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Common-law rights under family law

Region: Ontario Answer # 0123

If you are living in a common-law relationship, you will have a number of rights and obligations arising under family law. These include child custody and child and spousal support, as well as rights to property.

How is a common-law relationship created under family law?

In Ontario, there are two ways for a common-law relationship to be legally created under family law:

  1. When two people have been living together in a conjugal relationship for three continuous years, or
  2. When two people have been living together in an ongoing relationship (for any period of time) and they have a child together.

Sometimes it may not be clear if two people have been living common-law. The law tries to decide whether two people have created a common-law relationship by looking at whether they cohabit. Incidents of cohabitation will include whether one person was financially supporting the other person, whether they have had a sexual relationship and whether they shared household expenses and child raising duties.

Child custody and support

Whether a couple is considered to be in a common-law relationship is not relevant when determining child custody and support. The laws relating to child custody and support are the same for married couples and common-law couples. Child custody and support is based on being a parent, legal guardian or being determined to be in loco parentis (a person having the legal responsibility to take on parental obligations).

Spousal support

If you are considered to be living in a common-law relationship under family law, you may have a right to receive, or an obligation to pay spousal support if you separate from your common-law partner.

Property rights

In Ontario, property rights for those who are not legally married are not automatic. Each partner generally gets to keep the property they brought into the relationship, and jointly owned property is shared. However, there are circumstances in which one common-law spouse may be able to claim rights for property belonging to the other spouse.

A criminal record will affect child custody and adoption. To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-877-219-1644 or learn more at Federal Pardon Waiver Services. It’s easier than you think.

Getting advice and the legal help you need

Whether you are considering or are already living in a common-law relationship, many couples now seek legal advice, and often enter into cohabitation agreements, which set out what will happen should the relationship fail. It is advisable to get the legal help that’s right for you. If you are considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you may wish to get help from The Family Law Coach. Their experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, advice and practical tips to help you prepare your case and improve your outcome. They provide specific services for fixed prices, and you only pay for the services you want. If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance regarding common-law relationships and rights and obligations under family law, contact a family law lawyer.

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You want to balance your mortgage, kids’ education, and retirement savings. Are you saving enough to meet your goals and be ready for retirement? An advisor has the expertise to get you on track to achieve your long-term goals, and can help you set realistic planning targets and stick to your plan. Contact an Empire Life advisor today for more information.


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