B.C.'s new Family Law Act addresses the needs of the province's increasing number of common-law families by providing them, as well as married couples, with clear direction on the division of property and how to resolve disputes.
This bulletin is part of an information series on B.C.'s new Family Law Act, which came into effect on March 18. The new family law reflects the current needs and changing nature of B.C. families. It protects the best interests of the child when families experience separation and divorce and can help couples resolve their family disputes without having to go to court.
The Family Law Act has new property division rules that make the law simpler, fairer and easier to apply. As a result, fewer people will need to go to court to settle their property disputes and the expense currently associated with property division will be reduced for families.
The general rule is that couples will share equally the family property and debt that accrues during the course of their relationship. Family property is all property that either spouse owns at separation, regardless of whose name it is in, unless that property is excluded.
Excluded property includes things like property brought into the relationship and inheritances, which generally will not be shared upon separation. For excluded property, only the growth of value during the relationship is sharable.
The main difference under the law for common-law couples is that, for the first time, the property division rules apply equally to couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for two years or more. This means that generally when a common-law couple breaks up, each partner can keep what was theirs going into the relationship, but they divide what they accrued together as a couple.
If couples do not want the property division rules to apply to them, they can opt-out by preparing a written agreement and divide their property and debt as they see fit. The court will have less ability to overturn these agreements than in the past.
For more information on the Family Law Act and property division, visit: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/family-justice/
Ministry of Justice
778 679-8646 (cell)