BC

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.

Estates
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.

Summary

32 Comments

  1. Zhang Gaihui-Reply
    August 25, 2012 at 2:24 am

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

  2. Robyn-Reply
    October 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    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. Rhona-Reply
    January 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    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?

    • Loris-Reply
      January 11, 2015 at 2:39 am

      I am looking for a same answer . This new common law in BC state that after 2 years being together , you equally share what was purchased in that time frame.
      If you know more about it pls replay

      Lora

  4. Theresa Bolla-Reply
    January 23, 2013 at 2:13 am

    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. February 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    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?

    Thanks
    Doug

  6. March 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    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!

    • jaide-Reply
      June 5, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      I agree 100%…if I wanted to act as married, I would just get married!

      • SAM-Reply
        February 26, 2015 at 12:28 am

        I agree, my boyfrtiend and I have been contemplating on moving in together. It says you become common law after 2 years here, but I was told it is 6 months- 1 year (will have to look into that). I Also have children from a previous marriage, and my husband left us almost 4 years ago. I receive family allowance, and also the British Columbia rental assistance, free medical as I am considered “low income” I pay 1450$ for a 3 bedroom place each month, as in my city that is a common amount, therefore the assistance helps me each month even if it is a few hundred dollars, and my job covers the rest. I considered my job a good job as I am a LPN nurse, and I work 2 days a week(part time) as I found full time, daycare costs, and hours were a little much for my family. I work Friday nights, Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays(if i have a babysitter), and my ex husband takes the kids every second weekend to help with cost, and I pay a friend to look after the children when I work every other weekend and Sundays, child care subsidy helps withe some of the portion of this and I still pay a portion from my pay which is around 150$ a month but not as much as if they were full time in daycare, which costs are 900$ per child, and after subsidy is still quite a bit out of my pocket, and the hours of day care until 5:00 pm made barriers with my job, and there is no day cares that take children over night(which to be honest i wouldn’t feel comfortable with). I didn’t have much of a choice but to choose weekends at less hours but less pay towards daycare.
        One of the downfalls if my boyfriend and I move in together is I lose all of that subsidy, which is great for the government as they feel he makes enough to help, BUT when we worked our finances out the pro’s and con’s of living together, in the end we would be struggling financially as most of the financial responsibility would be landing on his income… and my income from my job would help cover a small portion of the bills and rent and child care,but each month we would have no money after paying everything. We would be struggling. We would even have struggles paying some of the stuff needed or affording groceries.I know many middle income families in the same situation and many mothers don’t work because child care is expensive, and they basically work to cover daycare costs with no subsidys as their spouses apparently make to much to qualify but in the end they are still struggling. when my husband and I were married, we had our children i was in school with a part time job and he worked making 44,000$ a year and we barely got by all together we had roughly 33,000 a month and it was super hard paying 1600 for rent and bills new born baby, and so on. On top of that he works in construction and was laid off from December-April, and would be on EI (which is not a lot) and tried finding work for the winter but nobody would hire him as he had a fulltime job in April and most companies wanted someone who would be with the company longer than 4 months and he wouldn’t give up his job he had been with for 13 years with decent pay, which you can’t find pay that easily in this area.
        . I feel being a single parent is hard, yes, but I am able to take care of myself and my family comfortably, sure we can’t afford trips maybe one camping trip a summer, and we don’t eat out a lot, but we eat healthy and even that is expensive to buy fresh fruits and vegetables each week for lunches and dinners $(50.00 every Sunday, roughly 200$ a month for fresh fruits and veggies), but we get by with help from the government such as family allowance, rental assistance,my part time job and I feel we are making it the best I can. However I feel we would be more in a financial struggle living common law, and the government does not help middle income families enough, or even care.

  7. Nicholas White-Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Hi,

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

    Also,

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

    Thanks

  8. Moira-Reply
    May 24, 2013 at 12:45 am

    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-Reply
    May 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    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-Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 6:30 am

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

  11. Elisha-Reply
    July 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    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.

    Elisha.

  12. Karen-Reply
    July 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    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-Reply
    August 9, 2013 at 5:13 am

    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-Reply
    August 23, 2013 at 2:09 am

    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-Reply
    October 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    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

    • administrator-Reply
      October 9, 2013 at 2:56 am

      @Debbie – Yes.

  16. Mohsen Sithole-Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

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

    • administrator-Reply
      November 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      @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-Reply
    December 22, 2013 at 3:36 am

    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-Reply
    January 22, 2014 at 7:00 am

    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-Reply
    February 7, 2014 at 3:55 am

    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-Reply
    July 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    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. shila-Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 4:03 am

    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

    • shila-Reply
      August 20, 2014 at 4:05 am

      I should mention that I am a nurse and if it means sponsoring him then I can

  22. michelle-Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 4:39 am

    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?

    • kena-Reply
      March 10, 2015 at 6:02 am

      Michelle, I’m wondering if you ever did get a response to your question or how it has turned out for you. As I too am in a similar situation. I have been married for 15yrs and split in January, we own our home (we have a large debt to cra from unpaid taxes from being self employed so they garnish ex’s wages) I am disabled and haven’t worked since 2008 …he supported me up till we split. He has now moved into our basement suite, and I am needeing to apply for disability but I’m not sure if they will give it to me as he lives in basement. We would prefer to stay living in this home separately until we have paid off his debt in two years as there is a lean on our home and neither one of us would be able to afford to pay our dents and pay for rent…. As it’s cheaper to live here then for both of us to rent two sperate places. So my question for you…or anyone else who reads this is… Is this possible? Thanks.

  23. Arthur Baker-Reply
    November 25, 2014 at 1:53 am

    In determining retroactive child support is the payor required to declare the household income of both parties in a common law relationship established after a break-up in the financial statements? My partner left and lived with anothe person for more than 2 years. She paid no child support. I applied for retroactive child support? Is she required to list her partner’s income with hers as part of financial disclosure?

  24. Natalie-Reply
    January 15, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    What length of time considers you common law? And if you breakup and don’t see each other for a month does that restart the cycle ? I was dating someone for 11 months and we were both under 19.

  25. Dan-Reply
    July 16, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    I own a home, my renter lives in the basement suite and pays rent. We don’t call each other boyfriend and girlfriend however we are intimate. Are we considered common law?

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