Common Law Relationships and Separation

Even if you are not married, if you live with another person in a marriage-like relationship that person may be considered your spouse.

In order to be considered a spouse for the purposes of dividing property or debt you and the other person must have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.


But if you are applying for spousal support, you are considered a spouse even if you have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years if you have a child together.

When it comes to property division, the new Family Law Act treats all spouses the same, it doesn't matter whether you are legally married or not. The new Family Law Act also provides for the division of pensions for unmarried spouses who meet the definition of spouse.


A common-law spouse may start a proceeding for an order to divide property or family debt, divide a pension, or for spousal support, no later than 2 years after the date the spouses separated.

The running of the time limits is suspended during any period in which persons are engaged in family dispute resolution with a family dispute resolution professional.

If you are involved in a common law relationship in BC you should seek immediate legal advice to fully understand how the new law affects your legal rights.

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Written by Velletta Pedersen Christie

The law firm of Velletta Pedersen Christie is based in lovely Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We employ some of the best lawyers in BC, and provide powerful, professional counsel to to clients in Victoria, across Canada and around the globe. We have the expertise to handle a variety of legal projects and cases, so contact us and we'll get you speaking with the appropriate member of our team.