Legal issues for people in common-law relationships in BC can be complicated. The status granted to couples living together outside of a traditional marriage differs from one province to another.
British Columbia couples living together share the same rights and privileges enjoyed by married couples. This is provided they have cohabited for at least two years. However, there are many exceptions.
Read this entire article to learn the details. It’s not as simple as you think. We also added some of our favourite family law memes in this article. While common-law and family law disputes are serious, we try to lighten up the industry as much as possible.
When you are in a marriage-like relationship, it can be even more complicated than marriage. The laws are not as clear and many factors must be considered. Common-law couples need to be careful and take family law seriously. If your common-law spouse takes on a bunch of debt, is it considered family debt?
You don’t want to be responsible for any mistakes that your common-law partner makes. We have seen people be responsible for $20,000 of credit card debt, or $50,000 in student loans. Don’t let that be you.
We have lawyers that can assist you with your needs. You might want to look into cohabitation agreements or separation agreements. We will discuss these in this article.
Sometimes when a separation agreement fails, you need to push things farther. If this happens, your lawyer can fight for your rights in courts.
The most common question we get asked is what period of time do people need to be together to be common law.
There is no legal answer to this, as there are too many factors to consider. Instead of leaving it to chance, make sure you get a cohabitation agreement created prior to moving in together.
The differences in the laws of the different provinces can be striking. For example, couples in a common-law relationship in Ontario do not have the same property rights enjoyed by married couples.
However, couples in a common-law relationship in British Colombia have the same rights as couples in a traditional marriage. Read on to learn important things to know about proving common-law relationships in British Columbia.
Common-law Relationships in British Columbia
The Family Law Act of British Columbia defines a “spouse” as someone married to another person. The relationship existing between spouses and the rights that go with that relationship begins on the date of the marriage.
The law includes in its definition of “spouse” someone living together with another person. This must happen for at least two years in a marriage-like relationship. The two-year period is shortened if they had a child together.
Legal recognition as a spouse is important because it grants rights. These rights other provinces reserve exclusively for couples who are in a traditional marriage. British Columbia couples in a common-law relationship are entitled to an equal share of assets acquired during the relationship when they split up.
Other provinces, in contrast, grant such property division rights to individuals in a marriage who divorce. But they do not grant them to couples in a common-law relationship who split up.
If you want to speak to a top family law expert, fill out the form on this page. We will take your information, and you will get a call back from an experienced lawyer.
A top family lawyer can help you with the following:
- Creating a cohabitation agreement
- Providing you with legal advice
- Filing something in court to fight for your rights
- Creating a marriage agreement
- Corresponding with the opposing party (your ex-spouse or their attorney)
Proving a British Columbia Common-Law Partnership
Common-law partnerships lack the legal formalities required for couples entering a traditional marriage. Before a couple may get married in British Columbia, one of the parties must apply for a marriage license. This must happen at least three months before the ceremony.
The fee for the license is $100. The ceremony must be performed by someone who is licensed to officiate at marriage ceremonies. It’s amazing how easy it is to get married, and how hard it is to end a relationship. Common-law separation is also complex when there are children or property.
The government mails a marriage certificate to the couple following the marriage ceremony. The certificate is proof of the marriage.
Couples living in a common-law relationship do not have the convenience of a marriage certificate.
Therefore, it’s harder to prove the existence of their relationship. Instead, they must prove the existence of the existence of a marriage-like relationship. They must prove the fact that it has existed for at least two years.
Questions To Ask About Spousal Relationship
- How does the division of property work for unmarried couples?
- What should you do when the relationship ends?
- Can you create a domestic agreement if you are not married? How much is it?
- If you have a child together, how will the parenting time work if you separate?
- What is the Supreme Court, Court Of Appeal, and Provincial Court?
Are you curious about common law BC? It’s time to speak to an experienced family lawyer. Call Clearway Law at and we will get some information from you. If you need legal help, we will connect you to a family lawyer who can provide legal advice.
Our Process For Common Law Separation
Once you hire one of our top family lawyers, you not only get access to the top lawyer but also our support team. Our support team will make sure the lawyer is getting you help as soon as possible.
Our support team will make sure the lawyer has all the information they need. This will save you money since the lawyer won’t have to do unneeded correspondence.
Below are some other things to consider regarding cohabitation:
- Will you need to pay spousal support if you separate?
