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Wednesday’s Video Clip: Five things you should know about common law relationships?

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Five things you should know about common law relationships?

Simply put, a common law relationship can arise any time two parties are living together without being formally married.  In this video Aleksandra reviews a brief list of the most important legal issues that arise under the Ontario law in connection with support and property issues in these types of relationships.

1. To be considered a common law couple, you and your partner must live together in a “marriage-like” relationship.

This can include partners of the opposite sex, or of the same sex. There are no legal formalities, and no requirement that the parties undergo any sort of ceremony or process to formalize their arrangement.

2. You must have lived together continuously for three years to be considered common-law in Ontario. However, the exception to this is if you and your partner have a child together and are in a “relationship of some permanence”. If you meet this definition, you will still be considered Common-Law, even if you have not lived together for 3 years.

There are many factors that courts may consider when determining this aspect of the definition. In general, courts will consider the couple’s lifestyle, including shared accommodation, personal and sexual habits, social interaction, financial support for each other and for any children, and how the couple is perceived by society or the public. Furthermore, while there is a requirement that the partners must live together “continuously” for three years, temporary break-ups without a settled intention to end the relationship will usually not interrupt the continuity of the relationship for these purposes.

 3. You can enter into a cohabitation agreement, just like legally-married couples.

Partners in a common law relationship are entitled to enter into a cohabitation agreement as a means of protecting their property rights, or to settle upon financial obligations such as support, or to determine what rights each party would have upon separation. However – as with domestic contracts generally – any such agreement cannot include matters pertaining to access to or custody of children.

4. You may still have certain rights in connection with your partner’s property.

In Ontario, common law partners do not have the same property rights as people who are legally married. Generally speaking, property such as furniture and household items continues to be owned by the person who brought it into the union. However, in the right circumstances partners in a common law relationship may still make claims against each other’s property, based on the concept of “unjust enrichment.” This stems from the concept that one partner in the relationship should not be allowed to profit at the other partner’s expense, in terms of their respective contributions to the union.

5. You may still have the right to spousal support.

Like married couples, common-law partners may be entitled to spousal support from each other when their relationship ends? An order for the support of a spouse is meant to (1) recognize the spouse’s contribution to the relationship and the economic consequences of the relationship for the recipient spouse; (2) share the economic burden of child support equitably, (3) assist the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient in the long-term, and (4) relieve financial hardship.  The Ontario Family Law Act outlines a list of factors that should be considered in determining the amount and duration, if any, of spousal support.

We hope you have found this video helpful.  If you require further information about common law relationships please give us a call or visit our website at

  1. magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts
    of this sector do not notice this. You must continue
    your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

    January 16, 2013
    • Thanks for the comments Jefferson.

      January 24, 2013

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