Divorce Blog

Living Common Law in BC: The New Family Law Act Spells Big Changes

By Karen Stewart

Presently, the BC Family Relations Act is in effect and governs relationship breakdown in our province; however, that will change on March 18, 2013, when the new Family Law Act is fully implemented. This is different for married and unmarried couples moving forward.

Assets accrued in marriage are split in half, according to Sections 5 and 6 of the Act, which excludes unmarried couples. This forces split couples to rely on other methods, like trust law, to figure out what they own after separation. Trust law, however, leaves much to interpretation and much more to the possibility of disagreement and litigation.

Young Couple Outdoors
In a Common Law living situation? The Family Law Act may affect you if the relationship fails.

The BC Family Relations Act will result in dramatic changes that come into effect early next year for common-law couples. The act says that once cohabitating couples have lived together for two years, they are eligible for 50% of all assets. This includes the increase in the value of all property brought into the relationship. Rather than each taking back what they brought into the relationship, non-married couples will have a right to one-half of all family property. Common-law couples will also be responsible for one-half of all family debts of their partner, including credit cards, from the time they began living together until separation.

If a court case commences prior to the new Family Law Act’s implementation, the present law will still apply. But on March 18, 2013, BC will see important changes implemented and applied to future relationship breakdowns.

How to Protect Yourself

From a BC Divorce Mediator’s point of view, if those of you in a non-marital relationship wish to keep property separate, it is a good time to prepare a cohabitation agreement that sets out how property is to be divided in the event that your relationship breaks down. After all, cohabitation is about love, but breaking up is all about money. Protect yourself.