Family Law
5 minutes reading time

Common Law Partners: Legal Rights and Responsibilities for Unmarried Couples

Written by
The Tabuchi Law Team
Published on
March 11, 2024

Common Law Partnerships in Ontario


In the eyes of the law a common law partnership is formed when a couple cohabitates, in a relationship for two years or more or, for a duration if they share parenthood.

Legal Recognition:

In Ontario common law relationships are acknowledged, granting couples rights and duties akin, to those of partners.

Rights and Responsibilities:

Common law partners have the following rights, among others:

  • The right to share property and assets acquired during the relationship
  • The right to support, both during the relationship and after its breakdown
  • The right to make decisions about each other's medical treatment and care
  • The right to apply for a restraining order in cases of domestic violence

Dissolution of Common Law Partnership:

In a common law partnership it is possible for the partnership to end if one of the partners passes away. If they decide to separate without plans of getting together. When separation occurs it is important for the partners to fairly divide their belongings and assets taking into account factors like how they have been together and the contributions each partner has made.

Common Law Partnerships in Ontario

In Ontario a common law relationship involves two individuals living together in a partnership, for least three years. It is crucial to understand that this type of partnership differs from marriage with rights and duties for law partners compared to married couples. These partnerships are acknowledged under the Ontario Family Law Act granting entitlements such, as financial support, property division, child custody and inheritance rights. However these entitlements are not automatic emphasizing the need for partners to safeguard their interests through a cohabitation agreement outlining their rights in case of separation or death. Common law partners should also comprehend their responsibilities like providing support to each other and caring for any shared children. If contemplating a law partnership seeking counsel is essential to grasp the full scope of rights and obligations involved.

Domestic Partnerships

In some places domestic partnerships, also known as unions are recognized by the law as an alternative, to marriage. Although there is no legislation for partnerships in Ontario certain common law principles and legal precedents may apply to partners in such relationships. Depending on the situation and the laws in question domestic partners could be entitled to rights and protections as married couples. These rights may involve inheritance, property division and matters concerning child custody and support. It's worth noting that the legal landscape surrounding partnerships can be intricate and differs across provinces. To gain an understanding of the rights and duties of partners in Ontario seeking advice, from a legal expert is recommended.

Property Division

In Ontario when a common law relationship comes to an end the splitting of assets is determined by the Family Law Act. According to the Act assets acquired during the partnership are typically divided equally regardless of ownership. However there are exceptions, such, as assets obtained before the relationship or inherited by one partner. The court considers factors like relationship duration, financial contributions and childrens needs when dividing property between common law partners. If you're in a common law relationship and worried about property division, after separation it's wise to consult with a lawyer to understand your rights and choices.

Property Division

In Ontario when it comes to dividing property for common law couples there are no laws, in place. Instead the courts have established a common law method for property division that hinges on concepts, like enrichment resulting trusts and constructive trusts.

When a common-law partnership dissolves, the courts will consider the following factors in determining how to divide property:

  • The length of the relationship
  • The financial and non-financial contributions of each partner
  • The value of the property
  • The needs of each partner

In cases, like this the courts will also take into account if theres a living agreement that clearly lays out how property will be divided if a couple separates. Dealing with property division, for partners can get quite complicated and tough. Its recommended to consult with a lawyer to make sure your rights are safeguarded.

Child Custody

When a couple who are not married and have children decide to part ways they need to figure out what's best, for the kids, in terms of custody. In Ontario the law focuses on putting the childs well being. When deciding on custody arrangements various factors come into play.

  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child's age and maturity
  • The child's wishes (if they are old enough to express a preference)
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable and supportive home
  • The presence of any domestic violence or abuse
  • Any other relevant factors

Courts generally prefer custody arrangements, where both parents collaborate on decision making and parenting duties. Nonetheless in situations sole custody might be granted to one parent if it is believed to be the beneficial, for the child. Seeking advice, from a professional is crucial to grasp your entitlements and choices concerning child custody.

Support Obligations

In relationships recognized under law partners have a duty to support each other. This entails both individuals being accountable, for offering assistance to one another when necessary. The level and duration of this support are determined by factors such, as the duration of the relationship the income and possessions of each partner and the requirements of the partner. In cases of separation or termination of the partnership court may mandate support obligations.

Child Custody

In Ontario unmarried couples do not receive the rights, as married couples when it comes to child custody by default. If unmarried parents split and cannot agree on custody the court will decide based on what's best, for the child.

The factors considered include:

  • The child's wishes
  • The child's relationship with each parent
  • The stability of each parent's home environment
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child's physical, emotional, and educational needs

Inheritance Rights

Common law partners may be entitled to inheritance rights although the specifics of these rights can vary depending on the region and the legal framework governing the relationship. In areas common law partners might be regarded as spouses when it comes to inheritance matters. In other places they may not automatically inherit anything. It's worth noting that not all jurisdictions recognize law partnerships as marriages, which could impact their entitlement to inheritance rights compared to legally married couples. To safeguard inheritance rights, for law partners its recommended to establish a cohabitation agreement or another legal document that outlines each partners rights and obligations related to inheritance. Seeking guidance, from a lawyer when drafting this agreement is crucial to ensure its legality and enforceability. Additionally common law partners might want to consider creating a will or trust that clearly states their preferences for how their assets should be distributed upon death. This proactive step can help guarantee that their wishes are honored and their assets are divided according to their desires.

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Common Law Partners: Legal Rights and Responsibilities for Unmarried Couples
Family Law
5 min read

Common Law Partners: Legal Rights and Responsibilities for Unmarried Couples

In some places common law partnerships even if not officially considered marriage can grant inheritance rights to partners. These rights differ based on the location and legal system in place. To secure these inheritance rights partners might create cohabitation agreements or formal documents detailing their obligations. Additionally asset distribution preferences can be specified in wills or trusts.