Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

The Pros and Cons of Common Law Relationships


These days many Canadians are choosing to move away from the concept of marriage for many reasons all their own. Cohabitation is very popular these days and for good reason. Some couples believe that living together before getting married is a good way for them to get to know each other, learn each other’s living habits, and save money before they make the ultimate commitment of marriage in combining their respective incomes. Cohabitation may be the right solution for some couples under the right circumstances. However, it is important that anyone who is considering it understands the pros and cons of cohabitation.

What is a “Cohabiting/Common Law Couple” Under Canadian Law?

Despite personal terminology couples may use to refer to each other, the term “spouse” applies only to Canadian couples who are legally married. Common-law, or cohabitating couples are those who share a conjugal relationship with someone they reside with, and at least one of the following situations applies:

  • You have lived together for at least 12 continuous months, including breaks of less than 90 days
  • Your live-in partner is the parent of your child by birth or adoption
  • Your live-in partner has custody and control of your child and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cohabiting?

Pro – You Are Less Legally and Financially Entangled Together

In contrast with a married couple, a cohabitating relationship is built primarily on trust and faith in your partner. There is also much less legal and financial entanglement for this reason than in a traditional marriage meaning these unions are typically easier to dissolve if your relationship does.

Con – Your Risk of the Relationship Ending is Higher

Keep in mind that one of the benefits of cohabiting is the ability to leave easily. According to the Institution of Marriage and Family, relationships that begin with cohabitation are almost twice as likely to end than those that began with marriage, regardless of whether they eventually marry or not.

Pro – There Are Fewer Requirements to Begin

While there are multiple stipulations one must meet in order to marry, cohabitating relationships literally begin by one party choosing to move in with the other. You do not need to meet the legal requirements of marriage, such as being of age or being divorced from a previous marriage

Con – Your Rights May Be Limited

In general, the fewer legal obligations equate to fewer automatic considerations and rights. For example, it is unlikely that a common-law couple that decides to split will have to deal with spousal support.

Are You Thinking About Cohabiting With a Partner?

While it may seem more casual than marriage initially, cohabitating is a serious step in any relationship and you should approach it with the help of an experienced legal team. We can help formulate a cohabitation agreement for you and your spouse that will ensure that your respective assets are protected both now and in the future. Alternatively, we can help you decide how to approach the concept of marriage if you decide that’s a better option for you and your partner. As the Mississauga family lawyers at Zagazeta Garcia LLP, we have significant experience helping people like you figure out how to understand exactly how cohabitation can affect the financial security we all work hard to obtain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can begin helping you secure your future.




Facebook Twitter LinkedIn