You may be married and not even know it!
That’s because living common law, (ie. a relationship of 2 years or more), will get a lot simpler, (or more complicated), depending on your perspective beginning March 18, 2013. That’s when the new Family Law Act becomes effective in British Columbia. Family law as we know it, will never be the same again.
In the old days, (before March 18, 2013), establishing the property rights of couples who separated after living together for 2 years or more was complicated, especially if all of the property was in the name of only one of the parties.
It meant having to prove an action based in trust law that the other non-owning party made a contribution towards the property, entitling that party to an interest in the property. Such family law trust actions were overly complicated, expensive to prove, with uncertain results.
Beginning March 18, 2013, the way that family property is divided will be the same whether you are living common law, or married.
Under the new Family Law Act, family property, (whether married or common-law), will include the division of all property owned by one or both parties at the time of separation. Exceptions would include the value of property owned by a spouse prior to the relationship, or received via inheritance, in which case only the increase in value of such property would be divisible.
My advice, if you’ve been living common-law, or you’re approaching 2 years of cohabitation, it’s a good idea to talk with a family lawyer to find out where you stand. You may discover, much to your surprise, you’re already married!