Common Law vs. Married

Common Law:

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.

Definition of 'spouse'; child support; or spousal support; paternity testing.


If you are married, separation happens when you and your spouse begin living ‘separately 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.

It is always recommended you obtain legal advice. Click here for information about legal support and advice options in Nova Scotia, including no and low-cost services.

Was this page helpful?