Separation and Divorce

When Common-Law Couples Separate: Which Court Decides the Details?


Common-law couples don’t need a court decision to make their separation official. But important issues arise when they break up, such as child support, living arrangements for their children and questions about money and property. If they can’t agree on these issues, they can ask a court to decide for them.

What court should common-law partners go to? It depends on whether their requests involve their children.

Requests Involving Children

Requests for child custody or child support must be made to the Superior Court. If the couple also wants a court to decide questions about property or money, they can make these requests at the same time. They can include all requests in the same document. They can include all requests in the same document.

Some people can get free or low-cost legal services through legal aid. See Legal Aid: Do I Qualify? for more information.

Requests Involving Money or Property

For requests involving money or property, the court depends on the value of the property or the amount of money requested.

Here are examples of requests involving property or money that common-law couples might make:

  • dividing the value of property owned by both partners
  • return of property belonging only to one of the partners
  • unjust enrichment (when one partner has benefitted financially from a situation in an unfair way)
  • claiming an amount of money one partner owes the other