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Are couples who Live Together a Common Law Husband & Wife?

Published date: October 2016
Author: Judy Wilkins

There is no such thing as a common law wife/husband. What there is, is called a Universal Partnership and the courts could find that a couple is in a Universal Partnership.

People used to believe that as long as you were not married, there is no chance of your lover having a claim against you for a share of your immovable or movable assets. Generally this was regarded as true and it was extremely difficult for anyone to prove what is known as a Universal Partnership.

From 2012, there have been a number of cases where the Courts have found the existence of a Universal Partnership and with the facts in those cases I believe that the Courts made the correct decision.

The approach seems to be if you do everything together, make decisions together, then you intended to be partners and should therefore share in the profits of your partnership. If you want to live together but donít want to share your assets, you need to say so in a Cohabitation Agreement.

Here are some questions you need to think about if you decide to part ways:

  • Who stays in the common home and who goes?
  • What period applies?
  • Who pays for what?
  • What about movables- do you share or do you keep what you bought?
  • What about debt incurred jointly but on one personís credit card?
  • What about pets?
You can deal with all these things in a co-habitation agreement which should then be registered. Once registered it will act as a kind of unmarried personís ANC.

The problem is that many couples donít think about these things upfront, you need to be pro-active and not just look for an attorney when you are already in trouble.