Property division for common-law couples

The rules about dividing property, including a matrimonial home, do not apply to common-law couples. 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 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 are divided or their value is shared.

It is a good idea to keep receipts of what you buy. Later, if you and your spouse do not agree on who owns something that you paid for, you have proof to show it belongs to you.

Unjust enrichment

If you contributed financially or in some other way to your spouse’s property, you might be able to claim a share of that property. For example, you might have done unpaid work at home so your spouse could do paid work, or you might have worked without pay in a family business.

A court can look at whether your spouse was “unjustly enriched” at your expense. But this can be hard to prove.

If the court gives you a share of your spouse’s property, the size of the share may depend on how much you contributed or on how much your contribution increased the value of your spouse’s property.

Rule for Canada Pension Plan credits

You can divide Canada Pension Plan credits that were earned while you were living with your spouse if you lived together for at least one year. See Canada Pension Plan credits for more information.

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