Is there a legal difference between being married and living together?

Yes. You have more rights and responsibilities when you get married. If you are not , you don’t get some rights no matter how long you and your partner have lived together. You have to go through a legal marriage ceremony to be married.

Living together in a marriage-like relationship without getting married is often called “living common-law” or “cohabitation”. In Ontario, there’s no formal or legal step you have to take to start a . In some parts of Canada, you can register a “domestic partnership”. This is not available in Ontario.

People who are engaged to be married have no special legal status. You might have some rights if you are already common-law partners. But you don’t get any more rights just because you plan to marry.

Married couples and common-law couples usually have different rights to:

  • property and
  • the family home
  • inheritance

Only married couples can get a .

Married couples and common-law couples usually have the same rights related to their children. This includes their rights to:

  • , which used to be called
  • , which used to be called

Sometimes common-law partners are treated the same as married partners if they have lived with their partner for a certain amount of time, or if they have a child together. For example, they may have the same rights in the following areas:

  • welfare and disability benefits
  • income taxes
  • immigration sponsorship
  • health care decisions

Married partners and common-law partners can sign an agreement if they want to change some of their rights.   

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