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Family Law Act: spouse defined

Much has been written about the new Family Law Act‘s definition of the term spouse. Lots of people ask me about the term as well. How long do you have to live together to be a spouse? When does a relationship begin? When does a relationship end?

Here is what the statute has to say:

Spouses and relationships between spouses

3 (1) A person is a spouse for the purposes of this Act if the person

(a) is married to another person, or
(b) has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and
(i) has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or
(ii) except in Parts 5 [Property Division] and 6 [Pension Division], has a child with the other person.

(2) A spouse includes a former spouse.

(3) A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following:
(a) the date on which they began to live together in a marriage-like relationship;
(b) the date of their marriage.

(4) For the purposes of this Act,
(a) spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence, and
(b) the court may consider, as evidence of separation,
(i) communication, by one spouse to the other spouse, of an intention to separate permanently, and
(ii) an action, taken by a spouse, that demonstrates the spouse’s intention to separate permanently.

Basically if you have lived with someone in a “marriage-like relationship” for a continuous period of two years you are a spouse of that person.

No wedding, no problem... you still have an equal opportunity to annoy your spouse... Photo Credit: C.P.Storm

No wedding, no problem… you still have an equal opportunity to annoy your spouse…
Photo Credit: C.P.Storm

Additionally, if you have a child with a person (but have not lived together for two years) you are a spouse except for the purposes of property division and pension division.

What is a marriage like relationship? There is no exact definition. However, if you are anything more than platonic roommates you should consider getting legal advice about the status of your relationship – there have been many court cases looking at different factors of couple’s living arrangements to try an determine if they are “marriage like”.