When Can a Common Law Partner Get a Division of Their Partner’s Property?

By Published On: December 4, 2023Categories: Articles, Family Law2.1 min read

What happens if one common law partner contributed $50,000 or $100,000 in renovations to the other partner’s house, or other property, and then the relationship failed? Can you get your money back?

A common law partner can make a special type of trust claim, a Constructive Trust Claim, asking the court to grant them a portion of the other partner’s property.

The family lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates advise clients that this can be very difficult to prove and is not commonly awarded, except in extreme circumstances. Even if successful, it does not mean that you would automatically be entitled to 50 per cent of your partner’s property.

First, you would have to be able to prove that you contributed that sum of money to your partner’s home renovations. Did you keep the receipts or just give your partner cash to make purchases or materials?  Did you pay the electrician yourself, and get a receipt in your name, or did the electrician make the receipt out to your partner?

It will be a very difficult case to prove if the evidence (receipts, and so on) do not support your claim that you paid for materials and labour.

Constructive Trust Claims have a high legal bar

Essentially, you will have to convince the court that:

  1. Your partner was unjustly enriched (for example, the value of their property increased based solely on the fact that there were renovations that you paid for);
  2. Your partner’s unjust enrichment caused you to suffer a detriment (for example, you lost your ‘investment’ of the money you spent on renovations to your partner’s home when you could have invested the money in a proper investment account, such as a TFSA); and,
  3. There was no juristic reason for those situations (there was no agreement that your investment would be rewarded with a share of the house ownership, or that your monies spent in the renovations were repayment of a debt you had to your partner).

It is important to remember, however, that if you and your common law partner purchased a property together, and both of your names are listed on title as owners, you are entitled to divide that property based on your ownership interest.

If you are concerned about your rights or obligations as a common law partner, or are interested in discussing a Cohabitation Agreement, the family lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates are ready to help you and answer any questions.

Contact us at (905) 426-1476 or marie@mgmichaels.com.

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