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An Introduction to Family Law in Ontario

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What are the most common family law issues?

The most common concerns in family law include the following:

Child custody, access, and parenting plans

Parents who are separating have to arrange where their children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent (access), and who will make major decisions about the children's upbringing (custody). All together, these arrangements are called parenting plans.

When the parents cannot agree about these things, a judge may have to decide what arrangement would be in the child's best interests.

Child support

All parents are responsible for supporting their children as long as the children are dependent. Dependent usually means at least until the child turns 18 and sometimes longer. In most cases, if a child lives most of the time with one parent, the other parent has to help with the expenses by paying child support. The amount of child support usually depends on the income of the parent who is paying support and the number of children.

Spousal support

A spouse is someone you are married to or live with in a common-law relationship (marriage-like). The words partner, wife, and husband are sometimes used to refer to spouses. Spouses may have a responsibility to support each other financially. If they separate, the spouse with the higher income may have to continue supporting the other. How long support must be paid depends on the situation — it may be for just a few months or for many years.

Property division

When a married couple separates, they must usually share any increase in their money or property that happened during the marriage. They also each have an equal right to continue to live in the home they were living in together. It does not matter which spouse's name is on the deed or the lease.

These rules do not apply to common-law (unmarried) couples. If a common-law couple separates, each spouse usually keeps his or her own money and property and they divide things that they own together. A common-law spouse may sometimes be able to claim a share of the other spouse's property or money, but this is not an automatic right as it is with legally married spouses.

CLEO has other resources with more details on each of the above topics. Click here for more information about our Family Law Series.