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Separation and Divorce or Death of a Spouse: Property Division

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Property division for common-law couples

The rules about property division in the Family Law Act do not apply unless you are legally married. If you are in a common-law relationship, the property you bring into the relationship, plus any increase in its value, usually continues to belong to you alone. If you and your spouse separate, there is no automatic right to divide it or share in its value.

Anything you buy for yourself with your own money during the relationship and own in your name usually belongs only to you. Things that you and your spouse buy together during the relationship belong to you both jointly. If you separate, the things you own jointly will be divided or their value shared.

It is a good idea to keep receipts, registrations, and other proof of ownership in case there is any disagreement later about who something belongs to.

If you have contributed financially or in some other way to your spouse's property, you might be able to claim a share. For example, you might have done unpaid work at home so your spouse could do paid work, or you might have worked in a family business. A court would look at whether your spouse was "unjustly enriched" at your expense.

If you are awarded a share of your common-law spouse's property, the size of the share may be based on the size of your contribution or on how much your contribution increased the value of your spouse's property.