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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 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

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