Property division when a common-law relationship ends

On behalf of Peterson Stark Scott posted in Property Division on December 10, 2015.

In our last post we wrote about the increase in common-law relationships throughout Canada. The move away from traditional marriage appears to be having an impact on the number of divorces that are taking place in some demographics. Whether married or in a common-law relationship, when a couple splits, there are certain property matters that will need to be addressed. Under the Family Law Act, in British Columbia, the rights of common-law spouses when it comes to property division are similar to those of divorcing couples. Accordingly, it is important that individuals in this situation take steps to make sure they receive their fair share of the property when a common-law relationship ends. 

The first step toward securing a fair share and division of the assets as spelled out in the Family Law Act, is to establish that a person is in fact a common-law spouse. The definition is included in the Act. To fall under the Act’s definition, a couple must live in a marriage-like relationship, for a minimum of two years.

While it is also possible for those involved in a relationship for less than two years to leave the relationship with some property, the approach that must be taken is quite different. To accomplish this, an “unjust enrichment” claim may be used. In this situation you must be able to prove not only that you contributed to the assets/property  of the other person in the relationship, but that you suffered a corresponding “loss” because of it.

Moving forward after a relationship ends can be difficult. It may be an easier transition if you feel financially secure. Because this process can be complicated, it is important to work with a family lawyer who has a thorough understanding of how to secure your best outcome. Our law firm represents individuals who find themselves in this situation. To learn more about our practice, your rights to property division and related issues when a common-law relationship ends, please see our website.

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