Dealing with debts after separation (for married and common-law couples)

Debts can sometimes be a problem, both during a relationship and when it ends. If you know the basic legal rules about debts, you can protect yourself and know what you're getting into.

If you've been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, the law about responsibility for debts after separation is the same as it is for married people.

Here are some basic guidelines to remember:

  • The law treats married couples and couples who have lived together for at least two years the same.
  • The law says that debts taken on by either spouse while you live together are shared equally, no matter whose name they're in.
  • Debts that either of you take on after separation to take care of family property are also shared equally.
  • You can make an agreement while you live together or after you separate to divide your debts unequally. (See How to write your own separation agreement.) But before signing an agreement that says this, ask a lawyer to review your agreement. See Who can help? for where to find a lawyer.
  • The people you owe money to (your creditors) can only collect the debt from the person who signed for the debt. If you both signed, the creditor can collect from either of you.

See also the fact sheet How to divide property and debts and Separation: Protecting yourself financially.

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