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What happens to the children when a common-law relationship ends in Ontario?

Posted on January 16, 2019

It’s becoming more and more common for couples decide to forgo marriage and instead live as common-law partners.

A common law relationship is defined as one where the couple has lived together intimately for a least 3 years, or who have had a natural or adoptive child together and have lived together for 1 year.

The legal system has adjusted accordingly in order to cover as many scenarios as possible, though it might still not be clear to partners ending a long-term relationship what their rights are, compared to if they had been married. Fortunately, when it comes to children the legal system is a little bit more straightforward.

A worried child hugs her mother amid custody discussions.Who gets custody of the child?

Just like in a divorce after a marriage, either partner can apply for custody and access of their children. If it is not possible for the couple or an independent mediator to determine a fair solution, the case can be taken to court, just as it would for a married couple.

If there will be a long wait for the final decision, a judge may be needed to make a short-term decision to facilitate if it is not possible for the existing living situation to continue during the case. The overriding principle is what is in the child’s best interest.

How is child support managed?

Once again, child support when common law relationships end is managed in the same manner as in marriages.

An important point to note is that it is possible to request child support from a partner even if they are not the biological parent of your child. This is based on the determination that your partner has been standing in the place of a parent to the child and therefore has the same responsibility. Furthermore, it is also important to note that residing together is not necessary to pursue support from a biological parent.

Talk to us if you have questions

If you are wondering about anything in particular in regards to common-law relationships, feel free to visit Epstein & Associates to talk with one of our legal professionals. Every case is different, which makes it hard to get a sense of what to expect without a consultation!


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