What is the difference between property division for married vs. common-law couples?
Married couples who separate must divide their property in accordance with the equalization provisions of the Ontario Family Law Act. These provisions do not apply to common-law couples, who must divide their property based simply on who brought the asset into the relationship.
For formally-married couples, there are also special rules in the Family Law Act relating to rights in the matrimonial home that they formerly shared. Again, these do not apply to common-law couples who may have shared a home; instead, ownership of the property upon separation is governed by whoever has registered title to the property. With that said, in some circumstances courts will recognize the existence of a “constructive trust” for the benefit of the non-titled common-law spouse, where he or she contributed to the home’s maintenance or improvements in a manner that demonstrably increased its value.