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Article: Common-law marriage

Common-law marriage

Definition and Recognition of Common-law Relationships

  • Common-law marriage is a legal marriage without a marriage license or ceremony.
  • It occurs when two legally capable individuals live together as a married couple.
  • The couple holds themselves out to the world as married.
  • Common-law marriage is often used incorrectly to describe cohabitation or other formalized relationships.
  • Non-marital relationship contracts are not universally recognized.
  • Common-law marriage is different from cohabitation or other legally formalized relationships.
  • In Canada, couples in marriage-like relationships may have some rights, but they are not legally considered married.
  • In Scotland, common-law marriage does not exist, but there was a type of irregular marriage until 2006.
  • Family law varies between provinces in Canada.
  • Common-law relationships are recognized differently across provinces.
  • Some provinces have regulations for both romantic/sexual and platonic relationships.
  • The term 'common law' is informally used in federal government documents.
  • Same-sex partners are included in common-law relationships.


  • Australia does not have common-law marriage.
  • Relationships between unmarried individuals are often referred to as de facto relationships.
  • De facto relationships are recognized under the Family Law Act, except in Western Australia.
  • Federal and state/territory laws regulate de facto relationships.
  • De facto relationships outside of Australia are a state matter.
  • Canada does not have common-law marriage under the legal concept.
  • Common-law relationships are recognized for certain purposes.
  • The Parliament of Canada has legislative authority over marriage and divorce.
  • Non-marital relations, referred to as common-law spouses, are regulated by provincial law.
  • The Civil Marriage Act and Criminal Code of Canada govern marriage violations.

Eligibility for Federal Government Spousal Benefits

  • Common-law status is automatically recognized after a minimum period of living together.
  • Same-sex partners are eligible for common-law benefits.
  • Approximately one-fifth of Canadian couples are in common-law relationships.
  • The number of common-law relationships has tripled since 1981.
  • Statistics Canada data from 2016 supports the increase in common-law relationships.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency defines living common-law as being in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months.
  • Recognition of unmarried partners for immigration purposes.
  • Citizenship & Immigration Canada requires a minimum one-year period of continuous conjugal relationship.
  • Evidence of commitment and shared life is necessary for recognition.
  • Exceptions are made for couples unable to live together due to legal restrictions or external circumstances.

Common-law Relationships in Specific Regions

  • Alberta recognizes adult interdependent relationships.
  • Details of the requirements and criteria for adult interdependent relationships.
  • Alberta law considers marriage and being a spouse as separate concepts.
  • Financial and property implications of becoming an unmarried spouse in Alberta.
  • Inheritance and benefits from government programs for unmarried spouses in Alberta.
  • British Columbia does not use the term 'common-law marriage'.
  • Distinction between being a spouse and being married.
  • Criteria for being in a marriage-like relationship in BC.
  • Factors considered by the court in determining a marriage-like relationship.
  • Financial support, division of property, inheritance, and government program benefits for unmarried spouses in BC.
  • Common-law relationships in Saskatchewan are regulated by The Family Property Act and The Family Maintenance Act.
  • Queens Bench justices have recognized common-law relationships even if one or more of the spouses were civilly married to others.
  • Common-law relationships in Saskatchewan can coexist with civil marriages.
  • The Family Property Act and The Family Maintenance Act provide legal guidelines for common-law relationships in Saskatchewan.

Common-law Marriage in Other Countries

  • Common-law marriage in Denmark.
  • Historical Jyske Lov recognized a common-law marriage after three years of cohabitation.
  • The woman in the common-law marriage was considered the rightful lady of the house.
  • Common-law marriage in India.
  • The Supreme Court of India defined a relationship in the nature of marriage as akin to a common-law marriage.
  • Conditions for a common-law marriage or relationship in the nature of marriage include being of marriageable age, not already married, living together in a way that appears married to society, cohabiting for a significant period of time, and living together voluntarily.
  • Common-law marriages afford rights and protections under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005 and Section 125 of the Criminal Code.
  • Children born in common-law relationships are treated as equivalent to legitimate children in terms of inheritance under the Hindu Marriage Act.
  • Common-law marriage in Ireland.
  • Ireland does not recognize common-law marriage.
  • The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 provided some rights to unmarried cohabitants.
  • Civil partnerships are no longer available in Ireland after the legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • Couples in civil partnerships can choose to convert their partnership into marriage or remain in a civil partnership.
  • The Marriage Act 2015 legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland.

Common-law marriage Data Sources

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