Common-law couples and separation in British Columbia

British Columbia couples who are in common-law relationships have the same rights as married couples, but this is not necessarily the case throughout the rest of the country. Based on a court ruling in British Columbia on March 18, 2013, couples who have lived together for two years or more have the same rights as married couples.

Among other things, this means that common-law couples in British Columbia who separate are entitled to 50 percent each of jointly owned assets. In the rest of the country, this is not the case.

Many common-law couples do not realize that one of them may be liable to pay spousal support to the other, despite not being married. This is possible, though less likely, in other provinces, but because common-law couples are treated like married couples in British Columbia, it is much more likely there.

Common-law couples should keep a few points in mind. One is that if they move out of the province, they should look into the laws for common-law couples in the new province because they will not be the same. Couples who do separate in British Columbia may wish to work with a lawyer to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilities.

Lawyers can assist couples with negotiating issues around spousal support, child custody and division of assets. However, if couples cannot reach an agreement, lawyers may be helpful in preparing for a court case. For example, a couple may have been together for five years and have a child and a house. They might attempt to agree on various issues regarding their separation, but be unable to come to a consensus on child custody. In such a case, they would then need to have the courts help decide the appropriate course of action.

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