How do you know whether you are living common-law?

You’ve moved in with your significant other. You are both fairly independent: you both have well-paying jobs, you both pay half of the rent or mortgage, you both contribute to groceries (or to take-out, as the case may be), and you both generally keep your assets and debts separate (e.g. you both have your own investments, bank accounts, and vehicles).

So, are you living common-law? In short, it depends on who is asking.

For purposes of Alberta law, you become common-law after living in a “relationship of interdependence” for 3 years (or if you have a child together with the partner you are living with). You can also choose to become common-law by entering into a formal agreement with your partner. To further confuse matters, Alberta laws call common-law couples “Adult Interdependent Partners”.

But federal tax and pension benefit laws have different requirements. For example, the CRA considers a couple as living common-law when they have lived together for 12 months in a conjugal relationship (see a summary here). The Canada Pension Plan and Citizenship and Immigration Canada have similar requirements.

Other provinces have different rules. For example, for most British Columbia laws couples are common-law after living together in a marriage-like relationship for 2 years.

Everyone’s situation is different, so if you have any questions about protecting your rights in a common-law relationship Ratzlaff Law can help. Our next post will discuss some of the legal benefits of remaining single, becoming common-law (aka Adult Interdependent Partners), and getting married.


Luke Ratzlaff

Luke Ratzlaff, MA, JD is a lawyer at Ratzlaff Law. His background is in debt collections, business law, estate planning, and technology.