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Common Law Relationships

Comparing Common Law and Married Couples Rights in Ontario

Understanding Common Law Rights in Ontario

Contrary to popular belief, common law partners do not have the same rights and obligations as married couples. It's important to know Ontario common law and the distinctions between cohabiting partners and married spouses in order to safeguard yourself in the event that your relationship dissolves. Feldstein Family Law Group P.C. has over 20 years of experience and can offer you insightful advice about your rights as a common law partner in Toronto, Mississauga, Markham, Oakville, Vaughan, and the surrounding areas. We can help with common law couples' legal issues with regard to assets, property, child support, custody, and separation.

Criteria for Common Law Partnership

If a couple has lived together consistently in a married partnership for three years or longer, they are regarded as common law partners in Ontario. If they are cohabiting for one year straight and have a child together, either by birth or adoption, it counts.

Definition of Conjugal Relationship

In Canada, a "conjugal relationship" is more than just a sexual partnership. In addition to a sexual relationship, it includes shared living arrangements, finances, social circles, and emotional ties.

Property Division under Ontario Common Law

Equal share of marital gains is the basis for property split under the Family Law Act (FLA). However, cohabiting couples are not covered by this regime; only legally married spouses are. Consequently, the FLA's equalization of family property does not benefit cohabiting spouses.

Remedies for Cohabitating Spouses

Common law couples have access to legal remedies such as constructive trust deriving from unjust enrichment, even though they do not have equalization rights. A cohabiting spouse's rights to property, including the marital residence, are granted by this trust in proportion to their contributions to its purchase, upkeep, and preservation.

Possession of the Matrimonial Home

Under the FLA, both spouses in Ontario have equal rights to the matrimonial home, regardless of who owns the title. In order to guarantee safety or safeguard the interests of minors, courts may grant orders for exclusive possession.

Options for Cohabitating Spouses

Cohabiting couples have a number of choices for regaining possession of the marital residence or getting paid for their contributions, such as:

1. Seeking spousal support orders under the FLA.

2. Applying for a constructive trust over the matrimonial home, granting joint possessory rights.

3. Seeking restraining orders for safety concerns.

4. Enforcing bail conditions to exclude offenders from the matrimonial home in criminal cases.

Common Law Relationships & Division of Assets

In a common law relationship, the person with legal title usually owns any property obtained. Unlike in married situations, there is no equalization payment or computation of net family property. Common law partners may, however, pursue payment for their contributions to the purchase, upkeep, or preservation of property through resultant trusts, constructive trusts, or claims of unjust enrichment.


It's critical to comprehend the legal differences between common law and marital partnerships in Ontario if you want to safeguard your rights and interests. If you're in a common law relationship and would like assistance with legal concerns or clarification regarding your legal standing, speak with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys for advice and support.

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