The Rights And Responsibilities Of Common Law Couples

Prior to March 2013, common law couples in British Columbia were treated similarly to common law couples in many other provinces. That meant if a common law couple separated, there were property rights in certain instances, and other limited or non-existent rights, for the former partners.

That changed when law the Family Law Act of British Columbia was introduced. The province recognized that cohabitation between conjugal partners was increasing. As a result, the province decided to provide equal rights for common law couples pertaining to property division, spousal support and inheritance rights.

As long as the individuals are considered to be in a " marriage-like" relationship, they will have financial responsibilities toward their partner in case the relationship ends.

The Rights Of Common Law Spouses

Individuals who are a part of a common law couple have rights to certain federal government benefits. Under federal law, common law partners are entitled to receive:

  • Old Age Security spouse allowance
  • Their partner's amount for the GST credit or survivor benefits
  • Eligibility for a share of their partner's Canada Pension Plan Credits

However, common law partners must meet the definition of a common law spouse. In general, under federal legislation, that means that a person must have cohabited with their partner for at least one year.

Under B.C. legislation, common law spouses have the same right to spousal support as married couples. A common law partner may also contest or ask to vary a will if he or she was disinherited or left a small inheritance.

The Responsibilities Of Common Law Spouses

After the province introduced the Family Law Act, common law partners now had the same responsibilities as married couples when it came to the end of their relationship. Those responsibilities pertained to the equal division of finances upon separation and include:

  • Division of family assets and debt
  • Property division

That means that if common law partners separate, then assets and debts accumulated during the relationship will be divided equally between the partners.

We Can Answer Your Questions

If you are entering into, or ending, a common law relationship you may have pressing questions about cohabitation or separation agreements. You may also know more about your rights and responsibilities. The Vancouver lawyers at Westside Family Law can assist you. Call 604-800-8853 or email us.