Common-law relationships.

Common-law relationships in Ontario are governed by specific regulations outlined in provincial legislation. Here’s an overview of common-law couples’ rights and regulations in Ontario:

Definition of Common-Law Relationships

In Ontario, common-law relationships are defined under the Family Law Act. According to this legislation, a common-law relationship exists when two individuals have lived together in a conjugal relationship continuously for at least three years. Additionally, the Act considers couples who have lived together for less than three years but have a child together as common-law partners.

Rights and Obligations

1. Property Rights: Common-law partners in Ontario do not automatically have the same property rights as married couples. However, if a common-law relationship ends, each partner may be entitled to a share of property acquired during the relationship if they can demonstrate contributions to its acquisition or maintenance.

2. Spousal Support: Unlike married couples, common-law partners do not have an automatic entitlement to spousal support under Ontario law. However, if one partner can establish financial dependence on the other and significant contributions to the relationship, they may be eligible for spousal support upon separation.

3. Children’s Rights: Common-law partners share similar rights and responsibilities regarding children as married couples. This includes custody, access, and child support obligations.

Cohabitation Agreements

To clarify rights and responsibilities in a common-law relationship, couples in Ontario can enter into cohabitation agreements. These legal contracts outline how property, finances, and other matters will be handled in the event of a relationship breakdown. Cohabitation agreements can help prevent disputes and provide clarity for both partners.

Legal Recognition and Registration

Unlike marriage, common-law relationships in Ontario do not require registration or formal recognition by the government. As long as the criteria for a common-law relationship are met, the couple is considered legally together under Ontario law.

Legal Reform

It’s essential to stay informed about any changes to Ontario’s family law that may impact common-law relationships. Legal reforms or court decisions can affect common-law couples’ rights and obligations, so seeking legal advice is advisable, especially when significant changes occur.


While common-law relationships offer many of the same rights and obligations as marriage under Ontario law, there are important distinctions to be aware of. Understanding the regulations governing common-law partnerships can help couples navigate their relationships effectively and make informed decisions about their legal rights and responsibilities. Seeking legal advice, particularly when considering property division, spousal support, or cohabitation agreements, can provide clarity and peace of mind for common-law partners in Ontario.

*The above is drafted by Soica Law Professional Corporation and not intended as legal advice.