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What are the spousal support rules for common-law spouses?

If you are in or have recently ended a common-law relationship in Ontario, then it is important to understand that the property division rules that apply to married couples do not apply to common-law spouses. In general, the property purchased by one common-law spouse belongs to that spouse alone, and unlike legally married couples, common-law couples do not share in the increase in value of property that each person brought to the relationship.

However, if you somehow contributed to the value of your common-law spouse’s property, then you may be able to negotiate to have your spouse pay you back. Alternatively, if your spouse isn’t willing to pay you back, then you could take the matter to court and have a judge decide. In any case, it is a good idea to have a property division lawyer on your side.

Depending on the circumstances, a common-law spouse may also have a right to spousal support. If you are unable to support yourself financially at the end of the relationship, then you can ask your former common-law spouse to pay you support. Generally, for a common-law spouse to receive spousal support, the couple must have lived together for three years, or the couple must have a child together.

Again, if you and your spouse can’t agree on matters of support, then you can ask a judge to decide.

Important note: children of common-law spouses are just as entitled to child support as children of legally married spouses.

Another important note: common-law spouses can protect their rights and clarify financial arrangements, including spousal support, by creating a cohabitation agreement.

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