How does division of property work in common law separations in Ontario?

The legislation that governs the equal division of property that spouses accumulate during a marriage does not apply to common law partners.  In general, when a common law relationship breaks down, each spouse retains the property they owned when the relationship began, including any increases to the value of that property that has accrued during the relationship.  Similarly, each spouse keeps any property that they bought with their own money during the relationship and own in their own name.  The only property that will be divided is the property that the spouses bought together during the relationship or registered in their joint names.

There are some exceptions to this rule.  If you have questions about how the division of property works in common law separations in Ontario, our Richmond Hill divorce lawyers can help. The content in this article is intended to act as a general overview on a legal topic in Ontario but does not constitute legal advice as every situation is different. Call our law firm today for legal assistance on division of property matters for more specific legal advice.

Do you have a cohabitation agreement?

If you and your common law spouse signed a cohabitation agreement that dictates how property will be dealt with in the event of a separation, then your property will likely be distributed according to that agreement.

In order to be valid, a cohabitation agreement must have been signed voluntarily by both spouses in front of a witness.  It may also be important that both spouses were honest during the preparation of the agreement.  If one spouse lied to the other in order to encourage the other spouse to sign the agreement, this may affect the validity of the agreement.

If you have questions about the validity of your agreement, or about how your agreement might affect property division in the event of your separation, one of our lawyers can help.

Did you make a direct or indirect contribution to property in your spouse’s name?

If you made a contribution, either financial or otherwise, to acquire, improve or maintain a property that is held in your spouse’s name, you can claim that your spouse would be “unjustly enriched” if they were permitted to keep the property without providing you with some compensation.

For example, if your spouse owned a piece of land and you and your contracting business provided free labour to build a cottage on the land, you could claim that your labour directly increased the value of the land.  These claims can be very difficult to prove in court, so contact a divorce lawyer right away to preserve your claim.

What about the family home? 

Like other property, the home that you lived in with your common law spouse is not automatically subject to an equal division when you separate.  Whether and how the family home is divided will depend on how it was acquired and how it was registered.

However, if a court makes an order for spousal support in favour of one spouse, then the court has the ability to make an order that the spouse receiving support can stay in the family home as part of the support order.

Contact Our Law Firm For Legal Assistance On All Family Law And Divorce Law Matters

Our Richmond Hill divorce lawyers can address any questions or concerns you might have about how division of property works after a common law separation in Ontario.  Contact us today to arrange for a consultation.  Our divorce lawyers have been proudly serving Richmond Hill Ontario and surrounding areas since 1975 and would be pleased to help you.

*Disclaimer: Please note the content prescribed in this article is intended to be a general overview on a legal topic and does not constitute as legal advice. For specific legal advice regarding division of property in common law separations in Ontario – please contact a lawyer.