[WW] Amendments to BC Family Law

First of all, I'd like to apologize for the lack of updates. I'm in the midst of the busiest week of my school semester, which is comprised of paper deadlines and presentation projects. I feel genuinely guilty for skipping blog posts because I recognize that it's another item that I cannot check off my to-do list and that I tend to lose viewers whenever I put a gap in between blog entries.

As of March 18, 2013, amendments to the British Columbia Family Law Act came into effect. Anyone interested in the full scale government run down of the new provisions can access a government publication PDF via this web link: HERE.


This blog entry is not meant to go through the entire history and legislative impact of the BC Family Law Act, but there are some changes that I am interested in pointing out to you all...namely the amendments to the provisions regarding Spousal Support and Property and Property Division to non-married partners.

For the parts of the Family Law Act (FLA) that describe spousal support, spouses are people who:
  • are married,
  • have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years,
  • or have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years and have had a child together.

Wait a minute...what?! Spouses are people who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years? This means that common-law couples are now going to be treated like married couples and have support rights as outlined in the Divorce Act! There's also that gray area with wording because...could roommates be considered married couples?
Before people in common laws start to panic, there are also new changes to provisions regarding the division of assets, property, and debt, namely with the split of family property and excluded property:
Family property is generally any property that is owned, received, and/or bought within a relationship. Excluded property generally includes anything that belongs to a spouse who owned, bought, or received propert before the relationship. However, if the property becomes more valuable during the relationship, then the property is considered family property. Excluded property also includes compensation and insurance payments for personal injury if they were made out to a specific spouse. The division of property is decided by the courts and it will be interesting how the case law will determine how the property will be divided among spouses.
Now whether this change is a good or bad thing is up to everyone's vote. My Political Science class briefly discussed this new provision namely to illustrate the challenges that Family Law poses to the various levels of courts. As one of my classmates pointed out, these new provisions are not necessarily enacted to protect the wealthy, but to help people, like stay-at-home moms and victims of domestic abuse, who need the support after their relationship fails.
Image courtesy of Cobbett & Cotton Lawyers.

My professor brought up a point saying that we should look at the basic principles guarding these new provisions. This concept of treating common law couples like married couples is not new to Canada, only new to British Columbia. However, British Columbia has now chosen to take a stance in which they offer protection for common law couples, whereas in Quebec, common law couples may not have the same rights as married people but can register as part of a "civil union". This has traditionally used for same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples in order to adopt a certain set of rights set out by family law set for married couples.
 What are your thoughts on the matter? Should we have a choice to be in a common law relationship or are these new like-marriage laws a good way to protect our citizens?

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