Understanding Spousal Support for Common Law Relationships - Zukerman Law

Understanding Spousal Support for Common Law Relationships

Many couples choose common law relationships instead of traditional marriages. However, navigating the legal aspects of separation, especially regarding spousal support, can be complex in these scenarios.
Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, involves financial assistance provided by one partner to another after separation or divorce. For individuals in common law partnerships, understanding spousal support rights and obligations is crucial but can be nuanced compared to formal marriages.
In this blog, we explore spousal support within common law relationships—addressing legal distinctions, key considerations, and challenges. We’ll also highlight the role of Zukerman Law Group, a leading firm in family law, in providing Professional guidance on spousal support matters for common law unions.
Join us as we unravel the complexities of spousal support in common law relationships and shed light on your rights and options during relationship transitions.

How Does Common Law Spousal Support Work

How Does Common Law Spousal Support Work?

Obtaining spousal support for common-law partners after separation can be complex and stressful. Common law partners do have rights when it comes to spousal support but proving eligibility can be challenging.
Understanding common-law relationships and eligibility criteria is crucial. Consulting an experienced family lawyer can help understand your rights for spousal support for common law partnerships.
Tip: Understanding legal distinctions and jurisdictional variations is critical for individuals in common law relationships navigating spousal support issues. Consulting legal professionals like Zukerman Law Group can provide personalized guidance tailored to specific circumstances and regional laws, ensuring equitable outcomes in separation proceedings.
Contact us or call us at 604-575-5464 to protect your rights.
Spousal support is financial assistance provided by a higher-income spouse to a lower-income spouse after a separation or divorce. It helps the spouse become financially self-sufficient, prevents financial hardship, shares the cost of children, maintains a standard of living, prevents the spouse from experiencing financial hardship due to a relationship breakdown, shares the cost of children and maintaining a standard of living in both households, or compensates for financial disadvantages during the relationship.
However, common law relationships make the separation and order of spousal support more complicated due to the lack of legal protections provided by marriage.
In Canada, common law couples are not eligible to receive a divorce under the federal Divorce Act, because they are not legally married. This means that upon separation, there is no automatic entitlement and parties may need to prove eligibility. Without a legal agreement, common-law partners may need to prove spousal support eligibility. Despite not having the same rights as marriages, common-law partnerships still have legal recognition.

Are Common-Law Partners Eligible for Spousal or Common-Law Partner Support?

Factors Considered for Common-Law Partner Spousal Support Entitlement

When determining whether one spouse or common-law partner should provide support to the other, the court takes a number of factors into account. These include:

  • The requirements and financial circumstances of each partner
  • The length of the relationship or marriage
  • The roles they each played during their marriage or relationship
  • The effect of these roles on their current financial positions
  • As far as is practical, promoting the financial self-sufficiency of both parties

The court does not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery, when making a support order. Spousal or common-law partner support can be a complicated issue and it is a good idea to consult a family law lawyer.

Are Common-Law Partners Eligible for Spousal or Common-Law Partner Support?

Under The Family Maintenance Act, common-law partners may request an order for their own support if:
Either they have lived together for at least a year and had a child together, or they have lived together continuously for at least three years, or they have registered their common-law relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency.
If the common-law partners have already agreed in writing to an amount of support, or not to claim support from each other, they cannot apply to the court for support.
If a common-law partner is entitled to claim support, the court will make its decision by considering the same factors it would look at if the partners were married.

How Do I Qualify for Common Law Spousal Support?

Married and common-law couples must fulfill specific standards in order to be eligible for spousal support. Once you’ve determined if your common-law relationship satisfies legal criteria, you must prove entitlement to spousal support by demonstrating at least ONE of the three requirements.

  • The separation left you in need of financial support and the other spouse has the required means to provide such support. Meaning, you became dependent on the relationship.
  • You had responsibilities while in the relationship that prevented you from building a career and therefore suffered an economic loss.
  • You have a legal agreement that entitles you to spousal support.

Spousal support entitlement and amount are determined through a separation agreement or a judge, and consulting a lawyer can assist in determining entitlement and navigating the payment process.


Understanding spousal support in common law relationships involves recognizing legal distinctions and navigating jurisdictional variations. Unlike married couples, common law partners face unique challenges when seeking spousal support post-separation.
Key takeaways include:
Legal Differences: Common law relationships differ from marriages in spousal support entitlements and legal rights.
Regional Variations: Spousal support laws vary across regions, impacting entitlements and enforcement.
For personalized guidance on spousal support matters, consider consulting with Zukerman Law Group. We’re here to assist you in navigating these complexities and ensuring fair outcomes.
Empower yourself with knowledge and seek Professional advice to make informed decisions during relationship transitions. Contact us today to discuss your situation and protect your financial stability moving forward.


  • Do common law partners have the right to spousal support in Canada?1

    Depending on how long both partners cohabitate before separating, this can vary. For instance, a common-law couple may need to reside together for two or three years in certain provinces and territories in order for either partner to be qualified for spousal support. Provincial and territorial rules vary across Canada.

  • Is 6 months considered common-law?1

    Living common-law refers to a conjugal relationship with someone who is not your married spouse, where at least one of the following conditions applies:

    This person has been living with you in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months

    According to this definition, any time you were apart for fewer than 90 days due to a relationship breakdown counts as 12 continuous months.

    This individual is your child’s biological or adoptive parent.

    Your child is completely dependent on this person for support, and they have custody and control of them (or did so just before the child turned 19).

  • What is the common law partner rule in Canada?1

    Common-law partners must have cohabited for at least one year, indicating continuous cohabitation, not intermittent cohabitation.

There were no results that matched your search.

Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.