Angelina and Brad Pitt finally tied the knot on August 23, 2014. The couple decided to become married after nine years and six children together. In Ontario, the decision to become married has significant legal implications as the couple will no longer be considered "common-law".
In Ontario, there remains a significant difference between couples who choose to cohabit and those who marry. Currently, Ontario's Family Law Act provides two distinct definitions of "spouse". The first pertains to only married spouses, while the second definition of "spouse" includes both married and "common-law" spouses. Unfortunately, the second definition of spouse is only pertinent to support obligations (i.e. spousal support, etc.) as provided for in Part III of the Act.
Only married spouses have access to the property sharing regime as provided for in Part I of the Family Law Act. This means that "common-law" spouses must resort to equitable claims through the courts which are not only complex and unpredictable, but are costly to pursue. Ontario has yet to amend legislation to reflect the evolution of the family and emergence of cohabitation as an alternative to the traditional form of the family. Meanwhile, provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia have enacted legislation which defines spouse for all purposes to include both common-law and married spouses.
Ontario's Family Law Act can be characterized as an opt-in regime. In short, "common-law" couples can choose to adhere to the same obligations and responsibilities as those who are married by entering into a domestic contract. Otherwise, common-law couples, as previously noted, would have to resort to equitable claims.
If we take into consideration the facts of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's relationship, we see that they have intended to be a family. Not only have they been together for nine years, but they have six children together. Despite these facts, in Ontario neither Brad nor Angelina would have access to the property sharing regime as provided for in Part I of Ontario's Family Law Act prior to August 23, 2014 (their date of marriage). Thus, the decision to get married would have significant legal implications if the couple resided in Ontario.