What’s the Latest Development?
A new law that took effect Monday in British Columbia turned thousands of unmarried couples into married couples — at least from a property perspective. A provision in the Family Law Act states that in the event of a breakup, people can lay claim to a 50/50 division of assets and debts acquired during the relationship. Assets acquired prior to the relationship are protected. The law affects couples who have lived together for at least two years and/or have a child together, and applies to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
What’s the Big Idea?
The law was created in an attempt to better manage the number of cases coming through family court that involved common-law relationships. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of these relationships jumped almost 14 percent across Canada, while the number of marriages only increased by just over 3 percent. Lawyers are now recommending that, just like their married peers, people in unmarried couples should create the equivalent of a prenuptial agreement. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Quebec’s Supreme Court ruled in January that common-law partners — who make up nearly a third of all live-in relationships in the province — do not have the same rights as married spouses.
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