Some of the most common questions I am a family lawyer are: « What am I getting into with my girlfriend / boyfriend? » And « When do we become common law? ». They’re pretty important questions.
I think one of the reasons why it is so much more important because it is legislated by the provinces, so it depends on where you live. That means my answer to these questions only applies to Ontario.
In Ontario, spousal support and the division of property under the Family Law Act .
For the purposes of support, non-married couples become « spouses » or « common-law partners » if they:
at. Have lived together continuously for at least three years ; gold
b. Have a child together and are in a relationship of some permanence.
That means, if you do not have children together (biological or adoptive), you only have to start risking / being entitled to spousal support after living together for three years.
If you have a child together, and are in a relationship, you may have to pay, or spousal support. As a side note, you have a child together, child support becomes an issue in the relationship (or lack thereof).
Canada Revenue Agency currently treats an individual’s partner to a common-law spouse for tax purposes after a couple has lived together for one year or they have a child together. This does not impact your family law or obligations.
According to the Family Law Act , non-married couples are not entitled to receive the same benefits. They accumulate during the marriage.
That means that you will not be entitled to divide property. That is, unless you get married or you sign a domestic contract or cohabitation agreement opting into a property sharing regime.
However, common-law couples can gain an interest in their property through equitable remedies. The most common equitable claim is unjust enrichment. Generally, this clause requires them to have an interest in their property, which they have taken actions, to their detriment, which has benefited from the financial situation of the other spouse. An example of a legal agreement could be agreed upon; in that case, a claim for unjust enrichment for the grass would be unsuccessful. An actual example of unjust enrichment would be one spouse spends a significant amount of time and money making disproportionate to any benefit they can get from just being able to live in the house. This area of law is very discretionary and based on the facts in each scenario. Long story short – confirming your expectations of reimbursement. Otherwise you can end up in a sticky legal situation. These legal battles sometimes cost more than the assets in question.
One final property to look out for: joint assets and debts. If you put money into a joint account or asset, Note that there may be just such a remedy, but all the warnings about a better outcome. Similarly, joint debts are not allowed to be incurred by the debtors – so make sure your partner is not incurring debt in your company.
The take-away message may not be possible, but you may not be able to do so in the future able to claim unjust enrichment or other equitable remedies. The default position created by the Family Law Act can be altered by contract. That means you can opt in to property sharing, or opt out of spousal support, or clarify / waive each other’s rights to a betterment by signing a cohabitation agreement.
It never hurts to contact your lawyer, but you have been in contact with your expectations, especially if you have been in a lengthy common-law relationship.
Contact Family Lawyer Alice Weatherston by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 613-683-8113. Interested in reading more? Check out our other articles related to common law and family law, by clicking here .