By
Pace Law

Rights of Married Versus Unmarried Spouses

February 20, 2022

“Living common-law” or “cohabitation” refers to two people living together in a marriage-like relationship without getting married. When you are married and have gone through a legal marriage ceremony, you have a significantly larger amount of rights and duties. In a cohabitation or a common-law relationship, you do not have certain rights when you’re not married (regardless of how long you and your spouse have lived together.)

Divorce Act

Unmarried couples have no access to the federal Divorce Act, which is exclusively available in situations involving married spouses and takes precedence over any claims under the Family Law Act.

Ontario Family Law Act

The Family Law Act of Ontario classifies couples as either married or unmarried and thus does not recognize the term “common-law partnership.”

Married Spouses in Ontario Family Law

A “spouse” is defined in the Family Law Act, as a person who is married or has entered into a marriage, according to section 1(1) of the Act.

Any asset acquired during the marriage (and still existing at the time of separation) must be split equally between these spouses, as must any rise in the value of property owned by such a spouse at the time of marriage.

Married “spouses” have specific rights to the matrimonial house, as well as spousal support and child support, under the Family Law Act.

Unmarried Spouses in Ontario Family Law

Section 29 of the Family Law Act has an enhanced term of “spouse,” which pertains exclusively to support responsibilities and is described as: “A married couple, or two persons who are not married but: have cohabitated for a period of not less than three years; or have a relationship of some permanence if they are the parents of a child.”

According to the Family Law Act, common law/unmarried couples are not entitled to a share of the value of each other’s property. Only married spouses are subject to the law’s net family property equalization provisions. In Ontario, there is no provision that grants common-law partners any rights to their partner’s property. The property sharing regime that applies to married couples is not being applied to common-law couples. A common-law partner has no greater legal claims to the property of the other partner than if the partners were not living together.

Conclusion of Rights: Married vs. Unmarried Spouses

Unmarried Spouses: If you lived with someone for 30 years without marrying, you would have no automatic stake in any of their property; you could only seek spousal support and, if necessary/applicable, child support.

Married Spouses: When you are married, you automatically have a claim to a share of your spouse’s net family property, as well as the ability to seek spousal support and, if applicable, child support. The Family Law Act defines property as the whole value of a person’s assets, including any properties, vehicles, bank accounts, pensions, business values, and so on, subject to exclusions in certain situations.

If you have any concerns or would like to learn more about adult interdependent relationships or marriages, please contact us at Pace Family Law today. Our team of reputable Family Lawyers can help facilitate your process and give you top-notch legal counsel regardless of your situation!

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Phone: 1-877-236-3060
Fax: 416-236-1809

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