Defining a common-law relationship and how to obtain a common-law relationship affidavit through online notary services.
According to the 2016 Canadian census, approximately one-fifth of relationships are common law. If you’re in an unmarried partnership, it’s crucial to understand the legal rights and implications. Suppose you wish to formally prove that you’re living in a committed conjugal relationship. In that case, it’s wise to consider protecting and notarizing your relationship with a common-law affidavit. Using online notary services makes drafting and notarizing your documents more accessible than ever.
What is a common-law relationship?
In Ontario, if you live with your partner continuously for three years or live together and share a child, you’re considered to be in a common-law relationship. Many people believe that common-law relationships have the same – or similar – legal status as marriages. However, what defines a common-law relationship and the legal rights associated with it are different in every province. In actuality, there are a lot of similarities and differences when compared to a marriage, specifically when it comes to separating and legal obligations.
There are no legal requirements or forms associated with starting a common-law relationship the same way as a marriage. To get married, you need to go through a legal marriage ceremony which involves signing a marriage certificate. Generally speaking, married and common-law couples have different rights to the family home, inheritance, and property and debts.
Some key differences and similarities between a common-law relationship and a marriage include:
- If the relationships break down, spousal and child support issues are handled differently; when a marriage ends, it’s governed by the divorce act and federal child support guidelines. A common-law relationship is ruled by the Family law act, Ontario child support guidelines.
- Division of property: family law aims to ensure that each spouse receives equal benefits from a marriage. Common law has no division of property. Common-law spouses have no legal rights to the possession of a home the way married couples do.
- There is no difference in financial support, whether it be spousal support or child support. In both cases, each spouse has an equal responsibility to support their children and each other while they’re together. Even after separating, they have the same responsibilities (as dictated by the law or court order).
- When children are involved, both parents have equal rights to access and take care of their children regardless of the relationship. The same applies when the relationship ends unless otherwise dictated by a court’s ruling.
- Common-law couples may also have the same rights as married couples in certain instances related to welfare and disability benefits, income taxes, immigration sponsorship, and health care decisions.
Determining the authenticity of a common-law relationship
There are no legally binding documents that you need to sign to be in a common-law partnership. The alternative option is to use online notary services to get an affidavit confirming your relationship. You may have to prove that you’ve been in a marital-type relationship with someone to claim certain rights in many situations. It can be harder to prove a common-law relationship. You must be able to provide evidence that you’re in a marriage-like relationship as opposed to – say – a landlord-tenant relationship.
Questions that a court would ask to determine whether a relationship is common-law:
- Do you both contribute to household chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry?
- Do you have a joint bank account or credit card or combine your finances in any way?
- Do you live together? For how long?
- When you’re around friends and family, do you behave like a couple?
- Do you have children together or take on parental responsibilities for each other’s children?
- Does either partner support the other financially?
- Do you have an intimate relationship involving sex?
- Would your family, friends, and other people in your community label you as a couple?
What is a common-law relationship affidavit?
An affidavit is a written document as legally binding as swearing under oath. When you sign an affidavit, you confirm that all of the facts and information provided are one hundred percent accurate to the best of your knowledge. If ever the information in an affidavit is untrue or misrepresented, the consequences are the same as lying on the witness stand in a court of law.
The purpose of a common-law relationship affidavit is to establish the existence of the relationship, typically for employment or beneficiary benefits. You would use your affidavit to present to an employer or other authority the same way you would if you had a marriage certificate.
Information that a common-law affidavit must include:
- Each spouse’s information, each spouse must be over the age of 18
- Must establish that the couple has lived together for the minimum required amount of time (this will vary depending on the province you live in)
- Confirmation that the friends and family consider the couple married even though they aren’t legally married
- Proof that the couple are cohabiting and behaving as if they’re married
- If the spouse is included in a will, life insurance, or any other benefits
What are online notary services?
If you’d like to get a common-law relationship affidavit, you can use online notary services. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been unable or uncomfortable meeting with a notary public in person. Many services and operation began offering online services to accommodate their clientele during the pandemic but has now become standard practice. Online notary services are a great alternative to getting a document notarized in person. You can either choose to draft the document yourself or find one online. Luckily, the process of producing and notarizing your affidavit is very straightforward. When you select online notary services, you can typically do the signing with a notary public over video call or with special software. Always have a valid, government-issued ID with you and never sign your affidavit before it’s notarized.