A recent article in the Toronto Star, ‘The Political Becomes Personal’ – Tanya Talaga, Saturday March 12th, brought home to me the additional stress that single parent/working women face in our ‘liberated’ society.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath had recently ended her 25 year common-law relationship.  While the article did not deal with any of the details of breakup or what assets or financial assistance (if any) that she kept or is receiving, it was clear from the article that as a full-time working woman with an 18 year old son (who is supportive of her career) that there are incredible stresses to keep the family going and to stay ahead of the monthly bills.

As the leader of a provincial political party you might think that being able to pay the bills and juggle her various responsibilities would not be a huge problem for Ms. Horwath.  You might assume that she has someone to assist her with buying the groceries, cleaning the house, doing the laundry and making the meals.

However, from the reading the article it is apparent that Ms. Horwath faces many of the same stresses as any other single working parent (mother) in Ontario.  According to Ms Horwath: “The stress is there; it is there from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to bed… The best way to deal with it is to acknowledge it, realize it’s normal and that other folks are having similar stresses.”.

Common-law spouses in Ontario who have lived together for more than 3 years may be entitled to financial support from the other spouse much the same way as married spouses who separated are entitled to alimony.  In addition, if there are children of the relationship then the parent who has the primary care of the children is entitled to receive child support from the other parent. The amount of support is determined by 2 main factors – the income of the paying parent and the number of children for whom there is a child support obligation.

Also, separating common-law spouses may be entitled to some form of payment for their contributions to the purchase of property acquired during the relationship even though that property may be ‘owned’ by the other spouse.  This determination, however, is a very complicated one.

If you feel that you may have rights regarding child support, spousal support or division of property, you should obtain some legal advice. While this will not reduce all of the stress you experience in ending a long-time relationship, it may help ease the financial stress and adverse consequences of ending a common-law union.