If you and your husband got married in the past and are now separating, the Divorce Act and the BC Family Law Act can apply to your case. These Acts are quite similar but one may be more advantageous to your care than the other, depending on your specific marital story.

If you and your partner never got married but lived in a common law or ‘marriage like relationship’, then only the BC Family Law Act applies to your case.

What is a Marriage Like Relationship under the BC Family Law Act?

The BC Family Law Act which came in to force in March of 2013 extends the definition of spouses and ‘marriage-like relationships’ such as common law.

You can be a common law spouse under the Family Law Act if you:

  1. lived together in a marriage like relationship for more than 2 years, or
  2. lived together for less than 2 years but have a child or children together, and
  3. Are of the same sex or opposite sex.

To be declared ‘common law’ you must be a ‘spouse’ under the Family Law Act. This means you must have lived like a married couple in the relationship. So if you have known or dated your partner for 10 years but were not in a ‘marriage-like relationship’ with him/her you may not be a common law or a spouse.

A marriage like relationship is proven if you and your spouse can prove some or all of the following factors:

  1. have a child together;
  2. purchased a home or other property together;
  3. pooled of finances for family and other expenses;
  4. provided financial assistance to one another throughout the relationship;
  5. joined efforts to preserve the relationship by attending counselling;
  6. attended social gatherings as ‘partners’ or ‘couples’.
  7. bought gifts for one another, and of course,
  8. where physically intimate, etc.

All of these factors are taken together to determine whether you and your ex-partner were or were not ‘common law’ or living in a ‘marriage-like relationship’.

What You Need to Know if You are Common Law

If you are found to be a ‘spouse’ under the BC Family Law Act, you will have essentially the same obligations towards your ex-partner as a married partner does. These could:

  1. Spousal Support
  2. Child support
  3. Property and Debt Division

It is very important that you immediately consult with a family lawyer to protect your rights and take the right steps upon relationship breakdown or better yet, enter into a cohabitation agreement with your spouse before deciding to move in together. Get in Touch



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