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Your property rights in a common law relationship

A common law relationship is when two people are not married, but they are still in a relationship and they live together. This is also sometimes referred to as cohabiting. Either way, it's very important to know what rights you have in a relationship like this, as they are not always the same as the rights you'd get if you were married, even if you have been together for years.

To start with, property is owned by the purchaser in most cases. You and your significant other do not own it jointly, as is often stated for married couples.

This matters most if the relationship ends. For example, if you were married and you and your spouse bought a home, you would both be able to claim some of the value of the home in a divorce. You may have to sell the home to get it, but you wouldn't lose everything.

In a common law relationship, however, your significant other may buy the home on his or her own. If you then end the relationship, you usually can't claim to have any right to the house. It still belongs, in full, to your significant other. This can be different if you purchased it together and both of your names are on the deed, but this is how it works for most property.

In situations in which you both did buy property together, a solution will need to be found. In many cases, one person will take the property—be it a home, a car, a boat or anything else—and then pay the other person for their ownership percentage. This can get tricky and many couples in Ontario end up in court to resolve it.

Source: Ministry of the Attorney General, "What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario," accessed Dec. 16, 2015

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