Property division rules for common-law couples in B.C.
More and more couples in British Columbia are choosing to live together without getting married. Government statistics reveal that the growth rate of common law families is three times that of families with married parents, and this demographic trend was one of the primary reasons that legislators passed the Family Law Act in 2011.
One of the key components of the Family Law Act addresses the rules concerning property division for common-law couples. Assets of cohabiting couples who have lived together for at least two years are now treated in the same way as the property of married couples, and these assets will generally be divided equally if the couple separates. As with married couples, the rules apply to property acquired during the relationship and not to property that was owned beforehand, and common-law couples are free to enter into agreements if they wish to establish different criteria.
Before the passage of the Family Law Act, common-law families in British Columbia faced the prospect of lengthy and potentially costly litigation if they were unable to reach an amicable agreement regarding the division of their assets. The law also brought the family law in the province into line with estate and income tax law, which already treated married and unmarried couples in the same way.
Discussions over property division often become contentious, and the sentimental attachments formed with certain assets. An experienced family law lawyer may be familiar with the issues that might make arriving at a compromise difficult, and they could recommend mediation or private negotiations to help couples reach an amicable agreement. When necessary, that lawyer might suggest litigation as a possible resolution to a dispute.
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