Dividing property in a divorce or separation of common law partners may sound like a simple process. However, in real life, it is a stressful and emotional process and could be as difficult to navigate as child custody issues. In British Columbia, laws related to the division of property apply to married spouses and common-law couples who have lived together as spouses for two years or more.
For the process of equal property division, certain assets do not qualify. The excluded property typically comprises everything each partner brought into the marriage or relationship. Also excluded are inheritances, gifts, and awards for damages. However, if, for example, one partner owned the family residence before the couple moved in together, that person will be entitled to the value of the property before they got married or became a couple. In the event the marriage or relationship ends, the partners will share the amount by which the value of the house had increased over their time together.
In contrast, if a couple purchased a family home during the marriage or common-law union, it will be considered the marital property to be divided. The couple can sell the house and share the profits, or one partner can buy the other’s share and keep the residence. In addition, Registered Retirement Savings Plans, investments, and bank accounts will be shared equally, along with pensions, insurance policies and business interests.
Couples may negotiate a property division plan and present it to the court for approval. If they fail to come to an agreement, the court will determine the division of property. However, couples may be proactive and sign agreements such as prenuptial, postnuptial or cohabitation agreements to protect the interests of both parties in the event a relationship does not last. To ensure such agreements comply with legal requirements in British Columbia and will hold up in court, the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer may be necessary.
Source: gov.bc.ca, “What happens to family property when spouses separate?“, Accessed on Nov. 11, 2016
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