A common law arrangement is very close to marriage. Legally, they are treated quite differently from province to province.
Here in Manitoba, a common law partnership is treated much like a marriage. This means when a common law separation occurs, both partners have a right to an equal share of the family property, no matter which partner owns the property.
That means when you separate you need a family law lawyer just like a formally married couple does. Failing to obtain help could have a significant impact on your finances, your relationship with your children, and your future.
How long do you have to live together to be common law married in Manitoba?
To be considered “common law married” you must live together for three years. The amount of time is reduced to one year if you have a child together.
It’s possible to get around this requirement by registering your relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency. Manitoba is the only province that offers the Vital Statistics Agency option.
How do you separate from your common law spouse in Manitoba?
If you have registered your relationship at the Vital Statistics agency you will register a dissolution after one year of separation. If you haven’t, your relationship dissolves after you’ve lived apart for three years.
You should not wait the full three years to create a legal separation agreement. Separation happens the moment you and your common law spouse start living apart. You will need to divide assets well before three years are up, even though your marriage isn’t formally dissolved yet.
For common law couples, a formal separation agreement will usually handle these issues without forcing anyone to go to court. Separation agreements should cover custody, care and control of the children, child support, common law partner support, and property division.
It is vital that you get a lawyer’s help while drafting these agreements to ensure they aren’t one-sided, that they’ll hold up in court, and that they’re thorough enough to cover certain contingencies. At best, courts may refuse to recognize an agreement if the judge feels it is one-sided, a result of fraudulent representation on the part of one party, or not in the best interests of the children. At worst, you could bind yourself to conditions you shouldn’t have had to live with because you didn’t know any better.
You may, for example, give up property that would not have been considered common property had a lawyer looked at your agreement.
Remember, a separation agreement is a legally binding contract. If either party breaches the contract this may be addressed in court.
Why trust Merchant Law with your common law separation?
You’ll get skilled, helpful lawyers who are tough negotiators and who understand family law. We’ll fight for your interests and ensure you get a fair separation agreement you can live with.
Don’t leave your separation agreement up to chance. Contact Merchant Law today to get started.