The Legal Implications of Marriage-Like Relationships in BC


In British Columbia, couples who are not legally married but are in committed relationships often face challenging legal issues related to property division, spousal support, and child custody. These relationships, commonly known as marriage-like relationships, are becoming increasingly common in modern society. However, the legal implications of such relationships are not always clear. This article aims to provide an overview of the legal considerations that arise in marriage-like relationships in British Columbia and offer guidance for navigating these complex issues.

What is a Marriage-Like Relationship?

A marriage-like relationship, also known as a common-law relationship or an adult interdependent relationship, is a committed and intimate relationship between two individuals who are not legally married. In British Columbia, a couple is considered to be in a marriage-like relationship if they have lived together for at least two years or if they have a child together.

Legal Considerations in Marriage-Like Relationships

1. Property Division

In a marriage-like relationship, each partner may have contributed to the acquisition of property, whether through financial contributions or domestic labour. In the event of a separation, each partner may be entitled to a share of the property acquired during the relationship. However, property division can be complex, and it is important to seek legal advice to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of assets.

2. Spousal Support

In some cases, one partner may be entitled to spousal support following a separation. The factors considered when determining spousal support include the length of the relationship, the income and earning potential of each partner, and the roles and responsibilities each partner had during the relationship.

3. Child Custody and Support

If the couple has children, issues related to custody and support may arise. In British Columbia, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities regarding their children, regardless of whether they are married or in a marriage-like relationship. The best interests of the child are the primary consideration when determining custody and support arrangements.

Navigating Marriage-Like Relationships

Navigating marriage-like relationships can be complex, especially when it comes to legal matters such as property division, spousal support, and child custody and support. It is important to seek legal advice from a family lawyer who can provide guidance and support throughout the separation process.

Communication is also key in addressing issues that may arise in a marriage-like relationship. Open and honest communication can help prevent misunderstandings and reduce conflict. It is important to work together to find solutions that are fair and equitable for both partners.

In addition, seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can help with the emotional challenges that may come with a separation. Remember to take care of yourself during this time and prioritize self-care.

Overall, navigating a marriage-like relationship can be challenging, but with the right support and resources, it is possible to navigate the separation process positively and productively.

How Couples Can Protect Themselves

Navigating legal issues in marriage-like relationships can be challenging, but there are several steps that couples can take to protect themselves:

1. Cohabitation Agreement

Couples can enter into a cohabitation agreement, which is a legally binding agreement that sets out how property will be divided and how spousal support will be paid if the relationship ends. A cohabitation agreement can also address child custody and support.

2. Wills and Estate Planning

Couples in marriage-like relationships should ensure that they have wills in place to protect their assets and provide for their children in the event of their death.

3. Seek Legal Advice

If you are in a marriage-like relationship and have legal concerns, it is important to seek the advice of a family lawyer who can provide guidance on your rights and obligations.


Marriage-like relationships are becoming increasingly common in British Columbia, but the legal implications of these relationships can be complex. Couples in marriage-like relationships should take steps to protect themselves through cohabitation agreements, wills, and estate planning, and seek legal advice when necessary. By taking these steps, couples can navigate the legal issues of marriage-like relationships and ensure that their rights and interests are protected.

If you need advice on family law, contact Dreyer and Associates. We have a diverse array of experience across family law, wills and estates, and residential conveyancing; although, family law continues to be our focus. Call us and let us help you navigate these complex waters today!





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