So, you lived together in a common law relationship but now it has come to an end. Your friends say “When you separate, it’s just the same as if you had been married. Everything is 50/50!”

This is an urban myth. In Ontario, it is more complicated.

Of course, the starting point is that you keep the assets and debts in your name and your partner keeps the assets and debt in their name. The question is whether either of you have to share the value of your assets with the other.

A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) known as Kerr v. Baranow, radically changed how we look at the rights of common law partners upon separation regarding property division.

The SCC has now said that if there is a “joint family venture” there should be a fair division of the assets acquired during the relationship.

In lower court decisions since the SCC decision, if there is long term relationship, especially with children, and there has been an joint effort to work together for the betterment of both parties and an intermingling of the finances, there tends to be an equal division of the assets acquired during the relationship.

Although we don’t have many cases decided since the decision at time of writing this blog, I think we will see a trend toward an equal division of property upon separation when the parties have been living together in long, stable relationship, especially if there are children, the parties have intentionally became financially intertwined and they worked collaboratively toward mutual goals.

If you have lived together for a short period of time and you kept your finances and financial goals separate, you might not have a right to a share in any of your partner’s assets at all. It may be that each party just keeps that which is in their own name and that jointly owned property is shared equally.

Of course, your case may be in between the two extremes. You might have a right to some of your partner’s assets.  It all depends on on the facts of your relationship whether you have a claim and the extent of your claim.

Of course, another issue is spousal support. If you have lived together for more than 3 years or you have a child together and your incomes are different you may have a right to spousal support. Check out this article for more information.

You are wise to seek the advice of a family law lawyer, just to get an idea whether you might have a claim to your partner’s property when it is a common law relationship. It’s murky water.