Jessica has been in Thailand for the past week or so but before she left she asked for guest posts. I love guest posting so I jumped at the opportunity and voila! here we are.
The PF community seems to love common law marriage. Something about being with someone forever without the cost of a wedding appeals to a lot of people, go figure. I also happen to live in the province that has the highest rate of common law marriage in the country. Seriously, no one that I used to work with is married, and if they are, it’s like a “gee, well, why not?” thing because they’ve been together for over 10 years already and have 5 kids.
The strangest thing though, is that Quebec has the least amount of protection for common law spouses. And by “the least”, I mean “only what the federal government forces them to provide”. For all intents and purposes, Quebec does not recognize common law spouses. Did you die and not have any kids? Sorry, your girlfriend doesn’t get your fortune, it goes to your parents. Do you want to leave your girlfriend and not give her a penny, but thank her graciously for helping pay down your mortgage for the past 10 years? No problem.
“What? That’s not fair!” you might be thinking. Well, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that it’s entirely fair and here’s why:
If you wanted the legal implications of being married, you would get married.
Why should I be forced into a common law marriage with someone that I clearly don’t want to marry? If I’m living with a guy long enough I can wake up one day and by the simple fact that it’s been three years, find that I’m married to him and owe him some of my money if we decide to break up? When am I supposed to get a pre-nup for this spontaneous marriage?
It’s not a secret that I don’t like government interference and the whole common-law marriage thing is the government sticking its nose into my personal business like nothing else. What protection do we have against this forced marriage? None.
I understand why the idea of common law marriage exists — it protects people who don’t realize that there are certain rights that come with being married and stops people from abusing the tax or economic benefits system that Canada has in place. I agree with tracking people who are living together/having children together bit in order to avoid potential fraud. However, it’s not my fault that my neighbours don’t inform themselves of the dangers of living together and not getting married for 10 years. Common law marriage is an antiquated notion from the days when women wouldn’t work and were dependent on their husbands for their well-being. If a couple wasn’t married and the man left, the woman was often penniless and stuck with the children. Common law marriage was a solution to a problem that existed made sense back then.
If any of my friends were in a situation like this I would immediately:
- Make sure that they understand that their assets are completely insulated from their significant other
- Alert them to the fact that they have no rights in the event that something happens to their significant other
- Encourage them to get married
- Urge them, if they don’t feel ready to get married, to get a co-habitation agreement (similar to a pre-nup) to protect any financial mingling that may occur in their relationship (aka, who gets the TV, how will the joint accounts be split etc. in the event of a break-up)
- Explain to them that, in the event that one person decides that the relationship is over, that’s it. He/She can just get up and leave without a separation period, marriage counseling etc. and that the other person is left with whatever the leaving person decides to leave him/her.
I have no moral qualms with people living together outside of marriage, I just don’t agree that the government should force said people to become married after a certain amount of time. If they wanted to get married, they would just spend the $263 that it costs in Quebec.
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