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What Does Cohabitation Mean When Claiming Spousal Support?

In Ontario, a spouse has certain support rights. If you are not married, one way to qualify as a spouse, is to have “cohabited continuously” for at least three years. But what does cohabit mean? You may be surprised to learn how the courts interpret it…

The legislation defines cohabit to mean “to live together in a conjugal relationship”. There are two parts to this: 1) living together, and 2) being in a conjugal relationship.

Even when parties maintain two separate residences, it doesn’t mean they’re not living together. The courts have found that the fact that parties maintain separate residences does not prevent a finding of cohabitation. There may be circumstances and reasons why they continue to maintain separate residences, for example, so one or both parties can facilitate parenting time with their children from a previous relationship. Cohabit does not mean continuous daily cohabitation but there needs to be some element of living together under the same roof. There have been cases where a couple that lived together only on weekends or over the summer months were found to be cohabiting.

To determine whether someone is in a conjugal relationship, the courts look to a series of criteria, taking into consideration that there are many elements of a conjugal relationship that can be present in varying degrees, depending on the relationship.

If two parties meet the definition of spouse, there is a potential spousal support obligation once the relationship ends.

If you have questions about whether you and your partner meet the definition of spouse, and whether you are entitled to spousal support, call Natalie Taccone at 416-987-3300 or email her at ntaccone@bortolussifamilylaw.com.