Common Law Spouses

More and more of our clients do not marry but live in common law relationships.  Among questions we hear from our clients are: “how long does it take before I am regarded as common law?” and “Common law spouses have the same rights as married spouses, don’ they?”

Common law relationships begin as soon as you start living together as spouses. However if you separate, your rights and obligations (for example regarding spousal support) may not arise until certain time periods are over or conditions are met.

If you are the parents of children and you separate, your rights and obligations (including custody, access and child support issues), as common law parents, are very similar to those of married spouses.

Property rights can be very difficult to sort out however.  The formula for property division for married spouses under Ontario  law does not apply to common law spouses.  They are resolved using, legal principles which depend heavily on the facts of your particular case and who holds title can be very important.

Many of our clients are about to enter into common law relationships, some with significant assets, debts or income. Planning is important and we can help design a cohabitation agreement to suit your needs.  Of course in separation situations, we also assist in negotiating fair and beneficial separation agreements.