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Differentiating a Common-Law Union From Marriage in Family Law

December 9, 2019

In the past, marriage was the most popular option for couples who intended to spend their lives with each other. Nowadays, other arrangements are becoming more and more common. One alternative that many couples choose is a common-law union. There are many similarities between a common-law union and a marriage. However, a marriage and a common-law relationship are recognized in different ways by family law in Toronto when deciding certain matters. If your relationship is thriving, the differences may not be of any concern to you. But your relationship status may affect your rights should your union come to an end.

The main differences between a common-law union and a marriage

Marriage requires a formal, legal ceremony while a common-law union is one in which an unmarried couple lives together. As soon as a married couple signs their marriage certificate, they are recognized as spouses. On the other hand, family law in Toronto sees common-law couples as spouses only after they have cohabitated continuously for at least three years, or if they are in a committed relationship, have lived together for any period and have a child together.

Here’s how the law views your relationship in relation to specific matters:

Spousal and Child Support

At the end of your relationship, you may be entitled to spousal support, whether you are married or a common-law spouse. Likewise, your children will still have a right to child support regardless of your relationship status.

Child Custody and Access

As is the case with financial support, your relationship status has no bearing on your parental rights. So, if you have children, you and your spouse will have equal rights and responsibilities for the care of your children unless otherwise dictated by a court order.

Division of property

The law has specific guidelines for how property will be split between couples that were formally married, but there are no such guidelines for common-law spouses. For that reason, the division of assets is more complicated for unmarried couples. When a common-law union ends, the courts will look at the duration and the extent of your investment in the relationship to determine how assets should be shared.

Who gets the house?

Another matter in which you will see a difference between a marriage and common-law union is when it comes to who will maintain ownership of the house in which you lived. In a marriage, you will have an automatic legal right to the marital home, regardless of who made the purchase. At the end of a common-law union, the spouse that is the legal titleholder will keep the house no matter how long you lived together.

Do you need the help of a Toronto family lawyer?

A separation does not always play out the way you think it will. Therefore, you should consult a family lawyer to ensure your rights are protected, whether you were married or in a common-law relationship.

If you are separating from your spouse and searching for a Toronto family lawyer, contact us at Baker and Baker Family Law. At Baker and Baker Family Law, we can help you and your spouse to create a legally binding separation agreement. In this contract, we can address issues regarding child custody, access and support; spousal support, possession of the marital home and division of property, as well as any other matters that are important to you and your family.

So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Toronto family lawyers. Let us show you how we can help.

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