Common Law British Columbia
Family law is going through some rapid changes in BC, and this affects everyone, particularly people in common law relationships.

Currently family law is governed by the Family Relations Act. However, the Family Law Act is in the process of replacing this legislation. The Family Law Act has already been given Royal Assent and will likely be proclaimed in force over the next twelve to eighteen months.

The effect of this new legislation is dramatic, as the BC Family Relations Act did not cover common law relationships whereas the new Family Law Act does. Although not in effect now, for common law partners it may as well be, because even if your relationship ends right away, you or your partner can simply wait until the Family Law Act is in effect to use its provisions.

Am I Common Law?
British Columbia considers you common law if you and your partner have lived in a marriage-like relationship for two or more years, or you have children together.

Property Rights
The Family Relations Act governs division of property when a marriage ends. It does not apply to unmarried couples. However, this is all about to change. The new Family Law Act, when it takes effect, will treat married and common law couples the same with regards to property division. Although not yet in effect now, even if your relationship ends, a common law partner simply needs to wait until the Family Law Act is in effect to apply for a division of property.

Spousal Support
A common law partner in BC has one year after separation to apply to court for spousal support under the Family Relations Act. There is no deadline for married couples applying under the Divorce Act.

Child Support & Child Custody
Child support and child custody are decided the same way for common law couples in British Columbia as for married couples.

Under the Family Relations Act, there is a one-year deadline to apply to court for child support from a common law step parent. No such deadline exists in the Divorce Act, which applies to married couples.

The rights of common law partners are the same as married partners when it comes to most estate issues, including intestate succession and dependents relief.

Cohabitation Agreement
Under the Family Relations Act, it often did not make sesne for common law BC partners to enter into a cohabitation agreement. This is because doing so brought them into the purview of the Family Relations Act, which required an equal division of all property. However, with the impending approach of the Family Law Act, a cohabitation agreement is strongly recommended if this is not the result wanted by a couple.


26 comments on “BC

  1. Zhang Gaihui on said:

    My daughter and her boyfriend live together, do they need register before live together?

  2. My boyfriend is from Australia, he is applying for an extension visa and was wondering if he should put “common-law”.
    We have lived together for 6 months and will be living together till May (7 more months) if his extension gets approved.

    what should we do?

  3. Hello. If I am living with my boyfriend, and have more ‘investments’ than he does going in, should anything happen to our relationship, is what’s mine going in remain mine, if we should split?

  4. Theresa Bolla on said:

    I have been in a relationship for 2 months now and it is going well. I have assets that I want to protect and I am interested in a cohabitation aggreement.

    I keep hearing different things regarding when you re considered common law. 6 months, 1 year, on here it says 2 yrs……. is there a legal answer to this……

    Also if your partner is at your place 90% of the time and still pays rent and has his own place, would this behaviour constitute to be common law after a while…..

  5. Hello,
    My girlfriend and I have been living together for 4 months now. She has a disability. The ministry has cut her off of disability assistance due to the fact that we are now considered a “family unit”. I’m about to do my taxes for the year and I’m wondering if she would now be considered my dependent? Is there a benefit to being considered common law?


  6. I think this is insane! People who choose to live common-law obviously are choosing to do so for a reason. If couples like myself wanted the same laws that apply to “Married” couples then I would have chosen to go that route. What the government is doing is causing a lot of trouble where it is not necessary, 2 years is NOT long enough to entitle your partner – whether it be man, woman or Gay to have to give up 50% of your property or pension – I could see if the law said 10 years but 2 years? All the government is doing is forcing couples to think twice about entering into any kind of relationship other than marriage and then making the lawyers wealthier by forcing us to draw up pre-nuptual agreements beforehand. I would not be surprised if you see a flux of couples splitting up as a result of this BS!

  7. Nicholas White on said:


    Just so you know under “Cohabitation Agreement” the word sense, in the first sentence, is spelled incorrectly.


    How would dividing of assets work for a common-law couple who have lived together over two years without an agreement?


  8. Moira on said:

    I am just wondering if this would apply to a common law relationship I was for six years that ended in October 2009?

    Thanks Moira

  9. Bonita on said:

    I have a question. I am in a common law relationship. My partner had convinced me to put his name on the title to my home ( which I have lived in for the past 23 years) He quit paying for his car and put an mortgage on the home to cover it. When we split up – is there any provision for me? O don’t work as he brought 2 young children with him – I’ve done my best for and with them, but it looks like the end is coming. I have no saving as my home was to be or my retirement, now I need some advice.

  10. Stacey on said:

    My boyfriend lived with his ex-gilrfirend from November 2010 until September 2011. Would they have been considered common-law?

  11. Elisha on said:

    To whom it may concern,

    I have been trying to find answers which pertain to my situation. I was in a marriage-like relationship, living with my significant other. I am his dependant and have been sharing an apartment since November 2012. We been together for a year prior to moving in together. I am currently pregnant with his child, and we had intended on getting married.

