BC Revisits Common Law Relationships

For the first time in a long time the Province of British Columbia revisits law surrounding common law spouses. In particular, they are having another look at division of property, pensions, and issues when there are children involved.

From the perspective of the GLBT community, where a majority of people still live in Common-Law marriage relationships, this will further strengthen the right of partners who choose to share their lives.

On the flip side. Move in with your partner and after 2 years you’re going to need to contemplate a pre-nuptial agreement.

Here’s some more information from the CBC:

The proposal is part of a package of major changes to the province’s family law put forward by Attorney General Mike de Jong on Monday morning.The B.C. government wants to extend laws governing the division of property to common-law spouses who have lived together for
two years or who have children together.

De Jong said the package is intended to modernize the province’s Family Relations Act for first time in 30 years by making it less adversarial and easier to understand.

The changes cover a wide range of issues such as separations, child custody, support payments, division of property and pensions, access responsibilities, children’s participation in the legal process and family violence.

Equal division in common-law separations

One of the most significant changes is a proposal to extend laws governing the division of property in separations to common-law spouses who have lived together for two years or who have children together in a marriage-like arrangement.

Georgialee Lang, a family lawyer from Vancouver, says it’s a revolutionary proposal because the current property-division laws don’t generally apply to common-law separations.

That means couples that choose not to get married to avoid the marriage property division laws may need to reassess their arrangements, and that may include drawing up written agreements.

“Being a common-law spouse now, if these recommendations are enacted, is no longer protection against your property,” she said

“All these people that don’t get married because they don’t want to deal with property … they’re all going to need agreements, because you can opt out like married people do now, you can opt out of the law that says property is divided 50-50,” she said.

But the proposal also seeks to exclude pre-relationship, gifts and inheritances from property that would be divided 50-50 in any separation.