Common-law Partners Must Share Wealth After Breakups

Common-law Partners Must Share Wealth After Breakups

The Family Law Act and its effect on common-law partners

When the Family Law Act (“FLA”) came into effect in 2013, it changed the way the law in British Columbia viewed common law partners. Prior to its enactment, married spouses had legislated rights on how their interests in property were to be determined in the event of a separation. Common-law spouses did not have legislated rights. Instead, common-law spouses depended on judge-made decisions (case law) and trust law to determine their respective interests in property

At this time, common-law spouses had to rely on the legal concept of unjust enrichment in order to obtain a share of the property. Under this principle a common-law spouse had to prove their contribution to the property and then received compensation for that contribution. This monetary remedy was always assessed on a fee-for-services basis.

Currently, the federal Divorce Act (“DA”) and the provincial FLA govern most family matters in British Columbia. While the DA still applies only to married couples, Section 3(1) of the FLA has expanded the meaning of “spouse” to include a person who has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship and has done so for a continued period of at least 2 years. Under this definition, upon separation, each spouse is entitled to an undivided half interest in all property which has accrued during the time they were together. Further, now that common-law couples fall within the definition of “spouse,” they are also now in a position to make claims for spousal support.

Even though common law spouses now enjoy similar entitlements upon separation that married spouses have, there are many other considerations that need to be taken into account before you consider making such claims.

Contact Michael Tatchell of DuMoulin Boskovich LLP for your legal needs.