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The most recent Canadian census suggests that common law relationships are on the rise. Despite their specific name, Toronto divorce lawyers specialize in both divorce and the separation of common law couples. In light of the growing trend towards non-married couples, the rights and obligations of common law partners are very often unclear and/or misunderstood.

In terms of support claims, whether child or spousal, married and common law couples have very similar responsibilities. A Toronto divorce lawyer will refer to one of two sets of federal and provincial acts, depending on the type of relationship. The Divorce Act and the Federal Child Support Guidelines will govern a formally married couple that wish to divorce. On the other hand, the Family Law Act and the Ontario Child Support guidelines will be used to assess the needs of a common law separation. Regardless of the specific nature of the parental relationship, child support can be applied for.

Your Toronto divorce lawyer will be familiar with the useful guidelines set out in Part III, Support Obligations of the Ontario Family Law Act RSO 1990. A dependent is defined as: “a person to whom another has an obligation to provide support under this Part.” Moreover, the definition for spouse “includes either of two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabited, (a) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or (b) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.”

A parent, whether wed or unwed, has a legal obligation to support his/her child for as long as the child is a dependent. A Toronto divorce lawyer can explain the intricacies of what a “dependent child” will mean in the language of the law. The general rule is that a parent must pay child support until his/her child is at least 18 years of age. A parent may be obligated to continue paying support if the child continues to be financially dependent. For example, if your child is a full time student at a post-secondary institution until he/she is 22 years old, the parent’s legal responsibility to provide financial support continues to be in full effect until the child finishes school. Similarly, children who are disabled or chronically ill will likely remain dependent for much longer. Your Toronto divorce lawyer can help you assess the projected length of your child support obligations.

Toronto divorce lawyers will inform you that both parents have the responsibility to financially support their child. Child support is paid to the custodial parent. Common law couples can look to the Ontario Child Support guidelines to assess the amount of child support that will likely be paid. These figures are based on the income of the non-custodial parent and the number of children involved.

Although married and common law couples are not always treated the same way under the law, children are never faulted for the marital status of their parents. The court continually demonstrates special care and attention to the best interest of the child, regardless of whether his/her parents were cohabitants or married.