Legal Updates

A Common Law marriage status does not automatically entitle to spouse’s pension

October 28, 2021

A couple who ran a joint household as well as family life for many years, until they separated, executed a prenuptial agreement, which excluded each spouse’s entitlement to the other's pension.

The Court held that the woman is not entitled to her former spouse's pension. "Common Law marriage" is a case where a couple decides to lead a common lifestyle as a married couple for all intents and purposes but refrain from institutionalizing the relationship, with such status having a great significance for the acknowledgment of the couple’s rights towards each other. The existence of such a relationship is dependent on two cumulative conditions, which are being review individually, given the circumstances of each case: Family life, which is derived from a significant period of life together; and conducting a joint household, including living under one roof, sharing economic life, etc. Common Law marriage couples can settle their relationship by a prenuptial agreement. Here, the couple ran a joint household and shared one roof intermittently for 17 years, but in 2018 decided to separate and since then have not kept constant relations, so they are no longer considered under Common Law marriage. Furthermore, when they were still under a Common Law marriage status, they settled their relationship after their separation under a prenuptial agreement, which explicitly excluded the spouses' entitlement to each other's pension. Therefore, the woman is not entitled to her spouse's pension.