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How does being unmarried affect your rights after a split?

When a couple decides that they can no longer stay together and must separate, questions often arise about how their property should get divided. While couples who are married normally have to divide their property equally under the law, those who are unmarried typically do not. It is important to realize, however, that just because you are not married when you decide to separate does not necessarily mean that you do not have any legal obligations to the other party.

As an example, although there is no automatic right to a division of property, an unmarried partner may still be able to make a claim if they can prove that their actions helped to significantly contribute to the other partner's wealth. Keep in mind that even though there is a two-year time limit after a couple has become separated if a partner wanted to attempt to make a claim.

Interestingly, Canada Pension Plan Benefits credits are divided equally for what each person earned while the couple lived together. There is also a time limit on this, however, and a partner only has four years to apply to receive a division of pension credit after the couple has separated.

Finally, after an unmarried couple has separated, there is still an obligation for them to support each other depending on the other person's needs and the extent of how much they are able to support themselves or the other person. Unmarried couples generally have a two-year time limit to apply for spousal support from the date that they became separated.

Individuals who are part of an unmarried couple may have legal rights and could benefit from learning more about the legal process as it pertains to their personal case.

Source: National Association of Women and the Law, "When a Relationship Ends: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities," accessed June 25, 2015

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