My son and I have now been living with my boyfriend for over a year, so legally we're now common-law. We live in my house, and my name is the only one on the mortgage. What are our rights and responsibilities as a common-law couple? What should I be putting in place?
Asked by Anonymous, Halifax, NS
I am licensed to practice law in Manitoba, so my advice to you is based on Manitoba Law.
In Manitoba, you would only obtain common-law rights under The Family Maintenance Act (Manitoba) (the "Act") after either you and your partner have been cohabitating in a conjugal relationship for at least three years in the event that you do not parent a child together, or, one year in the case that you do parent a child together. "Parent" is defined under the Act to mean "a biological parent or adoptive parent of a child and includes a person declared to be the parent of a child under Part II."
In Nova Scotia, where you live, the relevant statute is the Maintenance and Custody Act. R.S., c. 160, s. 1; 2000, c. 29, s. 2 which defines "common-law partner" of an individual to mean another individual who has cohabited with the individual in a conjugal relationship for a period of at least two years.
I encourage you to seek the advice of a Nova Scotia lawyer as soon as possible, and in any event, prior to the second anniversary of the date on which you and your partner moved in together to protect your assets through a cohabitation agreement. Depending on your partner's assets, he too may want some protection and would be well advised to seek his own legal advice. In any event, he will need an independent lawyer to consider the proposed agreement put together by you and your lawyer.