How to end a Common Law Relationship in Ontario

Table of Contents

You can end a common law relationship at any time with no required legal action. Unlike married couples, you do not need a formal divorce to end your relationship.

What about my property?

When you end a common law relationship in Ontario, you are not required to split property. Furniture, clothing and other household items belong to the person who brought them into the home.

What’s yours is yours, but what is shared may not be yours!

However, shared assets or significant financial contributions to a partner’s property can lead to disputes. For common law couples, the division of property when ending the relationship can become a matter of negotiation or legal action, especially if one partner feels they are not getting their fair share.

Legal Notice:

If you are in a common-law relationship without a cohabitation agreement. You are passing rights to your assets over to the government. We work with you and your partner in a collaborative, easy approach to our agreements.

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The Family or Matrimonial Home

What happens when only one spouse bought the home? Or if one spouse moved into another’s previously owned home?

When you end a common law relationship in Ontario, the family or matrimonial home will belong to the person who purchased it and whose name is on title. Unlike married couples, a common law spouse does not have an equal right to possess the home.

The Family Law Act (“FLA“)provides a legal framework for a division of property of married couples, but common law couples do not have statutory property rights. However, common law couples can still make claims for constructive trust allowing them to share the value of the property, even though they did not hold legal title.

The Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Kerr v. Baranow established that unjust enrichment will be the test to determine the distribution of assets when spouses end a common law relationship. What does that mean? If you are not legally on title but contributed to your spouses property, you may have a right to part of it. But you’ll have to prove your entitlement.

Unless your spouse agrees to pay you back, you may have to turn to the courts for help. If you cannot amicably decide on how to end your common law relationship you could decide in a Separation Agreement or initiate a legal action.

Child Support and Custody

Your rights and obligations in terms of child support and child custody are the same for married and common law spouses in Ontario. Both the FLA and the Divorce Act impose on parents an obligation to support a child who is a minor, enrolled in a full-time program of education, or unable “by reason of illness, disability or other case to withdraw from the charge of his or her parents.”

Spousal Support for Common Law Couples

In Ontario, common law spouses have the same rights to spousal support as legally married spouses when the relationship ends. If your relationship meets the definition of common law, you may be entitled to spousal support or be obligated to pay your former partner spousal support.

FAQs about Common Law Relationships in Ontario

Can I divorce my common law spouse?

You do not need a formal divorce to end a common law relationship in Ontario.

Can I kick out my common law spouse?

If you are the person on title and own the home, you have a right to kick out your ex-spouse if the relationship breaks down. Keep in mind that your actions and attitudes towards your now ex-spouse may be a factor to be considered when deciding if your separation has been fair, which could affect support or settlement outcomes.

Is a common law spouse entitled to anything?

Common law spouses are entitled to whatever they brought into or acquired during the relationship. If the common law relationship ends, there is no automatic right to divide or share in the value of property.

Ending a relationship, common law or not, is a big life changing event with emotional and often legal complexities. At Angrove Law, we’re dedicated to providing clear, empathetic legal support during these challenging times. For more personalized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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