Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Delusion of Permanence

"We decided to move, and then we were in a position deciding whether to rent or to buy and so, Colin sold his townhouse and then we bought a house in Calgary together."
"Marriage was never part of the conversation."
"I don't feel entitled to something that I didn't earn. And it's not that I don't feel like this is half my house, it is ... When I have more solid work and as time goes by, it will end up being a more equitable purchase."
Charmaine Ferguson, Calgary

"Marriage is going to be a decision, to me, which is entirely based on your love to [sic] that person, your commitment for that person, your willingness to go forward and support that person."
"It's not in any way a financial decision for me."
Colin Andrews, Calgary
Chris Bolin for National Post
Chris Bolin for National Post   Charmaine Ferguson and Colin Anderson bought a house together, but they're not married, or even engaged
"We live in a time where people don't necessarily see marriage as necessary for making all kinds of commitments."
"I think for a lot of young couples, buying a home is an economic decision and it's a better idea than renting. I say this not as a sociologist who studied it, but also as someone who did this personally."
"For me, buying a home with someone felt like less of a commitment than getting married. It's relatively easy to sell a home if you decide you want to do that, but getting divorced is a much more complicated thing."
Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology, New York University

"The Supreme Court of Canada case that was in the last couple of years says if you live as husband and wife, legally you should be treated the same way when it comes to property."
"However, as is their wont, they didn't give any guidelines at all."
"The longer you live together, the deeper the roots and the more you will resemble a legally married couple."
"Not to have a road map as to what you're going to do in the event of a breakdown, whether it be common law or marital, in my mind is crazy. You're really taking a big chance that you know what the odds are."
Donald S. Baker, family law specialist, Baker and Baker, Toronto

The odds are in the commitment a couple has decided to mutually invest in. Assuming that it is mutual respect and love and companionship and a wish to live together as a family that motivates them. Conventionally, it has always been marriage first, followed by the acquisition of a home in which to live and presumably, raise a family. It certainly is no casual decision for a couple to decide to couple their lives with one another.

And nor is it a casual commitment entirely to buy a home together, since that too is a hurdle to be passed; investing in their common future. Which makes it all the more puzzling that the woman, 31, gives the impression of being content with the more casual relationship rather than one that is legally and emotionally binding, with all the responsibilities to one another inherent in the marriage covenant.

All of which makes a hash of the man's statement that marriage represents a decision entirely based on love, since love is their prime motive for living together and making a home investment. The decision does speak of independence for the woman, and a more hazy commitment on the man's part. Both represent a spillover from the movement for female liberation. The alliance is a tendentiously uncertain one, not entirely beneficial to the woman.

This is a couple who met at age 28 and who have been involved in a common-law relationship for the past three years. Three years should be ample time for a man and a woman to determine whether they are suited to one another to the point where marriage seems desirable. They are among the growing trend of young Canadians preferring to live common-law, though research indicates that these relationships are more fraught than traditional marriages.

But according to Statistics Canada, the number of people who choose that route is rising, and has done almost 14% over the years 2006 to 2011, the last years for which that data is available. Of the common law couples, a study conducted in 2013 by a real estate company in the U.S. found 17 percent of such couples bought a home prior to marriage; among a younger cohort that number rose to 24 percent.

In Canada, common-law marriage does not appear in the legal code; automatic rights to property in marriage-like relationships are not assured, with provinces and government agencies having their own interpretations of how such relationships are to be parsed as far as property rights go. For those whose relationship reflects that of marriage, who buy property together, most of the same protections under the law are similar to legally married couples.

For a married couple from the day of the wedding, however, the law recognizes their legal bond as a true partnership irrespective of who pays for what, and if a breakdown of marriage occurs, everything is equally divided. For an unmarried pair this protection is afforded insofar as their relationship fits a mould: Do they use a joint bank account? How long have they been a couple?

For the couple in question, the man provided the entire down payment, while the woman contributes to the monthly mortgage and maintenance payments, proportional to her income. Were they to dissolve their relationship, the courts would be likely to hand over the house to the man, and the woman's contributions to date considered rent, without claim to the property. In marriage, this would not be the case.

This speaks to the brevity of their relationship thus far. Should it endure, the longer the couple live together the deeper the investment is assumed to be, more resembling a traditional legally married pair. No federal legislation as yet speaks to common-law couples and couples who together buy property.

The solution may be to examining the issue closely before committing to a dual purchase of anything as substantial as property, to write up a cohabitation agreement as a legal document, setting out the mutually-agreed-upon rights and responsibilities of each of the principals.

Video thumbnail for What to do if you buy a house before a ring

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