My spouse/partner has just told me that they want to end the relationship. What are my rights?

When it comes to ending a relationship, whether it’s a legal marriage or a common law relationship, it only takes one person to make that decision.

Some action is required to signify separation (in other words, for the relationship to have broken down to the point where there is no chance of reconciliation), usually occurring when one spouse tells the other.  An outward action to the world typically follows and is very helpful in establishing the precise date of separation.  Outward actions can include:

  1. telling family or friends,
  2. not going to family functions together,
  3. not eating meals or having sex together,
  4. shopping for one’s own groceries,
  5. sleeping in separate beds or rooms,
  6. moving out, and more.

It is possible, and often happens, for the parties to be separated but still living in the same house.  It can be prejudicial for one party’s rights if that person leaves the family home, so it is best if you talk with your lawyer first.

Once separation occurs, you then have to resolve the outstanding issues, such as custody and access (if there are children involved), child support and spousal support (also known as alimony), and/or dividing and equalizing property.  It is recommended that you seek legal advice before signing or agreeing to anything.