In Ontario, the Family Law Act provides rules for how property will be divided between legally married spouses who are going through divorce. However, the Family Law Act does not apply if you and the party from whom you’re splitting were in a common-law relationship.
There is also no absolute test for proving that an individual is a common-law spouse, but there are situations in which a common-law spouse may be entitled to a share of the other party’s property. If you have property division concerns in a common-law breakup, then a lawyer with experience in this area of law can assess your situation and explain your options.
In general, if you are in a common-law relationship, then the property that you buy with your money is yours and yours alone. If the home in which you live with your common-law spouse is legally owned by only you, then typically you will keep the family home in the event that the relationship ends. A common-law spouse who doesn’t own the family home has no automatic right to stay there.
However, a court might consider whether one common-law spouse financially contributed to the other’s property. If your common-law spouse worked for your family business, for instance, then some of your personal assets may be subject to division.
A court may also consider whether one common-law spouse was unjustly enriched by the other. If the court finds that you were unjustly enriched by your common-law spouse, then the other party could be entitled to a share of your property. The amount of that share would depend on how much your spouse contributed.
As you can surely imagine, matters of property division in a common-law separation can be extremely complicated, and anyone going through this kind of split should speak with a property division lawyer about developing creative solutions.