This section is an excerpt from the Ontario Works Act, 1997 prescribed by the Province of Ontario.
Ontario Works Regulations
1. (1) For the purposes of the Act and the regulations,
“sole support parent”, with respect to an applicant, recipient or dependant, means a person with one or more dependants and no spouse included in the benefit unit; (“père ou mère seul soutien de famille”)
“spouse”, in relation to an applicant or recipient, means,
(a) a person, if the person and the applicant or recipient have together declared to the administrator or to the Director under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997 that they are spouses,
(b) a person who is required under a court order or domestic contract to support the applicant or recipient or any of his or her dependants,
(c) a person who has an obligation to support the applicant or recipient or any of his or her dependants under section 30 or 31 of the Family Law Act, whether or not there is a domestic contract or other agreement between the person and the applicant or recipient whereby they purport to waive or release such obligation to support, or
(d) a person who has been residing in the same dwelling place as the applicant or recipient for a period of at least three months, if,
(i) the extent of the social and familial aspects of the relationship between the two persons is consistent with cohabitation, and
(ii) the extent of the financial support provided by one person to the other or the degree of financial interdependence between the two persons is consistent with cohabitation. (“conjoint”).
“dependant”, in relation to an applicant or recipient, means,
(b) a spouse who is absent from the dwelling place of the applicant or recipient if the absence is for a reason other than a breakdown in the relationship with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation; (“personne à charge”)
(2) For the purpose of the definition of “spouse”, sexual factors shall not be investigated or considered in determining whether or not a person is a spouse.
If the applicant or participant is living with another person, they will be considered as spouses:
- if they declare themselves to be spouses
- if they are legally married to each other
- if one adult is required to support the other or any of the children under a court order or legal agreement
- if they have parented a child together
- if they have lived together for at least three months and are assessed as living in a marriage-like relationship based on financial, social and family-like aspects of the relationship
This policy document is intended to provide guidelines in assessing situations where two persons are living together but have not declared themselves to be spouses and/or there is no legal obligation to support one another.
In these situations, all three factors – financial, social and family-like – must be present and documented for a decision to be made that there is a marriage-like relationship. Only those living in marriage-like relationships are treated as couples for the purposes of social assistance. There is a three month minimum time frame before spousal status is assessed based on financial, social and family-like factors.
In all matters pertaining to eligibility for Ontario Works, the applicant or participant is required to demonstrate to the Administrator that he or she is eligible for assistance. The onus of proof is with the applicant or participant.
In the case of co-residency, the applicant or participant must provide the Administrator with information so the Administrator can determine if the co-resident meets the definition of spouse. This will determine whether or not the applicant’s or recipient’s co-resident will be considered as part of the benefit unit.
Co-residency does not amount to co-habitation where an applicant or participant co-resides with a person of the opposite sex, or same sex, to whom the person is related in the following ways:
- parent, step parent, grand parent, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandchild, sister, brother, niece or nephew.
The Questionnaire is not given in these situations.
Determination of Co-Residency
Self-declaration is always the first option for the applicant or participant.
To determine whether the applicant or participant co-resides with another person who is not a beneficiary of the applicant or participant’s assistance, the following information is relevant:
- where an applicant or participant declares that another person lives with him or her, the declaration is sufficient evidence of co-residence.
- an applicant or participant is co-residing with another person if he or she shares the accommodation with that person, rooms or boards with that person, or has that person as a roomer or boarder.
- where an applicant or participant declares that he or she resides alone, but the caseworker has reason to believe that another person co-resides with the applicant or participant, the caseworker should investigate along with any other allegations, or oral or written complaints which indicate co-residence. All evidence gathered from an investigation should be of an objective nature from which a determination of eligibility can be made.
The client is responsible to provide necessary documentation to assess eligibility. In situations where the client indicates the information is not available the caseworker must determine if gathering this information is within the client’s control.
Persons who state they are living with a close relative such as a brother or an uncle, will not be considered as co-habiting, as long as they can provide proof of relationship if requested.
Determination of Spousal Status
The test to determine if two adults living together are spouses under OW Reg 1(1) (d) is three-part:
- first, there must be a determination that the two adults have been living together for three months or more
- second, there must be a determination that the extent of financial interdependence between the two-adults is marriage-like
- third, there must be a determination that the social and family-like aspects of their relationship are marriage-like (i.e., the adults live and interrelate with family, friends and community as a couple rather than as two individuals sharing a residence)
- do not have regard for sexual factors.
Information Sheet for Applicants and Recipients who Are Living with Another Adult
The caseworker should provide the Information Sheet to all persons who are residing with another adult and explain the eligibility criteria.
The “Questionnaire” (for Applicants and Recipients who are living with another adult) should be used in all cases of co-residency except where exempted due to relationship.
In determining the spousal status of applicants or participants who are living with another person, the confidentiality of an applicant’s or participant’s personal information must be safeguarded. While applicants and participants are required to disclose financial and other personal information in order to demonstrate eligibility, the determination and verification process should not reveal their personal relationship circumstances to other parties. The determination of relationship status is based on financial support or financial interdependence, social and family-like factors and not sexual factors. There is no circumstance where it is appropriate for staff to discuss an applicant’s or participant’s sexual/conjugal relationship with another party.
The purpose of the Questionnaire is to determine if co-residents will be considered to be part of the same benefit unit.
Space is provided to for the applicant or participant to provide relevant additional information throughout. As much information as possible should be recorded on the Questionnaire. This information has important implications in determining eligibility, and the appropriate level of assistance. The applicant or participant and the caseworker must sign each completed Part.
Role of Caregiver
When a person with a disability is living with another person, the caseworker must consider whether the person’s disability explains the financial, social and family-like aspects of their relationship. For example, an applicant or participant may have joint bank accounts and other joint assets because he or she is unable to the banking or manage finances. The need for assistance from another person due to a disability may also explain why two persons spend a significant amount of time together.
Outcome of Determination
Only if both the financial relationship and the social and family-like aspects of the relationship are determined as marriage-like, should a decision be made that the two persons living together are spouses.
If it is determined that the co-resident is not a spouse, the applicant or participant remains eligible for assistance as a single person or sole support parent where he or she resides with another person in a renting or shared living arrangement. The date of co-residence should be noted and reviewed annually.
If it is determined that the co-resident is in a spousal relationship, he or she is ineligible as a single person or sole support parent. The applicant or participant and the person who is the spouse may together apply for assistance as a benefit unit. And, the combined income and assets of the applicant and spouse are considered to determine if the couple qualify for assistance.
The definition of dependant includes a spouse who is absent from the dwelling place of the applicant or participant if the absence is for a reason other than a breakdown in the relationship with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Persons who are in a spousal relationship, where one spouse is temporarily absent from the residence must meet all the conditions of eligibility e.g. meeting participation requirements, report spouse’s income to be eligible. In these situations the co-residency of the spouse shall be considered continuous despite the temporary absence. The person who remains in the residence is not eligible as a sole support parent or as a single person.