Cohabitation has become a popular trend for Canadian couples as more and more couples are deciding to live together before getting married or in place of marriage. For the most part, Canadians are aware of this increasing trend and throughout Canada laws are changing to adapt to this reality. However, as Maclean’s discusses, there is a type of relationship that is gaining popularity, although many Canadians may have never heard of it.

This relationship trend is called “Living Apart Together”, or “LAT” relationships. Maclean’s has published an article entitled “Living Apart, Together”, where this growing trend is discussed as well as the reasons why many couples are “saying no to cohabitation and marriage”.

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1.9 million Canadians aged 20 and over were in a LAT arrangement in 2011. LAT relationships are especially growing in one category, the 60 plus age bracket where it jumped from 1.8 percent to 2.3 percent from 2001-2011.

Sociology professors Karen Kobayashi of the University of Victoria and Laura Funk of the University of Manitoba conducted a study of 28 LAT couples in Canada. The average age of participants was 59 and many were previously married and had children. The couples involved in this study expressed their reasons for staying in LAT relationships. Many of the couples stated that they viewed cohabitation as unnecessary and “did not want to ruin what they have”. Further, many couples discussed that by living apart they were protecting their independence.

Two-thirds of study participants had children from a previous relationship and expressed their concerns with being involved in a new common-law or marriage-like relationship and possible complications for their children. Many of the couples in the study expressed that they wanted to “spare their children future legal entanglements, and many of them said they were avoiding becoming common-law”.

As the Maclean’s article points out, cohabitation may bring up issues after a person passes away, including possible claims for support. 

Under Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”), if one is considered a “dependant” under the Act, they may make a claim for Dependants Relief. Under the SLRA, a “dependant” means,

(a) the spouse of the deceased,

(b) a parent of the deceased,

(c) a child of the deceased, or

(d) a brother or sister of the deceased

to whom the deceased was providing support or was under a legal obligation to provide support immediately before his or her death.

Section 57 of the SLRA defines “spouse” as: “either of two persons who, (a) were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated or declared a nullity, or (b) are not married to each other and have cohabited, (i) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or, (ii) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.”

Therefore, if one qualifies as a “dependant” under the Act they may make a claim for Dependants Relief. However, it is important to remember that living together does not automatically grant a claim for Dependants Relief, as the deceased must have been providing support immediately before death.

Thank you for reading!

Ian M. Hull