Number of Canadian women in common-law relationships rising

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

According to an article by CBC News, the 2011 Household Survey showed that 11 percent of women in Canada resided with partners outside of marriage, a 7.2 percent increase from 3.8 percent in 1981. The divorce rate of people younger than 50 in Canada had also dropped. 

Statistics Canada surveyed 14 million women age 15 and older.

The government study also revealed that common-law relationships have been increasing quickly particularly among older women. For example, the proportion of women ages 50 to 54 in common-law living arrangements reached 11 percent, a 9.3 percent increase from 1.7 percent in 1981. Of these women, about 50 percent of them had previously been married or were separated from spouses. 

The article also cites statistics about divorce overall: 

  • In the 30 years previous to 2011, the proportion of women overall who divorced or separated from their spouses rose more than 50 percent.
  • Of women 30 to 34, the divorce rate had dropped five percent since 1991.
  • Of women 34 to 39, the divorce rate had dropped four percent since 1991.
  • In 2011, 21 percent of women 50 to 59 had been divorced or separated at some time during their lifetimes.

CBC noted that Statistics Canada theorized that the reason for the drop in the divorce rates of younger women was the increase in people who stay single, including those in common-law relationships, which are highest in Quebec and in the aboriginal population. 

Anyone in a common-law relationship should speak with a lawyer about how their legal rights and obligations in the relationship differ from the rights of married couples. Such an individual may want to consider whether a cohabitation agreement may be a good idea to help protect property rights, in particular.

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