Separation and Divorce or Death of a Spouse: Property Division
Married or common-law — does it make a difference?
When couples separate, the way they have to divide their property depends on whether they were legally married or in a common-law relationship.
The reason why a couple decides to separate does not affect how they divide their property.
In this booklet, "married" means a couple who had a legally recognized marriage. This means they had a marriage ceremony performed by someone with the legal power to marry them, for example, a judge, justice of the peace, or religious official.
For family law issues like spousal support, child support, decision-making responsibility, and parenting time, it does not matter if you and your spouse were legally married or living common-law. The rules are the same.
Decision-making responsibility and parenting time used to be called custody and access.
But the rules are different for other issues like:
- dividing property
- who can stay in or sell the family home
- dividing property in your spouse's will
For these issues, being married or common-law makes a difference. For example, married couples automatically share the value of their property if they separate or if one spouse dies. This is not true for common-law couples.