When asked their opinions about the longevity of marriages and common-law relationships in British Columbia and other provinces, authorities expressed their concern about how little many people know about the laws governing these unions. Most of them believe the fairy tale vision of everlasting love conceals the realities of separation and divorce. They suggest couples take the time to consider the worst-case scenario and learn about their rights.
Part of the reason for the lack of knowledge could be the various laws in the different provinces — especially for common-law relationships. The aspect that typically brings about unexpected problems due to ignorance of the laws is property division. British Columbia treats common-law partnerships in exactly the same way as marriages — after a couple has been together for two years. If the relationship ends, property division will take place on a 50/50 basis for both marriages and common-law relationships.
Other provinces have no presumptive rights, and in Alberta, common-law partners without Adult Interdependent Partnership agreements in place have no rights upon separation. In Ontario, a common-law spouse has no right to property but can claim spousal support, and in Nova Scotia, spousal support is only available after two years of living together as a common-law couple. Knowing what to expect can prepare couples for what will transpire if they relocate to another province.
However, common-law couples can avoid the unexpected challenges that a separation can bring by signing prenuptial or domestic partnership agreements. This will give all couples the same rights, regardless of whether they reside in British Columbia or another province or territory. With the skilled guidance of a seasoned lawyer who has years of experience in drafting marital agreements, couples can address all issues that might bring contention in the event of a separation in the future and then live their fairy tales with peace of mind.
Source: CBC News Calgary, “When fairy tales fall apart: ‘Couples’ status varies by relationship, region“, Melanie Patten, Accessed on Jan. 20, 2017