When two people, either of the same sex or the opposite sex, live together in a marriage-like relationship without being legally married to each other, they are often referred to as living 'common-law'. Under Ontario family law, one can be considered common law if one has been living with a partner for at least three years, or if one is in a relationship of 'some permanence' if children are involved.

Family law in Ontario treats opposite-sex and same-sex common law couples equally: both are accorded the same rights; both have the same responsibilities. The property provisions of the Family Law Act do not apply to common-law couples, at this time. In other words, the Family Law Act does not accord common-law couples the same rights and protection vis-à-vis property, as it does for married couples. This being said, there are possible equitable remedies available to common-law spouses with respect to property in the forms of constructive and/or resulting trusts, or through the relatively new concept of 'joint family venture'. This is a complicated area of law, however, and people would be well advised to seek the advice of a family lawyer, if they find themselves in this type of scenario.

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