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New Family Law Act Deems Common-Law After Living Together for Two Years

March 19, 2013
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As of Monday, March 18th, 2013, long-term, live-in couples in B.C will be viewed as legally married. This new Family Law Act states that B.C couples who have lived together for two or more years will be granted the same rights and regulations as those couples who are actually married.  While there will be no marriage certificate for common-law couples, their property and future debt will become a joint issue.   While some couples view it negatively, a title imposed upon them instead of chosen, the law was created with three main focuses:

Property

With the new legislation in place, common-law couples will now have equal entitlement of any property, as well as responsibility for any debt incurred during the relationship.  Exceptions include any property acquired before the beginning of the relationship, gifts, inheritances, settlements and awards of damages.  In the event of separation, couples are able to divide property on their own terms or, for those who would like a measure of security, there is a cohabitation agreement, similar to a prenuptial agreement.

Children

When considering decisions to be made relating to parental duties, the Family Law Act will view the best interest of the child as the only determining factor.  The new act enables the enforcement of parenting time agreements as well as the issuing of a fine of up to $5,000 for wrongfully denying time.

Family Violence and Safety

In an issue of family violence, the new act allows the court the ability to issue protection orders, a breach of which is a criminal offence rather than restraining orders, a breach of which is a civil matter.  Numerous risk factors will be taken into consideration when determining whether or not to make a protection order.

There are currently over 160,000 common law couples in B.C. that the new Family Law Act will affect.

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