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An Introduction to Family Law in Ontario

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Living together

Living together in a marriage-like relationship, but without getting married, is often called cohabitation or living common-law.

The law mostly treats common-law couples the same as married couples, except when it comes to property division and inheritance.

In Canada, a child's legal rights are not affected by whether their parents were married, living together, or not in a relationship at all.

Ontario’s family laws do not require any formal or legal step for people to become common-law spouses. You are considered common-law spouses if:

  • you live together and have a child together, or
  • you have been living together for at least 3 years whether or not you have a child together.

Other Ontario laws and federal laws may define common-law spouse differently.

There is also no formal or legal step to end a common-law relationship. You are no longer common-law spouses if you stop living together as a couple. But if this happens, you may want a separation agreement or court order to deal with issues like support, property, and parenting plans. See the section, What you need to do when separating or divorcing.