Rights and Duties of Partners
When a married or common-law couple is still living together, they have certain legal rights and responsibilities to one another. Some of these are explained below.
The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba states that both spouses, or both common-law partners, have a duty to financially support and maintain each other while living together. This duty can be met by earning income outside the home or by running the household. In both situations, the spouses or partners equally contribute to the welfare of the family. The right to financial support includes the right to receive reasonable amounts for clothing and other personal expenses on a regular basis, and the right to spend this money without interference from the other spouse or common-law partner.
The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba gives spouses or common-law partners the right to request and receive financial information from each other while they are living together. For example, a spouse or common-law partner is entitled to information such as copies of income tax returns and itemized statements of earnings, assets and liabilities. If this information is not provided when requested, the court can order the spouse or common-law partner to provide the information and pay the other spouse or partner a penalty of up to $5,000.
Use of Family Assets
The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba says both spouses or both common-law partners have the same right to use and enjoy family assets. To qualify as common-law partners under The Family Property Act, a couple must have either registered their relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency or they must have cohabited in a conjugal relationship for at least three years. A family asset is property that is owned by one or both spouses or common-law partners and is used for family purposes, such as shelter, transportation or recreation.
Examples of family assets are the family home, household furniture and appliances, family car, summer cottage, lawnmower and gardening tools. However, one spouse or partner does not have the right to use the other’s personal belongings (for example, clothing and other items that are not usually used by both of them).
The Act does not prevent a spouse or common-law partner from selling or otherwise dealing with a family asset that is owned by either of them, unless such actions would seriously threaten the family’s financial security or the asset involved is the family home.
The Family Home
The Homesteads Act gives special protection to the family home or homestead, which can be a house, a farmhouse or a condominium. The Homesteads Act defines common-law partners as a couple who have either registered their relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency or who have lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least three years. Where the homestead is owned by one spouse or common-law partner alone, the other spouse or partner must consent in writing before the owner can sell, mortgage, rent for three years or more, or otherwise dispose of it.
Where the spouses or common-law partners live on a farm, the special protection applies to not only the farm dwelling, but also up to 320 acres of land.
Where both spouses or both common-law partners are the registered owners of the family home, both must agree in writing to any sale, mortgage, rental or other transaction involving it. A spouse or common-law partner who has disposed of the homestead without the other spouse’s or partner’s consent, may be liable to that spouse or common-law partner for damages. The defrauded spouse or common-law partner may also be entitled to seek compensation from the Land Titles Assurance Fund.
Accounting and Equalization of Family Property
The Family Property Act gives spouses and common-law partners the right to apply at any time to the court for an accounting and equalization of family property. In the case of married spouses, this is property acquired by one or both spouses while they are married and living together. If a couple lives together for a time immediately before they marry, any property they acquire while they lived together is also included. For common-law partners, this is property acquired by one or both while they are cohabiting. To qualify as common-law partners under The Family Property Act, a couple must either have registered with the Vital Statistics Agency or have cohabited for at least three years. The court can order an accounting, even if the parties are living together. Please visit the Property section of this website for more information.
The Pension Benefits Act of Manitoba applies to pension plans sponsored by an employer for employees in Manitoba. Every such pension plan must state that the pension benefits payable to a plan member who is either married or in a common-law relationship, will be in the form of a joint pension, unless:
- the couple is living separate and apart when the pension commences
- their relationship has broken down
- the spouse or partner signs a form to waive their entitlement to a joint pension
A joint pension provides the spouses or common-law partners with a monthly pension, guaranteed for both of their lives. To qualify as common-law partners under The Pension Benefits Act, a couple must have registered their relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency, or cohabited in a conjugal relationship for at least three years if either of them is married, or cohabited in a conjugal relationship for at least one year if neither of them is married.
If a plan member, or their spouse or common-law partner dies after the member retires, the survivor is entitled to a survivor pension. Unless the member and their spouse or common-law partner are separated, the survivor will receive a survivor pension of at least 60 per cent of the original pension. This provides protection for surviving spouses and partners, because they are guaranteed a minimum pension income after the other dies. Spouses or common-law partners may give up this protection by completing and signing a waiver form.
Employers must provide a yearly statement about the pension plan to every plan member. In addition, spouses or common-law partners of plan members are entitled to a copy of the statement if they request it. For more information about The Pension Benefits Act, contact:
The Office of the Superintendent – Pension Commission
1004 – 401 York Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3C 0V8
Toll free: 1-800-282-8069 (Ext. 2740)
The federal Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 applies to most federally-regulated pension plans (e.g., airlines and railways) and provides similar protection to spouses and common-law partners. For more information about this federal legislation and other federally regulated pensions, contact:
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions of Canada
12th floor – 255 Albert Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0H2
Toll free: 1-800-385-8647
TTY services: 613-943-3980
Online: Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions of Canada website