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Oshawa Lawyers Advising Clients on Cohabitation

More and more couples are choosing to live together before they get married, or to live together in a common-law relationship instead of getting married. While the decision to live with a partner is exciting and marks a big step in a romantic relationship, partners should be aware of the legal implications of long-term “cohabitation.” At Borden Family Law, we have advised clients on family law matters for 17 years, including determining your rights as someone who is cohabiting with another person. We work closely with each of our clients to determine the nature of their relationship, and advise them on any issues that may potentially arise down the road, as well as what they can do to avoid any problems.

What is Cohabitation?

Cohabitation is legally defined in Ontario as living together in a conjugal relationship, whether that is within or outside the confines of marriage. If you have been cohabiting for 3 years or more, you can be deemed to be a common-law couple. If you are a common-law couple, there are a number of legal implications and risks if you decide to end your relationship with your partner.

Why does Cohabitation Matter?

Cohabitation is important because there are several significant rights and obligations that are triggered once it is determined that you are in a common-law relationship with your partner. For instance, common-law spouses are entitled to spousal support, and some property rights. Couples often enter into cohabitation agreements when they live together. These agreements help common-law couples set out their obligations to each other during the relationship, and address issues like support, property rights, asset division, and child support if the relationship comes to an end. Many cases that have come before the courts have been for the purpose of determining whether the couples did in fact cohabit. Sometimes this means re-evaluating the definition of “cohabit” per factors that have been outlined by courts over the years.

What factors are used to determine Cohabitation?

Ontario legislation does not lay out what the factors are for determining cohabitation. In situations like this, the courts step in and will often lay out a test, or a list of factors, which courts and lawyers subsequently rely on. In Ontario, the generally accepted characteristics of a conjugal relationship are the following:
  • Shelter: What were the sleeping arrangements?
  • Sexual and Personal Behaviour:
    • Did the parties have sexual relations? If not, why not?
    • Did they communicate on a personal level?
  • Services: What was the conduct and habit of the parties in relation to:
    • Preparation of meals
  • Social: Did they participate together or separately in neighbourhood and community activities?
  • Societal: What was the attitude and conduct of the community towards each of them and as a couple?
  • Support (Economic): What were the financial arrangements between the parties regarding the provision of or contribution towards the necessaries of life (food, clothing, shelter, recreation, etc.)?
  • Children: What was the attitude and conduct of the parties concerning children?
Not all these factors are required to prove a relationship is conjugal and therefore cohabitation exists. However, the more factors that are present, the more likely the court will find that there was cohabitation, and therefore a common law relationship, and the more likely the partners will have significant legal obligations towards one another.

Knowledgeable and Strategic Oshawa Family Lawyers Advising Clients on Cohabitation Matters

At Borden Family Law, we have been providing clients with answers to their questions about cohabitation, preparing cohabitation agreements, and guiding clients upon breakdown of a common-law relationship for more than 17 years. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you and your partner come to arrangements that are agreeable for both of you, regardless of what stage your relationship is in. Call us at 905-576-6090, or contact us online. Ask about our bundled services and flat fees.
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