How To Figure Out If You Are in An Ontario Common Law Relationship

If you are married in Ontario, it is not the same thing as being in a common-law relationship. Married people have different rights and can get divorced.

If you are married and your spouse dies, you can file a family law election to obtain a division of your family property.

Common Law Relationships in Ontario

Common-law partners are not married. This is regardless of how long they are together. They have no automatic rights to inherit family property in Ontario. This right is given to married persons only.

If you are a common-law partner, you have other remedies for support in the event of the death of a common-law partner.

In Ontario, you cannot register a “domestic partnership” as in a few other provinces, which officially starts a common-law relationship. In Ontario, you may have to prove when the relationship started. Filing income taxes, a change of address and even a library card can help.

Your common law rights depend on how long you have been cohabiting or if a child is born.

Taxes and Common-Law Partners

The Canada Revenue Agency website, for example, has different definitions.

According to the Government of Canada website, marital status means that if you have a spouse, you are married.

Common-law spouses, on the other hand, are people who live in a relationship with a person who is not your married spouse. And at least one of the following conditions applies:

 – You have been living together in a conjugal relationship for 12 continuous months (for tax purposes)

 – This person is a parent of your child by birth or adoption

 – This person is in control of your child and your child is wholly dependent on them for support

Ontario Court Cases

There is a leading court case in Ontario. It lists seven factors to prove if you’re in a common-law relationship.

These factors are not conclusive. That means that each individual case must be considered when asking these seven questions:

  1. Shared shelter – what were the sleeping arrangements (you don’t have to live in the same house)
  2. Sexual and personal behaviour towards each other
  3. Services – how the parties shared work
  4. Social functions – conduct in the community and families
  5. Societal – how the community treats them as a couple
  6. What economic support was given – food, clothing, shelter
  7. Children – your behaviours concerning children

A conjugal relationship of some sort has degrees of permanence and interdependence that could include financial, social, emotional and physical factors. Conjugal does not only mean sexual relations.

If you can meet the definition of a common-law spouse, you may have entitlement to certain legal remedies in Ontario.

The law assumes marriage is a partnership and the law allows you to share the value of all your family property

Ontario Common Law Partners Have Legal Remedies

When a common law relationship ends, there is usually no sharing of property. You can vary your rights by a contract or cohabitation agreement.

It may be hard to get a share of assets if you cannot prove you contributed to the purchase of property or are not a registered owner. Make sure your partner has provided for you.

You may need to go to court in Ontario and sue for dependant’s relief (support), unjust enrichment, and seek remedies like a constructive trust or a joint family venture.

Have questions about your rights in an estate as a common law partner? Call me.