A common-law relationship is possibly the most prevalent form of committed relationship in Jamaica. Many individuals opt out of walking down the aisle to marry their significant other because of fear of commitment yet their day-to-day activities is similar and in likeness to that of a married couple. The main fear indicated by many is the thought that if they live together and eventually separate, there will be no need for division of property. This is a common misconception as there are laws to protect parties who have been in a common law union.
Section 2 of The Property (Rights of Spouses) Act defines “spouse” as including a single man and a single woman who have been cohabiting together as if they were in law husband and wife for no less than five years. The term ‘cohabit’ is defined as meaning, ‘to live together in a conjugal relationship outside of marriage’.
How can you determine if you are in a common law relationship?
In the case of Kimber v Kimber (2000), it highlighted the factors that would determine if you are in a common-law relationship. They are as follows:
- Living together in the same household
- A sharing of daily life
- Stability and a degree of permanence in the relationship
- Shared Finances
- A sexual relationship
- Common Intention and motivation
After identifying that you are in a common law relationship, you may now be wondering “what would I be entitled to should I separate from my spouse?” or you may already be separated and thinking “I just wasted the best 10 years of my life for nothing!” Do not lose heart as there are laws to protect the common-law spouse and we will discuss this in the next article.
Abi-Gaye White-Thomas B.A., LL.B (Hons)