Search This Blog

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cohabitation and Common-law relationships

Q: I would like to find out how long do you have to live with someone in Trinidad for the relationship to be considered common law?

A: You’re considered to be common-law as soon as you start living together (cohabiting). However, cohabitees do not obtain legal rights until they have been cohabiting for at least 5 continuous years, according to section 7 of the Cohabitational Relationships Act 1998 and section 2 of the Distribution of Estates Act 2000.


  1. Lets say Jane (54 yrs old) was involved in a relationship with Ben (70 yrs old), Ben convinced her to leave her job and move to his place stating he will take care of her. Ben travels each year for work, Jane leave her job and moves in with Ben. He then tells her to have her grandson and daughter move in also, since Jane cared for them, the children also relocate.

    While Ben is away for work he usually sends home money to support the family, when he returns they live as any normal couple, going on outings together and planning for the future. 5-6 years later, Ben travels for work as usual but this time things are different, Ben sends home less money than usual, and eventually he stops sending home any money at all. Jane can no longer reach him via phone, he has stopped accepting all calls. A letter is then delivered to the home from Ben via a Lawyer, stating Jane must move out within 30 days as he is selling the house, the letter also indicates that Jane was taking care of the house in his absence.

    Jane hires a lawyer who responds to Bens letter stating Jane will not be moving out, they had a common law relationship, and she is to be compensated for jobs done to the home while she lived there. Bens lawyer responds back stating they did not have a common law relationship, and he will give her $15,000 upon moving out, and $15,000 7 days after she moves out and she must move within 30 days.

    Of course Jane thinks this is not fair, she gave away most of her things, her home to a family member, furniture and she left her job for this man who she was planning to get married to. Now at 54 years she has health issues and unable to work, what are her options? He is denying their entire relationship.

    Thank you

  2. Hi,in the face of there being so many rights available to persons in cohabitational relationships can it be said that the effect on married persons of nullity of marriage is in essence the same thing or are there major difference still. I'm mostly concerned about the degree of protection to persons in either type of relationship

  3. Jane needs a family lawyer who can represent her situation (pro bono) since she may not have finance to pay up front. The case did not say how long she was in the relationship.

  4. I have lived 14years as a common law wife I have him 2 kids...I left my job an move out of Trinidad to Tobago..where I resided in his house for 14yrs..he wants to end our relationship but wants to give me nothing..what are my rights??

  5. Living together for 5 years is only one of ways or reason u are entitled to the rights mentioned in section 6;
    6. Under this Part, a cohabitant may apply—
    (a) to the High Court for the granting of an
    adjustment order or for the granting of a
    maintenance order; or
    (b) to the Magistrate’s Court for the granting of a
    maintenance order.
    7. The Court shall not make an order under section 6
    unless it is satisfied that—
    (a) the applicant lived in a cohabitational relationship
    with the respondent for a period of not less than
    five years; or
    (b) the applicant has a child arising out of the
    cohabitational relationship; or
    (c) the applicant has made substantial contributions
    of the kind referred to in section 10,
    and that failure to make the order would result in grave injustice
    to the applicant.


“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it."