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Baby boomers are avoiding divorce by not getting married

A classic joke that probably dates back to the days of vaudeville has a patient telling a doctor, "It hurts when I do this." The doctor sagely responds, "Then don't do that!" Perhaps that sums up the approach of many baby boomers that seem so intent on not getting a divorce that they're not getting married at all, at least in later life. Not getting married, however, does not mean never having to deal with an Ontario family law issue.

According to a study conducted in the United States, more baby boomers are choosing cohabitation over marriage than ever before. In 2016, four million adults over 50 cohabited, close to double the amount doing so in 2007. The same trend seems to be happening here in Canada, too. Census data reveals 10.8 percent of Canadians age 50 to 59 chose a long-term relationship over marriage, up from 9.1 percent in 2006.

The reasons for choosing this lifestyle vary. Many boomers have already been through a divorce, and understandably do not wish to do so again. For others, it may be a way to avoid complex estate planning and eschewing the formality of a prenuptial agreement. Having said that, however, it is important to note that a common-law relationship is not immune to the statutes of family law in Ontario, should the relationship end before either party passes on. 

Though a divorce may not be necessary when a cohabiting couple breaks up, there may still be legal matters to deal with. Common-law partners do have rights under Ontario family law. If a man or woman exiting a long-term relationship is uncertain as to what his or her right are, it may be best to speak with a lawyer.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "Unmarried baby boomers are living in sin, happily", Leah McLaren, May 10, 2017

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