Family law in Ontario works hard to support families, even during and after a divorce. Though it may seem unhelpful to spouses who are in the midst of divorce negotiations in a court of law, the purpose of the act is to reduce the harm caused by lengthy court battles. The way it does this is by establishing clear-cut answers to the questions that often arise during separation and making things as fair as possible for both partners.
In fact, the preamble of the Act states, “It is desirable to encourage and strengthen the role of the family … and for that purpose it is necessary to recognize the equal position of spouses.” No matter what you may have heard, you can be confident that the law is on your side – and your spouse’s.
What the Family Law Act Covers
The Act is concerned with family law court cases pertaining to marriage and common-law marriage in Ontario, including same-sex partnerships. It lays out clear guidelines for each partner, so everyone knows what the law expects of them. This is to ensure fair and equitable treatment of both spouses and an easier resolution to any disputes.
The law treats your marriage as an equal partnership; therefore, your assets are also subject to equalization. However, before you get married, you may wish to ensure a different division of assets in the event of a divorce. If this is the case, make sure you see your lawyer to draft a contract before the wedding to make sure your wishes are followed.
You don’t need to be married in order for the Family Law Act to apply to you. It covers cohabitation situations as well. Common-law relationships are not treated exactly the same as marriages, primarily in that they are not subject to property equalization. Should the relationship end, it is assumed that any joint property is split equally, and any other property owned by one partner or the other is returned to that person. It is possible to seek a share of your partner’s property in a common law relationship if you helped them acquire it directly or indirectly. Again, however, you may wish to draw up a contract specifying a different arrangement in order to protect both of you.
Spousal and child support is a different story, and is handled the same way for both marriages and common-law partnerships. No matter what your marital status is, both parents are financially responsible for their children, and this is spelled out in detail in the Family Law Act. Likewise, spousal support may apply after a split, even if you were never actually married.
The Act also provides guidelines for spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, or other dependents to sue for damages in the event of injury or negligence.
How the Family Law Act Strengthens Families
The end of a marriage doesn’t mean the end of a family. If you have children, their needs must come first, and that means staying on good enough terms to co-parent effectively. The Family Law Act helps that happen by providing guidelines to ensure that children are cared for and protected financially so that you don’t have to start from scratch when making these decisions. Having these guidelines in place helps to end the fighting between parents and give kids a peaceful environment in which to grow up.
Even if you don’t have children, the Act lays out guidelines for the fair and equitable treatment of both partners, ensuring that neither partner has more power than the other. It also gives couples who intend to be married or to live in a common-law partnership a clear understanding of what to expect in the event of a breakup.
Educate Yourself About the Family Law Act
All too often, we make assumptions about what happens in the family court process, or we listen to people whose situations are different from ours or who don’t really know what they’re talking about. There is no substitute to educating yourself about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to marriage or cohabitation. A basic understanding of family law will give you a good idea of what the outcome will be in the event that your relationship ends.
Galbraith Family Law is well-versed in the Family Law Act and will help you with any aspect of it, from drafting a cohabitation agreement to working out child support payments. To get in touch with us, fill out the contact form on our website or give us a call. If you live in the Newmarket area, call (289) 802-2433; if you’re in Barrie, call (705) 302-1102.