Here in the United States, there aren’t a whole lot of legal rights that go along with cohabitation. “Common-law marriages” are a thing of the past outside a handful of states, and generally require more than simply living together to establish anyhow.
Up in Canada, things are apparently quite different, as a new study from Marion Goussé and Marion Leturcq details. After one year, cohabitation is considered a legal status under Canadian law and is reported on tax returns. Cohabiters are eligible for their partners’ car insurance and pension plans. And between 1972 and 1999, every province except Quebec enacted laws allowing some cohabiters to claim alimony after a break-up. Three provinces have taken a further step, considering cohabiting relationships to be equal to marriages after a certain period of time, including when it comes to dividing up property after a breakup.
The study uses the Canadian setting to answer an important question: When the alimony and property-division rules change, do couples change their behavior in response? And how?
Robert VerBruggen is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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