Common Law Manitoba
Manitoba has enacted legislation governing common law couples, known as the Common-Law Partners’ Property Act. Under this act, you are considered common law Manitoba after:
1. living in a conjugal relationship for three years; or
2. registering your common law relationship at the Vital Statistics Registry.
To end a common law relationship, you must either register a dissolution under the Vital Statistics Registry, which can be done one year after separation, or it is considered over after three years of separation.
Common law couples and married couples in Manitoba have the same rights to property division at the end of their relationship under the Family Property Act.
What if you are living common law, but haven’t lived together for three years or registered your relationship at the Vital Statistics Registry? In that case, you may still have a claim for the division or property using principles of unjust enrichment – basically claiming that your partner was enriched at your expense. An example of this sort of claim is where you’ve paid for half the house, but the house is in your partner’s name.
Entitlement and quantum of spousal support is calculated the same way for unmarried and married couples in Manitoba.
Child Support and Child Custody
Child support and child custody is determined from the child’s point of view, so whether the parents are married or not is irrelevant.
In Manitoba, married and common law couples have the same rights when it comes to estate issues. The Wills Act uses the same definition for common law as the Family Property Act, plus additionally you are considered common law for estates purposes if you have been living in a conjugal relationship for one year and having a child together.
If you want to opt out of the legal regime that applies, you and your partner need to enter into a cohabitation agreement that sets out both of your rights and obligations.
From a legal perspective, it does not matter whether you are married or not in Manitoba when determining your rights and obligations upon separation or death.