With the cost of living constantly on the rise (particularly in BC’s Lower Mainland), more and more couples are moving in together, perhaps sooner than they anticipated, as a way to save money.
If you’re in this position, you may want to consider the legal rights and responsibilities that can accompany moving in together, particularly if you are bringing substantial assets to the relationship.
Although British Columbia family law legislation does not specifically use the term “common law spouse,” it does define couples that live together in a marriage-like relationship for a continuous period of at least 2 years as “spouses”. This means that provincial laws relating to property division and spousal support applies to both married couples and unmarried couples that have lived together for at least two years.
Assuming you decide to go ahead and move in together, what will this mean for you if your relationship ends after that two-year threshold?
- You get to keep anything you owned prior to the relationship as your excluded property (a defined term in the legislation); however, any increase in the value of that property will be split equally between you.
- Anything that you and your partner acquired during the relationship, either jointly or separately, will be split equally between you.
- Any debts that either of you incurred during the relationship may be split equally between you.
- One of you may be required to pay the other spousal support.
For couples who wish to live together – or already do – but are not ready for this type of financial commitment, a cohabitation agreement (dealing with issues relating to money, property or debt in the event your relationship someday ends) may make sense.
Yes, bringing up a cohabitation agreement with your partner isn’t the most romantic conversation, but it’s an important one nonetheless. There can be many benefits to a cohabitation agreement for both parties, such as:
- It can be tailored to your unique situation.
- It allows you, rather than a judge, to keep control of the decision-making.
- It creates certainty and finality.
- It can protect any assets each of you brought into the relationship.
- It can help you avoid or minimize any legal disputes in the future.
To learn more about whether a cohabitation agreement is right for you, contact us.