What defines a common-law relationship in Ontario?

The legal definition of common law relationships fall under provincial jurisdiction – common law unions are not the same across the country. How they are viewed legally differs from province-to-province. Our law firm in Peterborough provides guidance for common-law separations in Ontario. To have common-law standing in Ontario you must live together in a conjugal relationship for three years or more, or you have a child together and are in a relationship of some permanence.

Common law spouses generally have fewer legal rights than married spouses upon separation.

When it comes to common law separation, there are two important rights that married spouses have which common law spouses do not:

  • Common-law partners do not have equal rights to live in the family home.
  • Common-law partners do not have the automatic right to equalize their family property that was acquired during their relationship.

Property rights in common law separations.

In most cases, furniture, household belongings and other property belong to the person who bought them. As a common-law couple, you do not have the legal right to divide the increase in value of property earned throughout the relationship with your partner. In the case that you have contributed to property that your spouse owns, you may have a right to part of it. You may have to go through court to get back your contribution if your common law partner does not agree to pay you back through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Our law firm can advise on you on property rights during your common-law separation.