- Should you sign a cohabitation agreement before moving in together?
- What are the rules for BC family law?
- How can you set out the excluded property so it doesn’t get designated family property? What will happen to any family asset if you are unmarried?
- How do you protect yourself while in a common-law relationship?
- Will a prenuptial agreement replace a cohabitation agreement if you get married?
Common-Law Marriage In BC
We have several lawyers in British Columbia in various cities. Our top lawyers believe in helping their clients stay out of court. Going to court is often too expensive.
If you need a family lawyer because you are in a conjugal relationship, contact us.
Common-Law Relationships in BC
There is no one thing that will prove you and another person were in a common-law relationship. The manner in which the parties to the relationship conduct themselves matters. It is what establishes a common-law relationship. This is as opposed to something else, such as a dating relationship.
Factors a court might look at to determine common-law relationships in BC:
- Residing in the same home
- Sleeping together
- Sexually active together
- Holding themselves out to the public as spouses
- Purchasing gifts for each other
- Acquiring assets together
- Share financial responsibilities
- Shared parenting of children born of the relationship
A driver’s license showing the same address and joint bank accounts should be organized. We are also looking for shared utility bills and rental leases. Further, any other documents indicating the couple share their lives together. This can be used to prove a common-law relationship.
Common-Law Relationships in BC
Important legal rights could be lost if you are unable to prove you were a common-law couple in British Columbia. You need advice from a lawyer familiar with the laws in British Columbia. Also, this information would be pertaining to common-law relationships.
The lawyer would be experienced in proving the existence of such relationships. Further, this is essential to protect your property and financial rights.
Get help by reaching out to us. Ignoring the situation might cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
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Separation Questions To Ask A Lawyer
Approximately 9 percent of the Canadian population 15 years of age and older are separated. When couples decide to split up, one or both parties might not be ready to move on.
It’s important to understand the legal implications before you decide that it is the right option for you. Here are the answers to seven of the most common questions asked by people contemplating a separation.
Common-Law Relationships in BC
Separation is living separately and apart from your spouse. As long as one or both parties to a marriage or, in provinces that recognize their legality, common-law marriages decide to live separately and apart, they are considered to be separated. The law does not require a court proceeding or formal process for separation.
What if neither my spouse nor I can afford to move out? Moving out of the home you share with your spouse can be expensive particularly if leaving a home that you own together with your spouse and must contribute to a monthly mortgage payment.
Parents deciding to separate might elect to remain in the same house for the benefit of their children and to making parenting easier.
Regardless of the reason you choose to do it, you can live separately and apart while remaining under the same roof as your spouse.
As long as you and your spouse have separate sleeping arrangements and do not conduct yourselves as normally associated with a couple, such as eating meals together or going out together. The law considers you to be living separately and apart to satisfy the requirements for separation.
Being Separated From Your Spouse
If I move out during the separation, can my spouse change the locks?
Your spouse cannot prevent you from entering the home the two of you shared while living together, including changing the locks when you move out. However, a court may grant a restraining order to someone at risk of being harmed by a current or former spouse.
A restraining order could prevent the offender from returning to the home of the victim. Violation of a restraining order could result in a person being jailed for committing a criminal offence.
How does a separation differ from a divorce? A divorce ends a marriage and requires a formal court proceeding. Separation does not end a marriage, and separated couples are still married.
See our main family law page to learn more. Common-law relationships in BC shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Do I need a separation agreement to be separated?
Separation does not automatically resolve the issues that when couples are no longer together, including the following:
- Child custody and parenting arrangements
- Child and spousal support
- Division of real and personal property owned by the couple
- Responsibility for payment of debts incurred during the marriage
- Possession of the matrimonial home to raise the children of the marriage
Common-Law Relationships in BC
Unless the parties resolve these and other issues through negotiations, a court proceeding will eventually be required. A judge will then make the decisions.
It usually is better for the parties to control their lives by reaching an agreement than leaving the decision to a judge. The decisions you and your spouse make are written into a separation agreement prepared by your lawyer.
A separation agreement is a legally binding and enforceable contract. The separation agreement simplifies the process by eliminating the need for a court to hold hearings. You get to decide the issues, and the answers are contained in the agreement.
Does separation become a divorce?
Separation is not divorce. When you are common-law, you don’t divorce.
