In Ontario, couples who are not married and are living as common law can apply for their properties to be divided when they separate from each other. The law and the process for them is different from a married couple and can get quite complex because the couples may have to provide extensive accounting of which of them did what and who paid for what during their common-law relationship. This accounting exercise can go back 10–20 years. Often, it is difficult to determine the intent of the couple regarding the purchase and sharing of property many years after the relationship has begun.
The court will look at whether there is a “joint family venture” during property division for common-law couples. Once a joint family venture has been established, the court must then define the remedy – which may be monetary compensation or percentage interest in the joint family venture.
Ken Nathens is a partner in the law firm of Nathens Siegel, a Toronto firm that restricts its practice to divorce and family-law issues. Ken has experience in all aspects of divorce and Ontario family law and devotes much of his time to assisting clients with custody and access disputes. www.nathenssiegel.com