Living Common-Law (Part 2): Legal Rights Related To Children

In a previous post, we began a series on the basics that common-law couples need to know about their rights and responsibilities under family law. This second post looks at the one area in which cohabiting couples are treated no differently from married couples after a separation. This involves key issues pertaining to children.

Custody - Decision-Making Responsibilities

When deciding on custody, courts make no distinction between parents who cohabit and those who are married. Whatever the marital status of the parents, custody centres on the best interests of the child. The decision turns on which of the two parents - or both - is in the best position to make major decisions on such issues as education, medical care and religion.

Custody is a separate matter from where the children live or how much time they spend with the non-custodial parent.

Access - Every Child's Right

Under the law, all children have the right to spend time building a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. This right belongs squarely to the child. Only in rare circumstances, such as risk to the child's safety, is access limited or denied. But this is a separate issue from the marital status of the parents.

Child Support - Another Right Of Every Child

All parents have the legal duty to contribute financially in raising their children. Every child is entitled to such provision. None are discriminated against based on the marital status of their parents. Parents must provide financial support even if the couple don't live together, never did so, don't have any ongoing relationship or even if the parent doesn't see the children.

Our next post will examine areas in which cohabiting couples are treated very differently from married couples in the area of property division.

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