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4 Facts You Did NOT Know About Common Law Separation In Ontario


There can be no doubt that the notion of the traditional family has evolved over the last few decades, but you might find it interesting to review some statistics on the prevalence of common law relationships. According to the Institute of Marriage and Family in Canada, the number of couples cohabitating rose more than 51 percent between 2001 and 2016. Around 1 in 5 couples were living in a common law arrangement by 2016, up from just over 6 percent since 1981. Another figure might be sobering, however: Relationships that start with cohabitation are almost twice as likely to dissolve compared to couples who married.

If you are considering ending a common law separation, you should get a basic understanding of how the laws apply to your situation. Since many of these issues carry over from Canadian divorce laws, it is wise to work with a Mississauga divorce lawyer. Still, there are some facts you may not know about common law separation – but should: 

  1. Ontario Law Governs Common Law Relationships: While the federal Divorce Act enacted by Parliament extends jurisdiction over marriage and divorce, it is provincial laws that dictate the nature of common law relationships. In Ontario, you must have been cohabitating for at least three years to be considered a common law couple. Alternatively, if you have a child together or some other indications of permanence in your relationship, you may also fall under this definition. 
  1. How Property Division Works: Contrary to the laws that apply to married couples, each party to a common law relationship is allowed to keep his or her own belongings. When an asset is in both names, the value of that real estate or personal property is split equally between them. Usually this is accomplished by one person buying out the other, or they can sell and divide the proceeds. 
  1. Addressing Minor Children: Child custody and visitation laws do not vary based upon whether the parties are or were never married. Both parents will have the authority to make decisions regarding how to raise the child, such as:
  • Education;
  • Medical care;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Religion; and
  • Travel and entertainment. 

Joint custody is the preferred arrangement because it enables the child to have a relationship with both parents, but sole custody may be awarded in cases of abuse or violence.

  1. Cohabitation Agreements Offer Certainty: Common law couples can enter into a contract similar to a prenuptial agreement, which can cover property division and spousal support. Doing so provides certainty if you separate, and cohabitation agreements are enforceable in court. However, the contract cannot cover issues related to minor children, which are governed by statute.

Set Up a Consultation with a Skilled Mississauga, ON Divorce Lawyer

These facts about common law separation are helpful, but you can trust our team at Zagazeta Garcia Lawyers LLP to handle the details. For information on how we can help, please call 905-232-0398 or visit our website to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients Mississauga, Brampton, and the Peel Region, and we look forward to hearing from you.



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