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Oshawa Common-Law Spouses Lawyers

While not everyone gets married, some couples are legally able to call themselves spouses and are recognized as such by courts. In Ontario, common-law spouses are couples who have lived together for at least three years, or one year if they have a child. Under provincial family legislation, common-law spouses are included in the definition of spouse. They can receive spousal support and child support. However, they are not entirely equal to married couples in terms of coverage under the law. At Borden Family Law, we have advised clients on family law matters for 17 years, including on separation, and what that means for common-law couples. We work closely with each of our clients to understand the nature of their relationship, and help them come to an agreement that works best for each of them.

Am I in a Common-Law Relationship?

Many people may be in a common-law relationship and not even realize it. Legally, you are considered “common-law” if you have lived with your partner for at least 3 years, or one year if you have a child together. In order to get the benefits of being a common-law couple, you will have to prove that you are in a common-law relationship. There are a few was to prove this:
  • Shared ownership of residential property;
  • Joint leases or rental agreement;
  • Bills for shared utility accounts (gas, electricity, etc.); and
  • Insurance documents or driver’s licences indicating that you both have the same address;
Courts will often look at some other factors to determine whether a couple is common-law:
  • Do you actually live together (not just shared ownership);
  • Personal and sexual behaviour;
  • Do you and your partner help each other ways that a traditional family would?;
  • Do you and your partner portray your relationship to be as a couple?;
  • How does the community view your relationship?;
  • Do you and your partner support each other financially? Does one partner support the other?; and
  • Do you have children together? Do you interact with each other children in a way that would be viewed as parental?

Spousal Support for Common-Law Couples

Since a common-law spouse is within the definition of “spouse” under Ontario legislation, common-law spouses have the same rights and obligations as married couples, and are entitled to spousal support when they separate. This means that the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG”) also apply to common-law couples. The SSAG help lawyers and the courts determine the amount and duration of spousal support. Some of the factors that are considered include:
  • Your income and your spouse’s income;
  • Your assets and your spouse’s assets;
  • Your age and your spouse’s age;
  • The length of the relationship;
  • Any contribution you’ve have made to your spouse’s career, or vice versa;
  • Your ability to be self-sufficient, and vice versa; and
  • Any hardship experienced by you or your spouse due to the breakdown of the relationship.
Common-law spouses are entitled to share the value of their former spouse’s pension plan after separation, if they agree to share it. Cohabitation agreements can be useful in dealing with this and other issues of spousal support. Couples can come to an agreement about how they want to support each other, and any children they have.

Property Division for Common-Law Couples

Common-law couples are often treated as married couples in the eyes of the law, except in one area: property division. The property division rules found in the legislation that governs family law in Ontario do not apply to common-law couples. The property that an individual brings into the relationship, plus any increase or decrease in its value, will usually continue to belong to that spouse. You do not have a right to divide or share the value of the property automatically when you separate. The court often decides that right. This includes the matrimonial home. Unless both spouses’ names are on the title, once separated, the spouse whose name is not on the title may be evicted. For married couples, the spouses cannot sell or mortgage the home without the other spouse’s permission, regardless of whose name is on the title. The courts may award payments to a spouse to avoid what is called “unjust enrichment.” This is when one spouse as either directly or indirectly contributed to a property that the other spouse owns. For example: if you gave up your career to stay at home and do unpaid work (including housework) while your spouse went to school, got a degree, and has a job outside the home, you may be entitled to compensation. This is to protect one spouse from essentially being taken advantage of. Common-law spouses can sign agreements regarding property and support, and child support if needed. These included cohabitation agreementsseparation agreements, and paternity agreements. If there are disputes that arise from these agreements, seeing a lawyer would be useful.

Knowledgeable and Strategic Oshawa Family Lawyers Advising Clients on Common-Law Spousal Matters

At Borden Family Law, we have been helping clients with their common-law relationship questions for more than 17 years. We understand that the breakdown of a relationship is difficult, no matter what type of relationship it is. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you and your spouse come to arrangements that are agreeable for both of you, regardless of what stage the 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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