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What Constitutes a Spouse in B.C.?

Couple decorating their apartment. Photo credit Unsplash.

In 2021, family structures aren’t as conventional as they once were. With many couples living together before formal marriage, the possibility that relationships may become “common-law marriages,” is often overlooked. 

To help put your mind at ease, we’re answering some of the most asked questions about common-law relationships in B.C.

1. How do I know if I’m in a common-law marriage? 

Under British Columbia’s Family Law Act, a person is known as a spouse if they are married to another person or if they have lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship for a continuous period of at least two years (Family Act Law, July 2021). When you have lived with your partner nonstop for two years, you can now be referred to as common-law. 

Understanding when a relationship becomes “common-law” is important for all individuals, but especially those that have children or significant assets involved in the relationship. What once was yours may become 50% your partner’s, even after separation. 

2. Can my property assets be divided even if I’m not married? 

In short, the answer is yes. Those that are involved in a common-law marriage are still susceptible to B.C.’s property division rules. 

As if a couple was legally married, common-law couples are required to share any property that has been acquired over the course of the relationship, but not property brought into the relationship, subject to some limitations (Government of British Columbia, 2021).

3. Can my partner apply for spousal support if we aren’t married? 

Even without a legally binding marriage, those in common-law relationships can still apply for spousal support (Government of British Columbia, 2021). You can apply for spousal support as a common-law partner with or without a child, as long as the parties have lived together for a minimum of two years or have lived together for less than two years and have a child. 

Staying Informed 

According to the Government of British Columbia, common-law couples are growing in B.C. three times as much as married couples. If you are already involved in a common-law relationship or are planning on moving in with a partner, it’s important to get your questions answered beforehand. 

To help ensure you stay protected and help you plan for your future, contact us first. Visit clarkwoods.ca for inquiries and quick assistance.