What Are Your Rights at the End of a Common-Law Union in Ontario?
In Ontario, a relationship is recognized as a common-law union when a couple has lived together in a conjugal relationship for at least three years. If this couple has children together, either by birth or adoption, the relationship will be recognized as a common-law union after the couple has lived together for one year.
Many couples nowadays opt not to get married as they believe there are no real differences between a marriage and a common-law union. While distinctions between a marriage and a common-law union may be difficult to discern during the relationship, the differences become more apparent once a couple separates.
What happens if a common-law union ends?
At the end of a common-law union, partners are not entitled to a share of each other’s assets. In contrast, spouses who were formally married are entitled to a share of any assets acquired during the marriage. Furthermore, a common-law partner is not necessarily entitled to stay in the home the couple shared unless they are listed on the title or lease agreement. Married couples, on the other hand, have an automatic right to the matrimonial home even if the purchase or lease was taken out by only one of the spouses.
Fortunately, there are provisions in the family law act that allow you to claim an interest in property or compensation in exchange for the contributions you made during a common-law union. At the end of a common-law union, you may make one of the following claims:
1. Resulting Trust
If you funded the acquisition of a property, whether in part or in full, it would be unfair for you not to retain some interest in that property. Under such circumstances, you can claim a resulting trust. To benefit from a resulting trust, you must be able to show proof of a common intention that the property would be shared between both individuals and not solely be owned by the partner in whom the estate was vested.
2. Constructive Trust
If you did not pay for the property but contributed to its value, either by your work or money spent on improvements, you may be entitled to a share of the value or increase in value after separation through a constructive trust. There must be an enrichment of one partner and a corresponding deprivation of the other for the courts to impose a constructive trust. However, if the enrichment of one partner occurred because the other made the contributions as a gift or if there is a contract in place, you may not be entitled to a constructive trust.
3. Unjust enrichment
If you cannot show a connection between your contribution and the property value, you may claim for unjust enrichment. Since a common-law spouse is under no obligation to render services to their partner, it should be assumed that they will be compensated for their contributions. With a claim for unjust enrichment, the partner that benefits must reimburse the deprived party in the amount they would have had to pay for the services the deprived party rendered.
Consult a common-law marriage lawyer to ensure your rights are protected
If you are experiencing a breakdown in your common-law relationship and your partner do not agree on what you are entitled to, contact us at Baker and Baker Family. At Baker and Baker Family Law, our common-law marriage lawyers can assist you in determining fair and reasonable compensation for all that you gave to the relationship and help to ensure that you are treated fairly under Ontario family law.