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British Columbia family law: When is a spouse a spouse?

Canadian provinces have certain criteria for considering couples to be spouses. British Columbia family law states that unmarried couples must be living together for at least two years before they can make property or spousal support claims against each other if they decide to separate. Common law designations vary across the country and whether someone is looking to provincial or federal rules.

For instance, partners only need to be together for a year to take advantage of federal income tax relief. But what about when partners are in committed relationships, but don't actually live at the same residence 100% of the time? Can claims be made for spousal support? One Canadian judge ruled that maintaining separate residences does not prevent the finding of cohabitation in some cases and ruled that even though a couple in one case didn't live together, they should in fact be considered spouses because of the other factors in their relationship.

The couple in question had been in a committed relationship for 14 years, celebrated anniversaries, exchanged rings and played important roles in each other's extended families. So, even though the individuals maintained their own homes, the judge ruled the couple should be considered spouses. The ruling proved there is no definitive line for establishing who is and who is not a spouse, but the law looks at individual cases.

A British Columbia lawyer may be able to help a client to decipher issues tied to spouses under family law. Some of these laws can seem erroneous. A lawyer may be able to explain them in a way a client can understand them and relate to them.   

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