    I have tried my best to salvage our relationship, but he told me that the responsibilities of becoming a father are too much for him at this time. He wants us to separate, and he has told me I must find my own place by August 3rd. I have no source of income, and it has been very difficult finding any advice as to what my options are.

    I cannot afford to rent my own place. I have reached out to my family, but no one is financial equipped to help me move or reside in their residence. I am also waiting to go back to college to complete my studies in Surrey; therefor, I must stay in the area in order to finish my Health Care Assistant program.

    I would appreciate any information on my rights and what options are available to me. It would be much appreciated if I could get a response in a timely matter since I am currently at risk of homelessness.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate any feedback I can get.


  12. Karen on said:

    I was just wondering since the rules are a little confusing. My Boyfriend and I have been together for four years and have been living together just over a year and a half. We intend to spend the rest of our lives together however currently we are living rent free (lucky us) in my parents basement (in B.C.) and are financially independent (he pays for his food and I pay for mine). I’m not really sure the definition of “marriage-like” relationship and because we are not currently financially dependant on each other and we have no children but are in a committed romantic relationship I was just wondering if we will be considered “common-law married” in December when we have officially lived together for two years. Any light you may be able to shed on this situation would be much appreciated!! :)

  13. Nadia on said:

    My mate has been separated for 7 years and has a separation agreement but has never formally divorced. I am divorced prior to us living together. We have co habited for 4 years. Can we be considered to be common law married under BC legislation?

  14. Gord Stevens on said:

    When common law takes place after 2 to 3 years are they Intitled to any cars boats money house previous to when they got together

  15. Debbie on said:

    Hi my mom and boyfriend have been living together for almost 3 years, she is still married but has been separated for 20 years. Can you still be classified common law if your still legally married

  16. Mohsen Sithole on said:

    My girlfriend she a contractor Leave In Caregiver using both my address and Caregiver’s , is she legaly common law ????

    • administrator on said:

      @Moshen – I’m not quite sure what you are asking. Common law is determined by how your relationship works – for instance, is it marriage-like, and not by what address is used for mail or other purposes.

  17. What the eff on said:

    The assets one works hard to obtain are apparently as much yours as your slacking ex.
    Bullshit law.
    Oh, you want to move in?
    Please sign these documents so I know you’re not a gold digger.
    What a mistake, almost as well thought out as HST hey?
    Write your MLA about this ridiculous law, I will be.

  18. Anonymous on said:

    Good Evening,

    My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for 4 years. I believe it is time to declare ourselves as common law partner this year when it is tax time. However, my boyfriend doesn’t want to claim as common law at all for whatever reason it is…. So what should I do? I cannot force my boyfriend if he doesn’t want to??? Should I keep on claiming as a single individual. I am also applying for the RCMP and I want to make sure that my marital status doesn’t affect my chance of getting a job.

    Let me know what I should do,

    Thank you!

  19. Anonymous on said:

    Im currently living in Australia. My partner is Canadian, we met in 2006 at school here in Australia and we have been in a relationship and living together since 2007. We have no kids. I got Canadian PR as common law in 2011 but we’ve never lived in Canada, I only landed in Canada and returned to Australia. We are finally planning to relocate to Vancouver on May 6th. Our question is regarding the recent changes about common-law couples having the same rights and obligations as married couples. Does this rule will affect us as soon as we start living in Vancouver or after we have lived there 2 years? Can we do a cohabitation agreement to give up any rights or obligations to property or debts from the other party so we can continue living together without having to worry about these matters? Do you do this service? Do we have to do it before we move to Canada and is this possible at all? How long it takes and how much will it be to have it done at your firm?

  20. Cathy on said:

    My fiancée and I have been living together for 7 months now. He has transferred a vehicle to me using the fact that we are common law as why it was a gift. Does this legally establish us as a common law relationship? Besides the fact that we have been living in a marriage like relationship for 7 months.

  21. My partner and I have been together for over a year now and we’ve been living together for the last three months. His visa runs out in July of 2015. We don’t want to rush in and get married but we’re planning on getting engaged soon. We’re just wondering what our options are.
    He’s from Ireland and he’s already been here for two years and he’s already on his third work visa.
    Some suggestions would really be appreciated

  22. michelle on said:

    My ex husband moved in to a legal suite on the other side of the house I am living in,particularly for our elder son who was having a very serious drug issue after the divorce.I could not handle this tragedy on my own, we thought if he came temporarily it would help the children through tough times..We have no intentions of getting back together and we live clearly as friends getting along for the sake of the children. No lines are crossed and there is no intimacy at all what so ever! Child tax benefit has declared us common law no matter what we try to explain and even offered for them to come and see the set up for the bachelor suite he lives in. It is completely self contained with even his own laundry machines, he has no need to enter my suite at all and we have separate locks and keys for our own suites.. I have not received a child tax payment since January of this year and I am living in poverty.. I am told I am now in thousands of dollars in debt to the Government!!! I don’t know what to do?

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