Common-law status of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on October 19, 2015.


Common-law status refers to whether the person is living with a person of the opposite sex or of the same sex as a couple but is not legally married to that person. All persons aged less than 15 are considered as not living common law.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programmes.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard generally conforms to the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2", 2008. The Principles recognize that in some countries it will be necessary to take customary unions such as consensual unions into account. Living common law is the form of consensual union found in Canada.


Relation to previous version

  • Common-law status of person October 19, 2015 to current

    The statistical unit has been changed from "person 15 years or over" to "person", allowing the inclusion of information about the classification of persons aged less than 15. The definition of "living common law" has been simplified but no essential change has been made.

  • Common-law status of person 15 years or over October 20, 2008 to October 18, 2015

    The previous standard only defined common-law status as "living with a person of the opposite sex as a partner in a common-law union" (emphasis added). This standard expands the definition, in coherence with current practice, to include living with a same sex partner. Also, this standard adds that common-law status includes situations where the members of the couple are living apart temporarily because of illness, work or school. Such situations were not specifically referred to in the previous standard.

  • Common-law status July 15, 1998 to October 19, 2008
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