Division of marital property in British Columbia

The rules in British Columbia dealing with the division of property owned by married couples, or unmarried couples who have lived together for at least two years, changed with the introduction of The Family Law Act. The law, which went into effect in March 2013, was designed to make the process clearer and easier for couples to understand.

One of the goals of The Family Law Act is to make property division fair. The rules state that property acquired during the marriage or cohabitation will generally be divided equally, but property owned by either party prior to the relationship is exempt. However, the parties involved may decide on a different arrangement if they wish. This could happen if one party agreed to take less than half of the marital property in return for other concessions such as increased spousal support. Negotiations may also allow for a jointly owned business to continue to operate smoothly when a couple divorces or separates.

The Family Law Act gives an individual two years to apply for a court order. For married couples, the two years runs from the date of the order for divorce. For couples living together, who are sometimes referred to as common-law couples, the two year period begins when the couple separates.

Matters often become contentious when a marriage or long-term relationship ends, and The Family Law Act provides a straightforward approach to the division marital property. However, couples may prefer to make other arrangements, and an experienced divorce lawyer will have likely encountered situations where an amicable agreement was reached even when the division of marital assets was not equal. A lawyer could also prove valuable when couples find it hard to reach a consensus over matters such as spousal support or child custody and visitation.

Source: JusticeBC, “Dealing with Property and Debt“, Nov. 3, 2014

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