(This is under Canadian law. Non-Canadians might want to check their own country’s laws regarding common law status.)

I’ve been told common law status starts when a couple has lived together for three months. A different person told me three years. Someone else told me common law status co-habitation laws differ between provinces.

Recently, I went to H&R Block to do my taxes. The accountant asked for my relationship status. I soon learned that the Canadian Revenue Agency defines common-law partner as:

“…a person who is not your spouse, with whom you are living in a conjugal relationship, and to whom at least one of the following situations applies. He or she:

  1. has been living with you in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months;
  2. is the parent of your child by birth or adoption; or
  3. has custody and control of your child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support.”

After figuring out I’ve been in a common-law relationship for a year and a bit, the account asked me another question.

“You and your partner have submitted your marital status change forms, right?”

I had never heard of such a thing – not for a common law relationship, at least. I asked a bunch of people and I have yet to speak to anyone who has heard of it. The accountant printed a copy off for me. Both parties in the relationship have to fill out a copy and submit it to the address listed on the form for their residential area.

The form is available as a PDF download here.

I decided to write this blog post because a little head’s up doesn’t hurt. I’m still not 100% sure why the Government of Canada needs to know the conjugal part, specifically, but I’m told they like keeping track of who might be having babies someday.

Still. Creepy.

[edit] Looks like there is a federal definition of common-law, and then a different definition between provinces. From what I’ve seen online, partners living together in Prince Edward Island must live together for three years before being common-law. Why there is a different definition between the federal and provincial level, I have no idea. [/edit]

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Jillianne Hamilton is an author, crafter, hobby addict, history enthusiast and graphic designer in Charlottetown, PEI on Canada's beautiful east coast. Her debut novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, was shortlisted for the Prince Edward Island Book Award in 2016. Her fourth book, The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII, will be published in 2018.


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Hi, I'm Jill! I'm an author, a Lazy Historian, a web/graphic designer, a bookworm and a hobby addict. I live in Charlottetown on Canada's beautiful east coast. Learn more.

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