The Ontario Family Law Act and Common-Law
- When an unmarried couple separates, they don't have the same rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Family Law Act as people who were legally married. The way the act deals with property rights is one example. Property, including furniture and household goods, is owned by the person who bought it. Unlike married couples, people in a common-law relationship are not entitled to an equal division of the increase in value of the property they acquired during their relationship.
Claim for Share of Property
- A common-law partner who can show that he contributed to the acquisition of property during the relationship may make a claim for a portion of its value. The former couple can negotiate a settlement, or have the issue resolved through arbitration or mediation. If they are unable to agree on how to deal with property bought during their relationship, the matter can be taken to court for a judge to decide.
Support for Former Partner
- Under the provisions of the Ontario Family Law Act, a former common-law partner can request financial support for herself. The couple must have lived together for at least three years, or had or adopted a child in the relationship, for either person to qualify for financial assistance.
As in the case of resolving disputes about property, the former partners can negotiate an arrangement for support. They also have the option of consulting with a mediator or arbitrator to work out an arrangement. Going to court is an option when the matter cannot be resolved between the two parties themselves.
- The Ontario Family Law Act also directs that children born of or adopted during a common-law relationship are entitled to financial support when their parents' relationship breaks down. The provision for child support also extends to children from a previous relationship if the former common-law partner treated the children as his own.
The province of Ontario has child support guidelines that judges use to determine the amount of child support that a non-custodial parent should pay. Going to court over child support issues should be a last resort, and used only after negotiation and other measures to settle the matter have failed.
- The home that a common-law couple shared before their split is treated differently under the Ontario Family Law Act than if they had been legally married. If a judge makes an order for spousal or child support, the document may include a provision whereby the custodial parent can remain in the home the couple shared while they were together. This provision applies even if the couple was renting their residence, or if the custodial parent's name is not on the lease. Legally married couples have an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home.