Common Law Commotion
What is a “Common-Law” Relationship in BC?
At the Kushner Law Group in Vancouver BC, we regularly receive inquiries from people in British Columbia that are confused about their legal rights in areas of family law and estate law. One of the most common areas of confusion is what exactly constitutes a “common-law” relationship. Some people believe that living in the same residence for 6 months constitutes a common-law relationship while others believe it to be three years.
In British Columbia, you and your partner need to be residing in a marriage-like relationship for a continuous period of at-least two years to be considered common-law spouses.
The BC Family Law Act (FLA) is the legislation that governs the dissolution of common-law relationships. The FLA defines spouses as follows:
3 (1) A person is a spouse for the purposes of this Act if the person
(a) is married to another person, or
(b) has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and
(i) has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or
(ii) except in Parts 5 [Property Division] and 6 [Pension Division], has a child with the other person.
(2) A spouse includes a former spouse.
(3) A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following:
(a) the date on which they began to live together in a marriage-like relationship;
(b) the date of their marriage.
(4) For the purposes of this Act,
(a) spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence, and
(b) the court may consider, as evidence of separation,
(i) communication, by one spouse to the other spouse, of an intention to separate permanently, and
(ii) an action, taken by a spouse, that demonstrates the spouse’s intention to separate permanently.
Related BC Family Law Searches
- Common Law Spouse’s Share in BC Wills & Estates
- BC Family Law Act Misconceptions: Common Law & Divorce
- 5 Things to Know about the BC Family Law Act
- Agreements in Family Law
- Negotiation 101: How We “Get To Yes”