Residents of British Columbia who have been in common-law relationships for two years are regarded by law as the same as married couples. However, they may not be aware that it is not the case in other provinces. In fact, the laws related to cohabitating couples vary from province to province. In the case of such a relationship ending in British Columbia, the division of property will be handled according to the same laws as those covering a divorce.
In a common-law break-up in this province, assets acquired during the period of cohabitation will be divided equitably between the two parties. Assets owned by one party before the couple moved in together will remain that person’s property — unless the value of that asset was increased during the common-law relationship, in which case the growth amount will be divided. How will the property be divided if a couple who has lived together under British Columbia laws relocates to another province and then the partners decide to go their separate ways?
Even if domestic partners meet the requirements of their province to be recognized as common-law partners, this will have no impact on the division of property in the event of a break-up. In any other province, a partner must prove ownership of any assets he or she claims after the end of a relationship. This is required except when the couple signed a legal cohabitation or other agreement, which will determine how the property will be divided.
Common-law partners in British Columbia may benefit from each consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer who can explain the applicable laws and assist with the drafting of a cohabitation agreement, if necessary. This will provide protection of each party’s interests during the division of property in the event of a break-up. The court typically requires such an agreement to comply with applicable laws, and the legal counsel of each party must have been present during signing to prove neither party signed the agreement under duress.
Source: CBC News, “4 myths about common-law relationships“, Alexandra Kazia, Accessed on Oct. 29, 2016
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