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More younger Canadian women opting for common-law relationships

The number of Canadians under 50 who are divorcing is down and the number who are choosing to live with their significant other without a marriage license is up. That's according to data reported in the 2011 census and National Household Survey. The rate of women in common-law marriages is up significantly from thirty years prior.

However, common-law marriages aren't just becoming a more popular choice among younger women. (According to the Household Survey, it rose from under 4 percent to 11 percent between 1981 and 2011.) The percentage of women age 50 to 54 rose more dramatically -- from under 2 percent to 11 percent -- during that period.

Meanwhile, the divorce rate among women in their thirties was dropping during much of this time. Women in their late mid-to-late-thirties (35 to 39) dropped from 16 percent to 12 percent in the two decades between 1991 and 2011. It dropped from 16 percent to 7 percent for women between 30 and 34.

Is the decrease in divorce and increase in common-law relationships among younger people related? According to Statistics Canada, it is. According to the agency, common-law unions are "[a]mong the reasons for a lower proportion of the population under age 50 that was divorced or separated…and an increasing proportion of the never-married population…."

Despite the downward trend for divorces among younger Canadian women, the same phenomenon does not apply to the overall female population and particularly not to women in their 50s. Between 1981 and 2011, the percentage of divorced and separated women rose from just under 6 percent to 13 percent. Over one-fifth of women in their 50s reported having been separated or divorced at one point.

Even if you and your significant other choose to forego traditional marriage, at least for a time, in favour of cohabitation or a common-law marriage, you may still choose to draft a legally-binding agreement regarding things like asset and property division, child custody and support and spousal support to delineate what will happen should the relationship ends. An Ontario family law lawyer experienced with prenuptial agreements and other domestic contracts can provide advice and guidance.

Source: CBC News, "Common-law relationships on the rise, divorce falling," Nov. 10, 2015

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