Economic practices and social and legal representations of life together : Portrait of Ontario

Année :


Belleau H, Lavallée C, Leckey R, Pugliese M. (2023). Economic practices and social and legal representations of life together, research rapport: portrait of Ontario. Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS). 100 p.


This report presents a descriptive portrait of the first results emerging from the research project entitled Economic practices, social and legal representations of cohabitants in Canada. Based on a new survey of people living in a couple and aged 25 to 64, the study aimed to identify, for the first time in Ontario, the financial and legal arrangements of couples, whether married or not, their legal knowledge of family law rules that apply to their personal situation, whether they anticipate the possibility of a break-up or the death of their spouse and their opinion on a possible reform of family law.The social relevance of this research project stems from the fact that legislative drafters in Ontario have recognized the functional similarities of shared life between married and unmarried partners. Ontario’s Family Law Act (FLA) imposes on common-law spouses a duty of maintenance to common-law spouses during the relationship and for a time afterwards but provides neither for the division of family property, including the matrimonial home and assets, nor for succession rights where a cohabitant dies intestate. Our survey shows that more than 70% of cohabitants in Ontario do not know the legal rules that apply to them. The results also clearly demonstrate that marriage is not synonymous with the combination of assets, nor can cohabitation be associated with complete financial independence between partners. Among common law partner only, 64% do not think they will ever separate from their current spouse and less than 9% say they have a cohabitation agreement/contract. Finally, approximately 85% agree with a proposal that would give common law spouses the same protections as married couples in the event of separation, including equal sharing of the value of the house in which they lived together and of retirement savings and pensions. Although there are differences between the two types of union, they appear to be modest and do not, in our view, justify the distinct legal treatment of family law in Ontario regarding the division of property.