Many couples seek advice on whether marriage or remaining in a common-law relationship is the right step for their future. When making this decision, there are numerous factors to consider, and it is important to understand the similarities and differences between these relationship statuses.

The benefits of saying, “I do” to a marriage are similar to those of common-law relationships including making health care decisions, welfare benefits, disability benefits, income taxes and custody related issues.

Other main similarities between the two-relationship statuses are how child support and spousal support is awarded should the relationship break down. In both instances, the amount of support is similar. The main difference being between a marriage and common-law relationship is which Act will guide the amount of support to be awarded: the Divorce Act and Federal Child Support guidelines or the Family Law Act and the Ontario Child Support guidelines.

The primary difference between marriage and common law relationships is how property and estates are handled.

Married couples are guided under the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act which outlines the division of property and assets between the couple from the date of marriage to the date of separation. The calculation of the division of assets ensures each party will have equal benefit from the marriage. Married couples also have equal right to possession of assets in the matrimonial home unless a marriage contract stipulates differently.

However, for common-law relationships, all division of property is governed by ownership rights only. Should a common-law relationship break down, the party must make a trust argument to the court to make a claim for property. Unfortunately, these instances can be very lengthy and expensive for the parties involved.

In terms of estates, married spouses have a right to the estate of their spouse should they pass away without a will. This is not the case for common-law partners. The rights of a common-law partner must be outlined within a valid Last Will and Testament as they will not be entitled to the estate without one.

Determining whether you should get married or remain in a common-law relationship requires much consideration. If you are in a relationship and require legal advice regarding a common-law relationship or marriage, contact Brace law to book a consultation.

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