'....8 years total. Just trying to figure out a reasonable period for me to provide her with spousal support which I've read is usually 1/2 of the total years together = 4 yrs where true married couples may get hit with entire 8 years. Especially in my case where she refused to reenter the work force and I provided and paid ALL the bills.

Lindsay 10-19-2006 02:36 PM


Any period before you started cohabiting doesn't count. So, in your case, you would have been cohabiting for only 7 years, and those years are the only years that will be taken into account upon separation. I should say though that parties are automatically deemed common law if they have a child together, regardless of whether they have reached the 3-year mark of cohabitation or not.

As far as spousal support, it's hard to say without knowing the particulars. Your income, her income, the type of relationship, the parties' educations, who did what around the house, who took care of what duties with regards to the children, and other factors would all come into play.

I can confirm, however, that in short-term relationships (usually 5 years or less), spousal support is usually time-limited. I'm not really sure whether you could squeeze into the "short-term cohabitation" category.

I suggest speaking to a lawyer and getting an opinion based on your specific situation.


logicalvelocity 10-19-2006 07:05 PM


as Lindsay mentioned already, In Ontario, 3 years of living continuously together or are living together in relationship of some permanence and have a child together. This is for spousal support purposes or at that time your common law spouse could also change her last name to yours, hyphenated or vice versa!

see the Change of Name Act R.S.O. 1990, c. C.7

Section 3(1)

Election by Spouse

Election by spouse to change surname

3. (1) A spouse may, at any time while married, elect in the prescribed manner,

(a) to change his or her surname to,

(i) the surname that the other spouse had immediately before their marriage,

(ii) a surname consisting of the surnames that both spouses had immediately before their marriage, hyphenated or combined; or

(b) to resume the surname that the spouse had immediately before the marriage. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.7, s. 3 (1).


section 3(6) of same

Joint declaration of conjugal relationship

(6) Subsection (1) applies with necessary modifications to two persons who file a joint declaration in the prescribed form acknowledging that they live together in a conjugal relationship outside marriage. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.7, s. 3 (6); 1999, c. 6, s. 4 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 5.

If you and your ex separated one year into the relationship and reconciled and separated again and then reconciled etc, it may not be considered common-law status. The key word is continuously for 3 years.


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