According to Statistics Canada, between 2006 and 2011, the increase in the number of cohabiting couples was four times that of marriages in Canada during the same period. Recognizing the need to address the legal issues affecting this growing population, British Columbia introduced the BC Family Law Act in 2013. Our post this week answers some of the most frequently asked questions that cohabiting couples often have about their rights and obligation under law.
What is the Act’s definition of a “spouse”? Couples who marry automatically enter into a spousal relationship. But cohabiting couples are considered spouses only after they live together for two years continuously.
When does a spousal relationship begin? It begins either on the date that a couple marries or on the date that a couple moves in together, whichever came first.
After two years living together, is a couple considered as married? No, even after two years, there’s no such thing as an automatic marriage. Marriage requires a legal marriage ceremony and licence.
What is the impact of becoming spouses in a common-law relationship? Under the Act, common law spouses enjoy the same legal rights and shoulder the same legal responsibilities as married couples. One of the most significant areas in which this is seen is the equal division of family property and debts. Some property is excluded, but this is a subject that we will discuss in a future post.
Is there any way for common-law couples to avoid sharing family property?Drafting a legally binding co-habitation agreement allows common-law couples to split family property differently from the 50/50 split provided for in the Act.
The lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott can answer any other questions you may have about common-law relationships. They can also provide legal advice to help you structure the relationship in a way that best protects your interests.