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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 issues in family law are:

Child custody, access, and parenting plans

Parents who are separating have to decide where their children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. This is called access.

They also have to decide who will make major decisions about how to care for and raise their children. This is called custody. All together, these arrangements are called parenting plans.

Child support

All parents are responsible for financially 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, child support is paid by the parent who spends the least amount of time with the children to the parent who takes care of the children most of the time. It is used to help cover the costs of caring for the children.

The amount of child support usually depends on the income of the parent who is paying support and the number of children they have to support.

Spousal support

Spouses may be responsible for financially supporting each other. A spouse is someone you are married to or live with in a common-law relationship. The words partner, wife, and husband are sometimes used to refer to spouses.

Spousal support may be paid by the spouse with the higher income to the spouse who earns less.

The amount of support and how long it is paid depends on things like the length of the marriage or relationship and whether one spouse stayed at home to care for the children.

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 have an equal right to continue to live in the home they were living in together. It does not matter which spouse owns or rents the home.

These rules do not apply to common-law couples. If a common-law couple separates, each spouse usually keeps their own money and property. Common-law couples only divide things that they own together.

A common-law spouse may sometimes be able to claim a share of the other spouse's money or property, 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.