Nowadays, it is becoming more common for couples to live together before considering getting married, or, if at all. Whether you are creating your Estate Plan or just curious to what the laws are for Common law in Ontario, PeffersLaw is here to keep you informed.

What is Common Law in Ontario

Common law in Ontario refers to a legally recognized partnership between two individuals who have been living together in a conjugal relationship for a certain period of time, typically three years. If a couple has a child together, that period is changed to one year.

While there is no official marriage ceremony or certificate, common law partners are entitled to many of the same rights and responsibilities as married couples, including property rights and support obligations. However, it is important to note that common law marriage is not recognized in the same way as legal marriage, and partners must meet specific criteria in order to qualify for these rights.

In the event of a separation, common law partners may still need to go through a legal process to ensure that their rights and assets are protected. It is recommended that individuals in a common law relationship seek legal advice to understand their rights and obligations under Ontario’s family law.

How does the Family Law Act Protect Common Law couples?

common law couple in Ontario who are angry sitting on the couch

The Family Law Act of Ontario “FLA” defines the criteria for common law status, which vary depending on the legal rights and obligations involved. For example, to be eligible for spousal support, a common law couple must have cohabited for at least three years, or have a child together and cohabit in a relationship of some permanence.

However, to divide property, a common law couple must have a cohabitation agreement, separation agreement or a court order, as they are not subject to the same rules as married couples. Common law couples also have different rights and responsibilities regarding the family home, estate law and health care. Child care and child support are treated the same regardless of marital status under the FLA.

Possession of the Matrimonial Home

In a common law relationship in Ontario, the matrimonial home is not a special category of property. This means that the person whose name is on title of the home can sell it, mortgage it, or exclude the other partner from it, without their consent. The only way for the other partner to claim a share of the home is to prove that they contributed to its value, either financially or through their labour. This can be difficult and costly to do in court. It is always best to consult with a lawyer when it comes to dividing property when a common law relationship ends.

Common Law Relationships & Division of Assets

The division of assets in a common law relationship can be complicated, because there is no automatic right to share property or debts (equalization of net family property) the a way married spouse would have. Each partner usually keeps what they own, unless they have a cohabitation agreement or other evidence that they intended to share. If one partner wants to claim a share of the other’s property, they have to prove that they contributed to it in some way, such as by paying for it, maintaining it, or improving it.

Are Common Law Partners eligible for Spousal Support?

common law partners splitting up

Spousal support is a legal obligation that one spouse may have to provide financial assistance to the other spouse after separation or divorce. The purpose of spousal support is to recognize the economic impact of the relationship and its breakdown, and to help the lower-income spouse meet their needs and become self-sufficient.

Common law partners may be eligible for spousal support if they have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least three years, or if they have a child together. The amount and duration of spousal support will depend on various factors, such as the length of the relationship, the roles and contributions of each partner, the income and assets of each partner, and the needs and circumstances of each partner. Spousal support is not automatic and must be claimed within one year of separation for common law partners.

Does a common-law relationship override a will in Ontario?

No, a common-law relationship does not override a will in Ontario. In fact, if a common law partner dies without a will, the surviving partner may not inherit anything from the estate, unless they are named as a beneficiary on some assets. The law in Ontario treats common law relationships differently from married couples, and the estate of the deceased partner will be distributed to their children and relatives, according to the Succession Law Reform Act. Therefore, it is important for common law partners to have valid Wills that reflect their wishes and protect their interests. This why it is important to consult with a lawyer to see what compensation you mat be entitled to if you have a common-law spouse who has passed away and you were not named in the Will.

Is a common-law partner entitled to anything?

A common law spouse in Ontario is only entitled to what they own and assets that their name is on when the relationship ends. To make a claim for any assets or property that were in their spouses name, they would have to go to court and prove that they financially contributed to that asset.

Is my common-law partner entitled to my money?

splitting money between common law spouses

A common law partner may be entitled to spousal support at the end of the relationship. It is best to consult with a lawyer who specializes in family law to find out whether or not you or your former spouse may make a claim for support.

How do you prove common-law in Ontario?

To prove common law in Ontario, you need to show that you have been living together with your partner in a conjugal relationship for at least three years, or one u year if you have a child together. You can use various documents as evidence, such as joint leases, bills, bank accounts, driver’s licenses, or insurance policies that show the same address. You may also need to provide a declaration or a separation agreement if you were previously married to someone else.

Final Thought

Wrapping it up, if you’re living with your partner as common law in Ontario without being married, it’s super important to know where you stand legally. Common law life has its perks, but don’t forget to look out for each other on paper too. Whether it’s sorting out who gets what or making sure you’re both taken care of if things go sideways, a little planning goes a long way. Laws in Ontario are always changing, so keeping up and consulting with a lawyer can make all the difference in keeping things smooth in your common law journey.