BC Common Law couples to get Marriage Rights

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Since we're on the topic of marriage and weddings, I thought I'd to a post on how in my province (BY THE WAY HAPPY BC DAY EVERYONE!), there have a few changes proposed to family law.  A few weeks ago, it was reported that BC Common Law couples are going to get marriage rights. The government is open to comments from the public until early October, and will likely change the Family Law act in 2011.

This is pretty huge. I did a post on cohabitation agreements and common law separations a few months ago, and I was surprised to learn that common law couples do not get the same rights as married couples in British Columbia… I always thought that if you were together for two years, and you split up, then you get equal division of assets.  The actual case is that if you are a common law spouse and you split up, and you never contributed rent for his or her mortgage or anything to the relationship, then you walk away with nothing.

The government proposes to change all this, considering that 40% of British Columbia marriages end in divorce before the 30th anniversary (that is really sad, IMO). They believe that these changes should help protect women and children who are in common law relationships.

What do you think of these changes?  Do you think they are good or bad? I know that in each province and each state in the United States, it is different.  It's worth the time to check out what the common law rules are in your jurisdiction if you plan to live together common law.

In any case, I think that if you want to protect your assets in the event of separation, then it is a good idea to discuss with your partner the idea of written agreements if you want to opt out of this new change. Again, I know talking about the idea of common law separation isn't sexy, but it's necessary.  I think that this new law change is an opportunity for us to talk to our significant others about these practicalities for ‘worst case scenario' planning. 

Do you and your honey talk about money?

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

11 Comments

  1. Evan on August 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    There are only a handful of States in the US that still have common law marriage. I am shocked to find provinces in Canada going the other way.



  2. young on August 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    @Evan- I’m quite surprised too, actually. I am guessing that they are aiming to protect women and children of common law relationships from being left with nothing if they weren’t to contribute monetarily to the mortgage, groceries etc.



  3. kf on August 2, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Either partner, actually.



  4. young on August 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    @kf- thanks, I was being sexist there, sorry! =)



  5. Financial Cents on August 3, 2010 at 7:44 am

    @Y&T – sure do; talk about money, but I have to catch her on a good day…since most days, I probably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking in class (whaa…whaa, whaa, whaa-whaa); when talking about investing and personal finance 🙂



  6. young on August 3, 2010 at 9:01 am

    @Financial Cents- LOL I read your comment first thing when I woke up this morning and it made me laugh. Thanks! =) I think that’s how I sound when I talk to my boyfriend about money too, especially when I go “hey you should get a TFSA, hey you should fill up your RRSP, hey hurry up and get that high interest savings account”. I’ll take your strategy and try to talk to him on good days too.



  7. Little House on August 3, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Two years seems awful short to make someone financially responsible for the other person. I’m all for common law marriage, but it should only be after a substantial amount of time, say 5-7 years.

    Before I married my husband (10 years ago!), I was with someone for four years. We were young and in college. It would have been quite strange if he would have had to support me after we broke up. Which is why if a state or province supports common law marriage, it should be longer than two piddly years!



  8. The Financial Power on August 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Like every other law this one has it’s good and bad’s. I believe it good to protect kids born in common law families and women who gave up their life to raise those kids.

    At the same time, just as ‘Little House’ mentioned, it could cause some unhappy endings.

    Do I talk with my spouse about money? Yes, we do talk, we might not always agree on everything, but we do talk. As time goes by and we live together longer it’s easier.



  9. Invest It Wisely on August 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I was just talking about this the other day, myself, as I am going to be living in a condo that I bought with my girlfriend, and we need to be asking ourselves questions on what to do should one of us no longer be able to work. We need to prepare for the



  10. young on August 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    @Invest it Wisely- Me and you are doing the exact same things (buying with boyfriend/girlfriend), I think. Good question re: living with a roommate or friend… they have to prove that there was a conjugal relationship involved (unless you have hanky panky with your roommate on a regular basis lol!!!) for it to be labelled as a common law marriage.



  11. Laurel on December 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Thanks!



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