If you are married or in a common-law relationship, certain laws apply when you separate and no longer live together as a couple. Under these laws, your legal rights and responsibilities may continue after the relationship is over.
Most laws in the Northwest Territories concern rights and obligations between spouses and their children. A spouse is someone who:
- is married to another person; or
- has lived in a marriage-like relationship with another person for two years; or
- has lived in a marriage-like relationship with another person for less than two years, but who has a natural or adopted child with that person.
A marriage-like relationship between two people who are not married is called a common-law relationship. A common-law relationship begins as soon as you are living together, but you have very few rights and obligations to each other until you are considered spouses.
If you have a spouse and have been living in a common-law relationship, then no legal steps are required to end the relationship; however you still have obligations to your spouse and children which must be resolved as part of a separation agreement or court order.
A marriage does not end when you separate. Although you and your spouse may no longer live together, you are legally married until you are divorced.
When separating, you must reach a separation agreement regardless of whether you are married or in a common law relationship.