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Legal Rights & Responsibilities for Common Law Partners

According to the laws in Toronto, you are in a common law marriage if you and your partner have been together for more than three years or if you have a child together in a "permanent" relationship. If you are in a common law relationship, or if you are entering one, a cohabitation agreement can help dictate things such as a child and spousal support arrangement should the relationship end.

Don't Wait Until You Separate

Questions regarding the law as it pertains to spousal support Toronto often do not come up until a common law couple chooses to separate. Although the law is a bit muddy when it comes to a spousal support arrangement, it is clearly defined when it comes to child support. It is in your best interest to consult with a family lawyer prior to entering into any sort of common law relationship; this way, you know what you can expect in the future if things do not work out between you and your partner.

Common Law and Spousal Support Toronto

For the most part, the law does not require a common law partner to pay spousal support if the relationship has lasted fewer than three years or if there are no children involved. Thus, if you live with a spouse for a year and then separate, and if you do not have a child together, your financial obligation ends when you separate. However, things are different if you have a child with your common law spouse or if you have lived together for more than three years. In this case, the courts may order spousal support if you can pay and your spouse has an obvious need for such support. The courts review these cases individually.

Division of Family Property

If you have lived with a partner for some time, then chances are good that the two of you acquired at least some property together. While property division for legally married couples is straightforward, with each party taking away half of the marital assets unless a valid prenuptial agreement exists, things are different for common-law partners. In this case, the courts usually divide the property according to who purchased the property and each partner's amount of financial contribution to the relationship. Because it can be difficult to prove your financial contribution, a cohabitation agreement is advisable.

Your Rights to a Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement is beneficial for both of the parties in a common law relationship, as they line out prearrangements. In most cases, it is an agreed-upon child and spousal support arrangement. It also serves as a basis for property division, and it is possible to modify the agreement each time one partner purchases new property. Because it is often difficult to prove financial contributions, such an agreement is beneficial. Courts abide by such agreements with the same frequency with which they abide by prenuptial agreements, so they are legally binding unless viewed by the courts as severely unfair to one party or the other.

Although a common law relationship is not a marriage, it is a recognized partnership under Toronto law. You have a responsibility to assist your partner financially in some cases, including paying spousal support Toronto, but you also have a right to protect yourself and your best interests with a legally binding cohabitation agreement.