Veterans Affairs Canada has adopted a new policy on common-law relationships as it applies to Canadian Forces (CF) members and veterans which makes exceptions in certain circumstances when a CF member dies in Special Duty Service.
The policy describes criteria that must be met to be recognized as a common-law partner. The couple must cohabit, and the relationship must be conjugal. Evidence must be provided that indicates the date the member or veteran began cohabitation in a conjugal relationship. In addition, evidence must be provided that the member/veteran and the partner are cohabiting in a conjugal relationship that is permanent in nature, and that the couple is living in the same household and sharing expenses and chores. The evidence should indicate that the relationship is not merely a casual relationship. There should be no evidence to the contrary to indicate an intention on the part of either party to terminate their relationship.
Actual cohabitation in the same household is required for the full one-year qualifying period. If there is an interruption in the period of cohabitation (see exception below) for any work or non-work related reason by either the member/veteran or the partner, the “clock” stops on the one-year cohabitation. If the cohabitation resumes after the temporary interruption, it is considered to ratify the continuance of the relationship and the period of interruption can then be counted towards establishing the one-year period required to recognize the common-law partnership.
If the cohabitations does not resume after the temporary interruption, either by choice or by death, then the time apart cannot be counted towards establishing the one-year period.
The exception to the requirement for the cohabitation to resume following a temporary interruption was the result of a December 2010 Veterans Review and Appeal Board decision which recognized that a CF member and his or her partner may be considered common-law partners at the time of the CF member’s death even if the couple were not actually living together at the time of death if:
• The death of the CF member occurred more than 12 months after the couple first began to cohabit in a conjugal relationship and before the parties could resume cohabitation; and
• The physical separation was not voluntary but was due to a mandatory and temporary deployment of the CF member (deployment for the purposes of the policy means deployment to Special Duty Service); and
• There is evidence that the member and partner continued their relationship throughout the deployment and there is no evidence to the contrary.
In this specific case, evidence that must be provided includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• The parties planned on getting married upon the CF member’s return;
• The parties kept in regular contact via telephone and Internet
• The partner who remained in Canada maintained the parties’ joint household;
• The partner who remained in Canada continued to raise the parties’ children; and
• The parties continued to pay their joint bills.
Each case will be determined by VAC on a case-by-case basis, considering the unique facts and circumstances. Before they deploy, CF members should be aware of all the ramifications of this policy on common-law partnership.