On March 18, 2013, new family law legislation came into effect in British Columbia which extends property division rights to common law spouses who have been cohabitating for two or more years. This is a significant change to the previous law under which common law spouses had no rights to division of property. Under the new Family Law Act, the way family property is divided has also changed. Previously, when a married couple separated in British Columbia, each spouse was entitled to a one half interest in “family property”. This type of property was defined as any property owned by either or both spouses that is ordinarily used for a family purpose. Under the new Act, the concept of family purpose has been eliminated and instead, all property will be considered family property which is eligible to be divided between the spouses, albeit subject to a few exceptions. These exceptions are similar to excluded property under Ontario’s property division scheme. This includes property that a spouse owned before beginning the cohabitation and property acquired by inheritance. However, like Ontario, growth in these assets would not be excluded and would be eligible to be divided between spouses.
This new legislation underscores the different rights regimes that exist across Canada for common law couples. In January 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that common law couples in Quebec are not entitled to spousal support. It will be interesting to see if these changes in British Columbia will influence property division rights for common law couples in