Common Law Nova Scotia
Common law couples in Nova Scotia have few of the rights that married couples have. However, they can easily change this by entering into what is known as a domestic partnership.
If you are living in a common law relationship, you can register your relationship by filing a domestic partners declaration under the Nova Scotia Vital Statistics Act with the Vital Statistics Office. The fee for doing this is currently $22.86. Once you do this, you and your domestic partner have all the same rights and obligations as a married couple has.
There are four ways to end a domestic partnership:
1. Jointly file a Statement of Termination with the Vital Statistics Office; or
2. One party filing a sworn statement that the parties have lived separate and apart for one year or more with the Vital Statistics Office; or
3. Filing a separation agreement between you and your domestic partner with the Vital Statistics Office; or
4. One domestic partner marrying someone else.
The current fee for filing any document terminating a domestic partnership is $30.29.
A domestic partner has all of the same rights to property division as a married spouse does. A common law partner has none of these rights. Upon a relationship ending, each partner keeps their own property and any joint property is shared equally. If either partner is unhappy with that, they can pursue the other in court for what is known as unjust enrichment. However, claims for unjust enrichment are very expensive and complicated and unlikely to divide property equally.
A domestic partner has all of the same rights to spousal support as a married spouse does. So does a common law partner in Nova Scotia if the parties have lived together for two or more years.
Child Support & Child Custody
Married couples, domestic partners, and common law partners all have the same rights and obligations in regards to child support and child custody in Nova Scotia.
Married couples and domestic partners have the same rights regarding estates in Nova Scotia. Common law partners have few rights regarding estates, so if your common law partner passes away without a will, you would not inherit anything.
If you are living in a common law relationship and simply want your rights and obligations to match those of a married couple, the easiest and best way to do this is simply to register a domestic partnership. However, if you would like to be governed by a legal regime of your own choosing, a cohabitation agreement will make this possible.
Nova Scotia has a legal regime that allows unmarried couples to choose to have the same rights and obligations as married couples simply by registering their partnership; if they wish to avoid doing this, they need not do anything.