Here’s a recipe for a happy relationship: flowers, chocolate andagreement about legal and financial matters. The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, theLegal Information Society of Nova Scotia and the Senior Citizens’Secretariat combined these ingredients today, Feb. 11, at thelaunch of “And They Lived Happily Ever After…the rights andresponsibilities of common law partners.” “Living common law has become more frequent in all age groups,”said Doreen Paris, chair of the Advisory Council. “People makingthat choice need to think carefully and talk about what theyexpect from their relationships.” The publication was created in response to the many calls NovaScotians, and particularly Nova Scotian women, made to the threesponsoring agencies. “And They Lived Happily Ever After… gives common law partnersinformation about rights and responsibilities in relationships sothey can build strong, stable relationships,” said Maria Franks,executive director, Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia. “Italso lets couples know what their rights and responsibilities areif the relationship ends.” Nova Scotia’s laws define the rights and responsibilities ofmarried couples and of couples who register domesticpartnerships. However, for partners living in a common lawrelationship, the law is not always as clear. People at all stages of life choose to live in common lawrelationships, and Statistics Canada research shows they arechoosing it more often. In the 1981 census, 5.6 per cent offamilies reported living common law. In 2001, that number hadincreased to 14 per cent. “Common law living is a choice that seniors are making more andmore often,” said Valerie White, executive director of the SeniorCitizens’ Secretariat. “Senior citizens who live common law facethe same issues as younger couples. They may also have concernsabout inheritance and entitlement to pensions and otherbenefits.” Seniors who live common law may have been married before and hadtheir relationships end in divorce or widowhood. They may chooseto live common law because they want to preserve their estate fortheir children or they think they would lose certain benefits ifthey remarried. People who choose to live together should discuss issues such astheir expectations about sharing expenses and property. Seniorcouples need to talk about what they want to do about consent tomedical care or about provision for the other partner if onedies. For same-sex couples, the issues are more complicated becausetheir registered domestic partnerships are not recognized byfederal law. These couples need to think about the legalpossibilities of all the situations that can arise over the lifeof their relationship, including the sharing of expenses anddebts, household responsibilities, ownership of property, accessto each other’s employee benefits, responsibilities for children,consent to medical treatment, and drafting of wills. Sometimes couples choose to live together to avoid what they seeas the legal hassles of marriage. In fact, the legal hassles ofliving together can be even more complex if there is no clearagreement about the issues. The Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the Senior Citizens’Secretariat and the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotiarecommend that people considering living together or couples whoalready live common law talk about the legal and financial issuesof the relationship. With legal advice, results of thoseconversations can be put in a cohabitation agreement. Copies of the book are available from the offices of the advisorycouncil, Senior Citizens’ Secretariat and the Legal InformationSociety of Nova Scotia and through public libraries across theprovince. It can also be downloaded from the websites of thethree sponsoring agencies, at www.gov.ns.ca/staw/ ,www.gov.ns.ca/scs , and www.legalinfo.org .