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Read the Family Law Act first

Planning to pack up and move in with your latest romantic partner? Before loading the U-Haul and driving off into the sunset, you may want to acquaint yourself with the provisions of British Columbia's Family Law Act.

Since March 2013, British Columbians living in so-called "common-law" relationships are subject to the same provincially imposed property-division scheme as are legally married spouses on relationship breakdown. This has far reaching effects on many British Columbians who are currently in, or who are considering entering, common law relationships.

If you and your partner have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for two years, you are considered "spouses" under the Family Law Act and, upon separation, are subject to the property division and debt sharing rules set out in the Act.

The provisions in the Act are, however, subject to agreement or court order. That means that you and your spouse can agree to divide property or debt differently than what the Act provides, by making a written agreement in accordance with the Act.

If you are the party in the relationship with the majority of assets, or if your partner has a tendency to rack up credit card debt, you should strongly consider having a signed written agreement in place.

Even for those individuals entering a relationship with no assets, it is of course prudent to be aware of the rights and obligations that will attach if you cohabit for two years, and how the Act may affect any property or debt that you or your partner acquire during the relationship.

Failure to turn one's mind to these issues in advance could result in unintended (and in some cases unfavorable) consequences on relationship breakdown.

For more information on the Family Law Act or to inquire about making an agreement, contact Kim Karras at BRAWN KARRAS & SANDERSON 604-542-5344 or by email at