Common-law Marriages

Running Head: Common-law Marriages

Marriage is defined as a publicly approved sexual relationship occurring between two individuals bent on the institution of a family. Various types of marriages are practiced where marriages are broadly categorized to as legal marriage and common law marriage. Common-law marriage is a setting that allows two individuals to co-habit together and upon the lapse of a given period, the state then recognizes their marriage as being binding. Canada recognizes common-law marriages under federal regulations and takes a legal status upon the lapse of a single year. It is noted that common-law marriages in Canada have noted a considerable increase according to the latest census reports conducted in 2006. The total number of common-law marriages in Canada was registered as 1, 376, 870 with territorial numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador being 16, 935, Prince Edward Island being 4, 085 and Nova Scotia having 37, 700 (Statistics Canada, 2007).

Common-law marriages do not share the same rights and obligations as the legal marriages. Common-law marriages do not possess a legal document that accords a legal aspect into the relationship. Once such a couple separates, payments and property division is not split on equal basis unless a partner alleges for unjust enrichment regarding the former element (Lind, 2008). Matrimonial possessions like home are not shared at all. In legal marriages, all items are divided on half basis. Canada offers spousal support to legal marriages without any form of time limit while under the common-law it is only applicable to individuals who have co-habited for at least three years, whether they have or do not have children. This support has to be filled within the specified time given in a majority of Canada’s provinces. Property depletion, progression rights upon the demise of a partner, identical compensation upon demise and inheritance of matrimonial home upon the demise of a spouse are all protected by law in a legal marriage (Warner, Toni & Frederick, 2008). In heritance may only be accorded to a partner in a common-law marriage setting upon the application of unjust enrichment and incident of support. Both marriages share the right to child support and guardianship, and the award of aid upon the demise of a spouse.

It is believed that the hard economic conditions have led to the escalation of common marriages with a significant high entry into the arrangement within the recent economic recession that was experienced in 2008. Legal marriages have a large economic overhead attached to purchases such as wedding gown, groom’s suit, and food items in the reception area, pastor’s fees, and venue charges, among others (Clifford, 2010). An indulgence in the common-law marriage practice averts these resources into a better use and it is therefore considered quite economical by many. Additionally, separation in a common-law relationship does not equal a normal divorce as property division is not required and therefore it reduces the fears that most individuals identify with upon their entry into a legal marriage (Gallo, 2008). It actually promises a better return in that spouses tend to live together and fashion a normal family as the lawfully recognized one yet upon divorce, each individual maintain their respective property.

The structure introduced into the marriage institution as opposed to the legal arrangement is quite unstable and unpredictable. Studies have indicated that only sixty percent of common-law marriages end up being legal marriages (Clifford, 2010). The uncertainty attached to this is a source of emotional problems in the family. This affects both the children and at least one of the spouses negatively leading to adverse behaviors and psychological problems. Children reared in common-law marriages tend to have a higher probability towards violent behavior.


Clifford, D. (2010). Plan Your Estate. Berkeley, CA: Nolo.

Gallo, N. (2004). Introduction to Family Law. Clifton Park, NY: Cengage Learning.

Lind, G. (2008). Common law marriage: a legal institution for cohabitation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Statistics Canada. (2007). Census families in private households by family structure and presence of children, by province and territory (2006 Census). Retrieved from

Warner, R., Toni, L. I., & Frederick, H. (2008). Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples. Berkeley, CA: Nolo.





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