Couples who choose to live together in a marriage-like relationship in British Columbia need to be aware of the legal consequences of their decision. While common-law relationships are not legally recognized as marriages, they can have significant legal implications, particularly in the areas of property division, support obligations, and parental rights.
This article will provide an overview of the legal consequences of living common law in BC and the steps that common-law partners can take to protect their legal rights and interests.
Definition of Common Law
In BC, a common-law relationship is defined as a relationship between two people who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years. Alternatively, they may be considered common-law partners if they have lived together for less than two years but have a child together or have registered their relationship under the BC Family Law Act.
1. Property Rights
One of the most significant legal consequences of living common law in BC is the division of property upon separation. Unlike married couples, common-law partners do not automatically have a right to an equal division of property.
However, if a common-law relationship has lasted for at least two years, either partner has the right to make a claim for a division of property. The claim must be made within two years of the date of separation.
2. Support Obligations
Another important legal consequence of living common law in BC is the obligation to pay spousal support upon separation. If one partner has been financially dependent on the other during the relationship, they may be entitled to spousal support. However, unlike married couples, there is no automatic entitlement to spousal support for common-law partners.
3. Parental Rights
In BC, common-law partners have the same parental rights and responsibilities as married couples. Both partners have the right to make decisions about their child’s upbringing, including their education, health care, and religion. In the event of separation, both parents have an equal right to custody and access to the child.
4. Estate Planning
Estate planning is an important consideration for common-law partners in BC. Unlike married couples, common-law partners do not have an automatic right to inherit from each other’s estate. To ensure that their partner is provided for in the event of their death, common-law partners should consider drafting a will or creating a cohabitation agreement.
5. Cohabitation Agreements
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of common-law partners. It can cover a range of issues, including property division, spousal support, and child custody. Cohabitation agreements are not mandatory, but they can provide clarity and certainty for both partners in the event of a separation.
6. Liability for Debts Incurred during the Relationship
Common-law partners may be held jointly liable for debts incurred during the relationship, even if only one partner incurred the debt. This means that if one partner defaults on a debt, creditors may go after the assets of both partners to satisfy the debt.
It is important for common-law partners to be aware of each other’s financial obligations and take steps to protect their assets and credit scores, such as keeping separate bank accounts and avoiding joint credit applications.
Common-law relationships in British Columbia have legal implications that couples need to consider. It is essential to understand the rights and responsibilities of common-law partners, including property division, support obligations, and parental rights.
Creating a cohabitation agreement can provide clarity and certainty and help protect the rights and interests of both partners in the event of a separation. Ultimately, being informed and proactive can help common-law partners navigate the legal system and achieve a fair and equitable outcome.
If you are in need of a child custody lawyer or a family lawyer, look no further than Dreyer and Associates. Our team has extensive experience in family law and can help you navigate the complex legal system with confidence. Contact Dreyer and Associates today to schedule a consultation, and let us help you achieve the best outcome for your case!