Understanding Common Law in Yukon Territories

Posted on August 19, 2021

Common law in Yukon Territories is a partnership between two people who are in a conjugal relationship and have lived together for more than one year.

Nearly 20% of Canadians are currently living common law.

In Canada, couples must prove they are common law in some instances. For example, common law spouses must show proof of their status to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

How exactly do you prove you're in a common law arrangement and what else do you need to know? This guide will explain all the details, including the benefits and drawbacks, you need to know.

How to Prove to CRA That We Are Common Law

The Partnership Act of Yukon Territories requires you to submit any changes in your filing status to the CRA. Becoming common law is a change in your filing status.

Therefore, you must submit proof of this change by the end of the month following the month you became common law. Here are the documents that can serve as proof of your relationship to the CRA.

Shared Ownership of Residential Property

The most important thing to prove for common law relationships is that you reside together. In Yukon Territories, partners must live together for at least 12 months to qualify.

So, a joint deed to you and your spouse's shared home should suffice for the CRA. The date you and your partner purchased the home should be at least 12 months preceding the date you're filing your taxes.

Joint Leases or Rental Agreements

Proof of renting or leasing with your common law partner is also sufficient proof of your relationship. As with a home deed, the date you and your partner moved in together should be at least 12 months before you file your taxes.

Bills for Shared Utilities

Electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications bills from the last 12+ months can also serve as proof of living common law. You and your partner must be named on the bills for them to qualify.

Other Important Documents

A Canadian driver's license can also serve as evidence of common law living. However, both you and your partner's license must show the same address.

ID Documents

Any other identification documents listing a shared address can also serve as proof of living common law. ID documents include your Canadian passport, Yukon Territory health card, military ID, or Federal government employee ID.

How Long After Living Together Are Considered Common Law in Yukon?

There's a common misconception that living together for a certain period of time automatically means you and your partner are living common law.

But that's not the true common law definition. The truth is that you must live together for at least 12 months to be in a common law relationship. These 12 months must be consecutive to qualify.

Once you and your partner declare your common law status, you will continue to hold that status as long as you live together in a conjugal relationship. Living apart for more than 90 days is a common law separation in Yukon Territories.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Yukon Territories common law relationships can be difficult to prove. But as long as you can prove your common law relationship, you and your partner will enjoy many of the same benefits as legally married people.

However, if two common law partners separate, they don't have the same protections as traditionally married couples. That's why many partners in these arrangements form cohabitation agreements.

A cohabitation agreement in Yukon Territories is essentially a marriage contract. It specifies how you and your partner will divvy up shared property should you separate.

Is It a Good Idea?

Cohabitation agreements are an excellent idea for common law relationships with significant assets and/or liabilities. A lawyer can design the agreement to adhere to the Yukon Territories' property division laws for married couples.

If neither you nor your partner came into the relationship with property or debts, you may not need a cohabitation agreement. But if you accumulate property and/or debts during the relationship, this agreement could be helpful.

Without a cohabitation agreement, Yukon Territory courts will mandate the division of your shared property. Then, the court will abide by the rule that whoever bought the asset owns it and whoever accumulated the debt owes it.

Can I Make One Before My Spouse Moves In?

Yes, you should make a cohabitation agreement before you move in with any partner. These agreements are even more important when you're living common law.

How Much Does It Cost?

The fees to have a cohabitation agreement drawn up vary by attorney. You may find free or cheap cohabitation agreement forms online. However, these DIY agreements may not stand up in court should you and your partner separate. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for One?

If you want a legally enforceable cohabitation agreement, you should hire an attorney. There's no guarantee that creating your own cohabitation agreement will stand up in court.

Do Common Law Partners in Yukon Have to File Taxes Together?

Canadian couples, whether married or common law, must file separate tax returns. However, the law always requires married and common law partners to indicate their status on individual tax returns. You must also list your partner's:

  • Social insurance number
  • Legal name
  • Net income
  • Employment status (i.e., self-employed vs. employed)

Filing your common law status with the CRA is required by law. But it can also increase the number of tax deductions and credits your household receives.

Failing to change your status after becoming common law can result in CRA penalties. You may have to pay back taxes and/or interest if you accidentally claim a single marital status.

What If We Have Children Together?

The CRA typically recommends that the lower-earning partner claim any children of a common law partnership. This will help maximize the tax credits and deductions your household can receive.

But what if you separate? Cohabitation agreements don't cover child support or custody issues. If your common law relationship ends, it will be up to you and your partner to decide on living arrangements for the child or children.

The Yukon Territories apply the same custody and access laws to common law partners as it does to married couples. So, failing to compromise on child support and custody issues will send you to court. Then, a judge will make these tough decisions for you.

What Not to Do in Common Law Relationships

Courts decide custody arrangements based on the child's best interest. Of course, the judge will also consider each parent's wishes.

However, using the child as a mediator between you and your former partner or trying to turn the child against your former partner are big no-no's. The court will be more likely to award custody to the other parent if this occurs.

What Is My Partner or Spouse Entitled To?

Yukon Territories doesn't have a law specifying how property division should occur after common law couples separate. This is why forming a cohabitation agreement is so critical.

Without a cohabitation agreement, you can't assume you'll get 50% of the shared assets or debts.

The only time you can claim 50% ownership is of assets you and your partner purchased together. Otherwise, whoever purchased the property or acquired the debt gets full ownership.

What Happens If We Separate?

In the Yukon Territories, common law arrangements don't end in divorce. They end when couples separate for more than 90 days. For example, if you kick your spouse out of the family home and he or she lives in a hotel for 91 days, Yukon Territories would consider you separated.

When common law couples separate, each party must file a Marital Status Change form with the CRA. The date of separation should be the beginning date of the 90-day period when you stopped living common law.

Keep in mind that common law partners can only claim single status if the separation was voluntary. Involuntary separations (e.g., incarceration) do not count as the end of a common law relationship.

When it comes to property division, your cohabitation agreement will specify the division of assets and debts. If you don't have a cohabitation agreement, you may need a separation agreement.

As long as a lawyer draws up these agreements, they will be legally enforceable in court. Written verbal agreements about property division usually don't stand up in court.

Without a legally enforceable property division agreement, a Yukon Territories court will likely order each spouse to keep what he or she purchased. 

Do You and Your Common Law Partner Need Insurance?

Being common law in Yukon Territories grants the same tax benefits as marriage. But should you and your partner separate, there are no laws governing how your property should be divided. That's why it's critical to have a cohabitation or separation agreement. 

Looking for an insurance plan to protect you and your common law spouse? Get an insurance policy quote on Insurdinary!

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