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Following B.C.'s approach would open flood gates in Ontario

Kenneth Fishman

By Kenneth Fishman

With the recent change to the legal definition of “spouse” in British Columbia, many individuals in Ontario may be curious as to their rights and responsibilities under the law with respect to the division of property and their support obligations.

Under B.C.’s new Family Law Act, breakups between any couple that has lived together for more than two years will now carry many of the same guidelines related to divorce, including a division of assets and debts, the National Post reports.  Read National Post

The definition of “spouse” in Ontario under the Family Law Act is not quite as expansive as it now is in British Columbia. In Ontario, for the purposes of defining who is subject to the division of property, referred to as equalization, s. 1(1) of the Family Law Act defines a spouse as someone who is married.

In Ontario, if you are not married, you will not have the ability to make a claim for a division of property under the Family Law Act. If a person is not married and they wish to make a claim for an interest in the property of someone they were in a relationship with, they can still make a constructive trust claim, but they have no recourse under the governing legislation.

With regard to eligibility for support, Ontario’s Family Law Act expands the definition of spouse at s. 29 and defines spouses as people who:

1) are married; or
2) have lived together continuously for not less than three years; or
3) were in a relationship of some permanence and are the parents of a child.

The realities across Canada are that more people are choosing to live together rather than get married. They are having families and accumulating assets. British Columbia has recognized this reality and they have changed their laws to reflect changing societal norms.

It is perhaps too early to say whether Ontario will follow British Columbia’s approach, but if Ontario does, it will surely open the flood gates to new claims.

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