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It’s unlikely that a common-law couple that decides to split will deal with spousal support, but it is possible, depending upon other factors.
Much like in marriage, spousal support is not automatic, but is given only when one party is seen as entitled to it.
"If you live together three years and don’t have kids, you are treated as a spouse for support purposes," said Brownstone, but stressed that "spousal support is not that common." In Alberta, an adult interdependent partner can bring a claim for spousal support, and the same can be done for common-law couples in Newfoundland.
Under New Brunswick’s Family Services Act, spousal support is also possible for common-law couples.
"We use the law of constructed trust to protect people’s property rights, so if you’ve been living common law and you’ve been contributing to a home that the other party owns – either because you paid for renovations or because you were the one maintaining it – you can make a claim for property." Brownstone added that this is not in any way based on the same kind of principles as being married.
In Nova Scotia, a couple must live together for two years before being entitled to any possible spousal support; they would not be permitted to claim property, including a family home or car.
Quebec is the only province that does not recognize common-law relationships.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in January 2013 that provinces had the right to decide if common law couples should get the same rights as married couples, and so has allowed Quebec to continue excluding common-law-style relationships from being recognized no matter how long two people have lived together.
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"There are no legal perks in terms of the legislation," said Robert Teitelbaum, a Quebec lawyer specializing in family law.