A common law relationship is where two people, who are not married, live together in a 'marriage-like' relationship. This means that they not only share a home, but they refer to themselves in public as spouses or partners, and share things like bills and other finances.
Whether or not you are considered to be in a common law relationship will depend on the facts of your situation and whether the law you are trying to use gives a definition. Every law has its own definition for what qualifies as a common law relationship.
For example, the Canada Pension Plan says that to be a ‘common law partner’ you had to have been living with your partner for one year, while the Parenting and Support Act says you are a ‘spouse’ after you have lived together in a conjugal relationship for two years, or have lived together and have a child together. A conjugal relationship is a ‘marriage-like’ relationship.
If you are married, separation happens when and you and your spouse begin living ‘separate and apart.' This means you are no longer going to live together as a married couple. In most cases, you have to be separated from your spouse for one year before you can file for divorce.