1. Overview

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.

The Community Justice and Policing Division offers services to victims that can assist you in dealing with the emotional and…
Contact the Department of Justice