Report: The Rights of Common-Law Partners in Canada

An overview of legal rights of people in common-law relationships across Canada.

November 24, 2023

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There is a commonly held assumption in Canada that common-law couples have the same rights as married couples. On the contrary, while there has been a general movement toward treating both types of couples the same under the law, common-law couples’ rights and obligations are still different from those of their married counterparts. Even the definition of “common-law,” as well as the rights and obligations associated with this relationship status, differ across the provinces and territories.

This report provides an in-depth look at the legal landscape surrounding common-law partnerships in Canada. The recognition and rights afforded to people in common-law relationships depend primarily upon the provincial or territorial jurisdiction. An array of scenarios—such as health care decisions, property division upon separation, spousal support claims, inheritance rights, and special considerations for couples living on reserve—contribute to the intricate tapestry of legal rights in these relationships.

Breton, L., & Hilbrecht, M. (2023, November 24). The rights of common-law partners in Canada. The Vanier Institute of the Family.


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