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What are my rights if I get separated or divorced?
When you separate or divorce from your spouse, you may have a right to economic support or property.
Your rights depend on different things, such as whether you were legally married or in a common-law relationship, and if you have children.
Will I get economic support?
In some cases, the law requires a person to pay spousal support to their former spouse. This can apply if you were legally married, in a common-law relationship with children, or in a common-law relationship for at least 3 years without children.
You are entitled to child support if your children live with you. The person who pays is called the "payor."
Spousal and child support orders in Ontario are enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
The FRO will collect support if the payor lives in Canada, the United States and many other countries. If the person who has to pay lives in a country that has not signed an agreement with the government of Ontario, the FRO may not be able to help you.
If you think you are entitled to spousal or child support, seek legal help from a lawyer or a community legal clinic.
What about our property?
If you were married, you or your spouse may have to make an equalization payment to the other. This calculation can be difficult to do on your own and there are different rules and exceptions.
If you were common-law married, you do not automatically have this right. Generally, each spouse gets to keep whatever assets are in their own name but there are exceptions.
Talk to a lawyer or a community legal clinic for more information about your situation.
For married and common-law couples any written separation agreement that you and your spouse signed in front of a witness may affect your support and property rights. It is important to get legal advice and properly understand any agreement before signing.
How does divorce or separation affect Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions?
CPP credits that you and your spouse earned while together can be added up and split between you. This is called credit splitting. This applies to married and common-law couples.
For more information, read Separation and Divorce or Death of a Spouse: Property Division [PDF].
For More Information
- How Property is Divided in Family Law - Information about how property is divided for married or common-law couples. From Family Law Education for Women (FLEW).
- Family Law Information Program - Free, online resources for families and individuals who are going to Family Court in Ontario. From Legal Aid Ontario.
- Child Support - This booklet covers who must pay support, how to arrange for support to be paid, how support is enforced, income tax information and more. From CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario).
- Divorce and Separation - This website has information about family law, the court system, children, and financial issues. From the Government of Ontario.
- All Women. One Family Law. - Information about how property is divided, separation agreements and more. Available in many languages. From Family Law Education for Women (FLEW).
- Family Law - Clear language publications on family law and related topics. From CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario).
- Flowchart: Steps in a Family Law Case - This chart shows the steps that can happen in a family law court case in Ontario. It applies to court cases on child custody and access, child support, spousal support and property division. From CLEO - Community Legal Education Ontario.
April 12, 2017