Common Law Separation and Child Custody

Common Law Separation and Child Custody

Common Law Separation and Child Custody

Toronto family law lawyer John Schuman was recently asked this question: " I have been living common law for almost 5 years and we have a daughter together. Our relationship has gotten to a point where it gets worse every day. He owns the house, my name is not on it but we do our taxes together as common law. I had to leave today for a couple of hours to get my 10 year old daughter from a previous relationship that ended when I was pregnant with her. My toddler is at home. He told me when I leave that he was changing the locks; he also said I'm not getting our daughter. I have no family here, his family all live here. I am a stay at home mom, he controls everything. Do I have any rights?"

That is a terrible situation.  It sounds like you will have to take steps right away to protect yourself, your children and your legal rights.

With regard to getting back in the house, your rights are very limited in a common law relationship.  You basically only have rights as a "boarder" in the home.  For more on the rights of common law couples in relation to their home on separation, see this page.

With regard to your daughters, your rights are much more complicated.  But, it is not acceptable for him just to cut you off from your daughter.  To see how judges decide who gets custody of a child, see this page and watch this video.

This page provides a bit of information on what to do if one parent won't let the other see the children.  However, in your situation, it sounds like you are going to need to speak to a lawyer and get to court quickly before your partner does anything else that is impulsive. This podcast describes how to start court proceedings.  However, a lawyer can really help put together a case that will convince a judge that your daughters should be with you - and right away.  To understand the first steps in court, watch this video.

For the usual things you should be worried about when separating, watch this video.

You can learn about how Ontario Family Law applies to you, how the Family Court System works and how to advance a child custody case, pick up a copy of this $20 easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law.  It will give you an understanding of how the law works in general and has lots of tips to help you win your family court case.