Lawyers and judges have prepared for British Columbia’s new Family Law Act for many months. Reading, studying, understanding and learning about both the radical and subtle changes that will affect British Columbians.
Interestingly, I have received a barrage of phone calls and emails today, the first day of the new law, from Canada’s mainstream media wondering how certain demographics will be affected by the law.
A journalist in Toronto posed this question: ” If a couple of kids under 19 live together for more than two years and one of them has a student loan, will their common law partner be jointly responsible for repayment of the student loan, which is presumably a family debt?”
If the student loan is borrowed at the commencement of the couple’s live-in relationship and the monies are used to support the couple while the legal debtor is in school, consider whether a judge will order that the repayment of the debt should fall on the shoulders of both of them.
It’s difficult to tell whether that scenario will result in a joint obligation but typically, under the old law, a family debt was a debt associated with a family asset. In other words, if you bought a home and took out a mortgage, the home was family property and the mortgage was a family debt. However, credit card debt in one spouse’s name at the end of a marriage, borrowed to pay living expenses, is regularly considered divisible family debt.
With a student loan the legal debtor may acquire a valuable commodity such as a law degree, a teaching certificate, or a pilot’s license. While in certain of the United States professional credentials are considered assets to be valued and divided, such is not the case in Canada.
These and other interesting questions will undoubtedly arise as young college couples find themselves dealing with a new law that turns their “friends with benefits” arrangements into significant legal obligations.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang