Are You About to Enter into a Common-law Relationship? Read This First


Common-law relationships are similar to marriages in some respects. In the province of British Columbia, for example, couples who have lived together for at least two years or who have a child together are typically considered to be in common-law relationships.Understanding the effects of this status on your financial situation and assets will help you to make the most practical and positive choices for yourself and your future. Here are some of the most important points to consider when deciding whether to establish a common-law relationship in Canada.

Provincial Laws Can Differ

The rules regarding what constitutes a common-law relationship vary from province to province within Canada. Some provinces may regard one year of cohabitation as evidence of a common-law conjugal arrangement. In other provinces, two years may be the prescribed period of time to establish common-law marriage status. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney is typically the best way to determine whether or not your relationship qualifies as a common-law arrangement and to protect your financial assets.

Common-law Rights Under Federal Law

Depending on the length of time you have lived with your partner, you may be treated in the same way as married spouses for purposes of government benefits, retirement, inheritance or health insurance laws. This usually does not begin until after you and your partner have lived together for at least one year. After two years, you and your partner may have nearly all the rights and privileges accorded to married couples in British Columbia and in other areas of Canada.

Protecting Your Assets in Long-term Relationships

Along with the rights and privileges of marriage, long-term common-law relationships also come with some liabilities. If you and your former partner lived together for at least two years before separating, each of you may be entitled to half of the family property in your possession at the time of the break-up. This includes all of the assets you acquired during your time together but excludes the property each of you brought to the relationship individually. For individuals with significant assets to protect, working with a lawyer with experience in family law before you enter into a common-law scenario is one of the best ways to protect all parties involved.

McQuarrie LLP. has been serving clients in British Columbia for more than 50 years.Our team has the knowledge and experience needed to handle all elements of real estate law, commercial litigation, personal injury, wills, estates and family law.

Contact us today at 604-581-7001 to schedule an appointment with us. We are here to serve you.


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