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What is family property and how is it divided?

The Family Law Act affects the way separated and divorcing couples in British Columbia split property when no prearranged agreement exists. A change in the law in 2013 created property division rules affecting both married and unmarried spouses. The FLA defines spouses as married individuals or unmarried couples who lived in a marriage-like state for a minimum of two years.

Not all property is divisible during a separation or divorce. Excluded property generally includes assets acquired by one spouse prior to the relationship and property purchased during the union or cohabitation with excluded property. In addition, spouses are the solitary owners of inheritances, gifts and compensation from insurance and personal injury claims designated for a single spouse.

Any assets not excluded are shared as family property, no matter which spouse owns them, including increases in excluded property values during the relationship. Courts are bound to divide property fairly, which may or may not be equal to a 50-50 split.

Couples often concentrate on the portioning of assets during separation and divorce. Debts are divisible, too, according to the couple's separation date and the debt associations with family property after spouses begin to live apart. 

The FLA limits the amount of time unmarried spouses have to take legal action for property division. The deadline falls within two years of the unmarried spouses' separation date. 

Lawyers in British Columbia can assist married or unmarried spouses with property division claims under FLA rules, but alternatives are available for couples who consider property issues in advance of separation or divorce. 

Legal advisers assist couples with the preparation of financial agreements, prior to marriage or during a relationship, that distribute property and debts in the manner spouses choose to help avoid conflicts at a later time.

Property division during divorce can be stressful. A lawyer can provide advice to make the process as beneficial to you as possible.

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