Protect Your Future: Understanding Common-Law Rights in BC Break-Ups

Protect Your Future: Understanding Common-Law Rights in BC Break-Ups

Thinking about separation? If you’ve been in a committed relationship but haven’t tied the knot, you might wonder what rights you have. Here in British Columbia, common-law partnerships – even though not marriages – are recognized under the Family Law Act. This means you may have rights regarding property division and spousal support upon separation, just like married couples.

However, the intricacies of managing the legal aspects of a separation can be daunting, particularly when terms like ‘common law’ and ‘Family Law Act’ are involved. This blog post aims to simplify the complexities and equip you with the knowledge you need about common law rights in BC separations, instilling you with the confidence to move forward.

What happens if you break up with your common-law partner?

What happens if you break up with your common-law partner?

Facing a break-up with your common-law partner can be emotionally challenging. On top of that, you might need clarification about your rights regarding property division. Here in British Columbia, the good news is that common-law relationships are recognized under the Family Law Act, which provides you with certain protections.

Property Division

Property division rules generally apply if you have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years. Like married couples, you’ll likely share any assets and debts acquired during the relationship.

There’s an important exception – property you brought into the relationship, like inheritances or pre-owned assets, typically remains yours.
Couples can choose a different arrangement by creating a written agreement outlining how property will be divided if they separate.

Changes Brought by the Family Law Act (2013)

Before 2013, common-law partners had limited rights regarding property division upon separation. This often led to unfair outcomes and lengthy legal battles. Thankfully, the Act now ensures a fairer and more streamlined process.

Understanding your rights and navigating the legalities of property division during a separation can be complex. Zukerman Law’s experienced family lawyers can guide you through the process, ensuring a clear understanding of your options and advocating for a favorable outcome.
Don’t face this alone. Contact Zukerman Law today for a consultation and receive the support you deserve during this challenging time.

Proving a Marriage-Like Relationship

Proving a Marriage-Like Relationship

The legal recognition of common-law partnerships in British Columbia grants specific rights and protections during separation. However, proving the existence of a “marriage-like relationship” is essential to qualify for these benefits under the Family Law Act.

A causal relationship or dating scenario does not constitute a common-law partnership. Here, the emphasis lies on establishing a deeper commitment and shared life similar to that of a married couple, albeit without a formal ceremony.

Establishing a “marriage-like relationship” hinges on presenting evidence proving the co-creation of a life together. This evidence can encompass various aspects, including:

  • Living Arrangements: Cohabitation, even if not continuous, strengthens the claim. Additionally, evidence of shared household responsibilities, chores, and living space arrangements is crucial.
  • Sexual/Personal Factors: The existence of an intimate and committed relationship is a factor. Fidelity, emotional connection, communication patterns, and shared meals prepared together further solidify the claim. Additionally, instances of mutual support during illness and discussions about plans, such as childbearing, can be presented.
  • Social/Societal Factors: How you presented your relationship to family and friends, participation in joint social activities, and the community’s perception of you as a couple all contribute to the court’s assessment.
  • Financial Arrangements: Joint management of expenses related to groceries, housing, and social outings strengthens the claim. Evidence of co-ownership of property or shared responsibility for mortgages and bills adds weight to the argument. Furthermore, joint financial arrangements, like shared bank accounts, can be beneficial.

Importance of Documentation

Preserving relevant documents like cohabitation agreements, joint leases, bills addressed to both partners, and any written communication demonstrating a shared life is highly recommended. Photographs depicting your life together, vacations, celebrations, or family gatherings can be strong visual evidence.

Navigating a common-law separation can be complex, and establishing a “marriage-like relationship” is crucial. Zukerman Law’s experienced family lawyers can assist you in gathering evidence, understanding the legal nuances, and advocating for your rights throughout the process. Schedule a consultation today and receive the legal guidance you deserve during this challenging time.

What Am I Entitled to After a Break-Up in BC

What Am I Entitled to After a Break-Up in BC?

Facing a separation? Understanding your entitlements can feel overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of what you might be entitled to in a BC break-up, whether you were married or in a common-law partnership.

Property Division

BC’s Family Law Act generally applies a 50/50 split of “family property” and “family debt” between spouses upon separation. This means you may be entitled to an equal share of assets and debts acquired during your relationship.

You and your ex can agree to an unequal division if you both find it fair. This can be formalized through a separation agreement after the break-up or through a pre-existing cohabitation agreement or marriage contract.

What’s Family Property?

Think of it as what you and your partner built together. It includes your family home, other real estate, investments, bank accounts, vehicles, pensions, and even gains in the value of certain pre-owned assets.
Certain assets brought into the relationship, like inheritances, typically remain yours.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as maintenance, may be awarded. However, it depends on factors like the relationship’s length, each partner’s financial situation, and childcare responsibilities. The goal is to help the lower-earning partner maintain a comparable standard of living for a set period or indefinitely, depending on the circumstances.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Common-Law Partners Have Rights: Similar to married couples, common-law partners who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years can also qualify for property division and potentially spousal support under the Family Law Act.
  • Seek Legal Guidance: The specifics of your situation will determine your entitlements. Consulting a family lawyer is crucial for understanding your rights and effectively navigating the separation process.

The Bottom Line

While a common-law separation can be emotionally difficult, British Columbia law offers protection to both common-law partners and married couples. You may be entitled to a share of property acquired during the relationship and, in some cases, spousal support. Understanding the concept of a “marriage-like relationship” and the importance of documentation can be crucial in securing your rights. If you’re facing a separation, don’t hesitate to consult with an experienced family lawyer to navigate the legalities and ensure a fair outcome.


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.