If you were married, no matter how long you and your spouse live separate and apart, it does not become a divorce. You can use separation for at least one year as a ground for filing for a divorce.
Common-Law Relationships in BC
A lawyer experienced in separation and other family law matters can be a tremendous source of advice and guidance. The assistance of a lawyer during the negotiations is helpful.
They can work towards the completion of a separation agreement which helps to ensure the protection of your rights.
Four Common Mistakes That Hurt Your Chances of Settlement
There are mistakes that hurt your chances of settlement. There are almost 6 million married people living in Ontario, yet more than 40 percent of their marriages will come to an end.
Whether you are married or living under a common-law relationship, splitting up through a separation is never easy.
The break in the emotional bond uniting a couple is usually accompanied by shared parenting of children and financial issues that must be reconciled before you and your spouse or partner can move on with your lives apart from each other.
The key to a successful breakup is to avoid the following mistakes frequently made by couples.
Mistake #1: Letting emotions influence your decisions
Anger, guilt, betrayal are only a few of the emotions you might experience upon realizing that your relationship has come to an end. Those emotions affect the decisions you make.
For example, the guilt you might experience from believing that you contributed to the end of the relationship could cause you to not fight for the fair division of assets to which you are entitled.
Never make an important decision during the breakup when it could be influenced by emotions.
Relying upon the advice of friends could help, but the risk is that friends might feel obligated to agree with you or might also be affected by the anger and other emotions you are feeling.
You’re better off relying upon someone you trust to give you good, reliable advice, such as a lawyer practicing family law.
Common-law relationships in BC are serious, but most people don’t treat it that way.
Mistake #2: Trying to negotiate a settlement without a lawyer
As cordial and amicable as the split might be at the outset, you need to know your rights and how to protect them. Your relationship with your children and your future financial security and independence is affected by decisions you make during your breakup.
Negotiating directly with your spouse or partner is a mistake that could have long-term repercussions for you and your children.
A consultation with a lawyer who practices family law provides valuable information about the division of assets, custody, visitation and support issues that must be resolved regardless of whether you are separating or ending a common-law relationship.
Mistake #3: Moving out of the house before all issues are settled
Moving out of the house before all financial and child custody issues are resolved could impair your rights.
This is particularly true when custody of a child is in dispute. Courts consider the best interests of a child and make an effort to maintain stability. The relationship each parent has with the child is an important factor as is the fact that one parent is the primary caregiver.
Remaining in the home prevents your relationship with your children from being affected. If you feel threatened by your spouse or partner, a lawyer can help you obtain a restraining order from a judge. Violation of a restraining order is grounds for arrest.
Mistake #4: Turning the children against the other parent
One of the factors judges take into consideration when deciding custody issues is the conduct of each parent in fostering and maintaining a child’s relationship with the other parent.
Attempting to turn your child against your spouse or partner or limiting access to the child could cause a judge to deny custody to you.
Don’t Hurt Your Chances of Settlement- Speak to a lawyer
An experienced lawyer is a good source of guidance and legal advice when splitting up. BC lawyers know the laws pertaining to separation and the procedures to follow to protect your rights.
There are three options when going to a family law court. You can hire a family lawyer, self-represent, or use legal coaching. This article will discuss the pros and cons of each.
A limited scope retainer is the same thing as legal coaching. The lawyer is only being hired “at need.”
When most people contact a family law firm for the first time, they are very stressed out. They know they need to do something, but they don’t know where to begin. The other stress is how much the common-law separation is going to cost them.
When you hire a family lawyer, he or she takes on your case. The lawyer you hired becomes responsible for your case. They do the work and make decisions.
They often only speak to the client when they need information. It is for the best as your lawyer will charge an hourly rate for phone call updates.
A family lawyer might require a $5000 upfront payment (called a retainer) to represent you in court. Once the retainer amount runs out, they top it up.
This may be done automatically if credit card authorization was provided. Many people cannot afford this, so they turn to the other two options.
Common-Law Relationships in BC
Because some people can’t afford a lawyer, they take the risk and self-represent in family court. If you have assets and/or children, this is not recommended.
If you have “nothing to lose,” then it may be okay to self-represent.
Common-law relationships in BC are complex, so speak to a lawyer. We can connect you with one.
Author: Alistair Vigier, CEO of ClearWay Law