Child Custody and Support in Common-Law Breakups | BC - Surrey

Child Custody and Support in Common-Law Breakups | BC – Surrey

The breakdown of a common-law relationship can be a difficult and emotional experience, especially when children are involved. For parents in British Columbia, navigating separation and uncertainties regarding child custody and support can add significant stress. This blog post is designed to be a helpful resource for common-law couples facing separation with children in Surrey.

We will delve into the key aspects of child custody and support arrangements in BC, exploring the legal framework, factors considered by the courts, and strategies for achieving an amicable and child-centered outcome. By equipping yourself with knowledge, you can approach this transition with greater clarity and confidence, ensuring the well-being of your children remains the top priority.

Common Ground: Child Custody and Support for Common-Law Couples (BC)

Common Ground: Child Custody and Support for Common-Law Couples (BC)

While the legalities surrounding common-law relationships differ somewhat from those of marriage, when it comes to child custody and support in British Columbia, common-law couples share common ground with married couples. Here’s a breakdown of what this means for you:

Child Custody and Access

The legal framework governing child custody and access arrangements is identical for married and common-law couples in BC. The court’s primary focus remains the child’s best interests, and factors such as the child’s age, emotional needs, and relationship with each parent are carefully considered when determining custody and access schedules.

Child Support

Like married couples, common-law partners in BC may be subject to child support orders. The federal Child Support Guidelines establish the framework for calculating child support payments based on factors like income and parenting arrangements. This ensures that both parents contribute financially to the child’s well-being.

When can I stop paying child support? Is it when my child turns 19 or when they finish college or university?

Child support obligations in BC don’t automatically end at 19. Your financial responsibility towards your child can extend if they’re still attending school full-time or are unable to support themselves due to illness or disability, even after they reach adulthood.

Spousal Support Considerations

While child custody and support principles remain consistent for married and common-law couples, spousal support differs slightly. In common-law separations, spousal support is only an option if the couple cohabited for at least two years as husband and wife and an application is filed within one year of separation. There may be exceptions to this deadline, but seeking legal guidance from a qualified professional is highly recommended if you’re considering spousal support. Once entitlement is established, the principles used to determine spousal support amounts are similar for married and common-law couples.

The Importance of Clear Agreements

Even though the legal framework for child custody and support is similar for married and common-law couples, having a clear and well-drafted separation agreement can be highly beneficial. A separation agreement can formally document your child’s custody and support arrangements, minimizing the potential for future disagreements and ensuring a smoother transition for your children.

While common-law couples in BC share the same child custody and support framework as married couples, with the court prioritizing the child’s best interests in custody decisions and the federal guidelines dictating child support amounts if parents can’t agree, a well-crafted separation agreement outlining these arrangements minimizes future disputes and ensures a smoother path forward for everyone involved, especially the children.

Step Parents and Child Support in Surrey

Step Parents and Child Support in Surrey

A common question for parents in blended families is whether a new spouse has any financial responsibility toward children from a previous relationship. Here’s a breakdown to clarify the situation in British Columbia:

  • No Obligation for Stepparents: Your new spouse is not legally obligated to contribute towards child support for your children from a previous relationship. Their income typically isn’t considered when calculating child support amounts. A step-parent may be responsible for child support if they have lived with and contributed to the support of the child for at least one year.
  • Exceptions for Undue Hardship:  If one parent claims undue hardship (financial difficulty), the court may consider the total household income of both parents, including income from new spouses. However, this doesn’t mean your new spouse becomes directly responsible for child support payments.
  • Stepparent Obligations:  While your new spouse isn’t automatically responsible for child support now, things might change if you separate from them. Under BC’s Family Law Act, a former stepparent who lived with and significantly contributed to the child’s upbringing may be required to provide child support.

The Bottom Line

The breakdown of a common-law relationship with children can be emotionally charged and raise numerous questions about child custody and support. While the legal framework offers common ground for both married and common-law couples in British Columbia, your family’s unique circumstances require careful consideration.

This blog post has provided a general overview of key aspects like child custody, child support, and stepparent considerations. However, consulting with a qualified family lawyer is crucial for personalized guidance tailored to your situation.

The highly experienced family law team at Zukerman Law in Surrey can provide invaluable support throughout your separation journey. We understand the complexities of common-law separations and dedicate ourselves to helping you achieve an outcome that prioritizes the well-being of your children and protect your best interests. Contact Zukerman Law today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.


Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.