Property Division - Unmarried Couples

Property division for unmarried couples is complicated.  Nova Scotia does not have legislation for the sharing of assets and debts upon the breakdown of a common-law relationship. Consequently, many people have misconceptions about their legal entitlement and make financial decisions in a manner that is inconsistent with their potential entitlement.

The most common misconception facing common-law couples relates to the division of property. Many partners believe that their common-law relationship creates an automatic entitlement to share in property owned solely by the other spouse, such as a dwelling or a pension. This expectation  may lead them to contribute to their partner’s assets or pay off their partner’s debts during a relationship, with the expectation that they will receive a share of their partner’s property in the event of a separation. This is not necessarily the case.

Conversely, some partners believe that  assets maintained in their own name will never be shared with their common law partner. However, it is possible for common-law partners to obtain a right to share in the other spouse’s property upon separation. This is based on each partner’s contribution to the relationship.

As previously stated, this makes property division for unmarried couples complicated. The Supreme Court of Canada has provided some guidance for unmarried couples regarding what factors affect entitlement to share in the property of the other. However, this is not an exhaustive list and outcomes are often determined on a case-by-case basis.

At MDW Law in Halifax, Nova Scotia, our experienced family law lawyers can provide information and advice on property-related issues for unmarried couples. Whether you are about to move in with your partner, or your relationship has broken down, we can help guide you through the process.

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