B.C.’s New Family Property Laws

IMG_0311 - Version 2Last week if a married couple separated, the spouses could expect to share equally in all the family property, including property brought into the marriage by one spouse and one spouse’s inheritance, if it was received during the marriage.

As well, if a spouse was the beneficiary of a trust, even if the trust funds had not been distributed to the spouse, that spouse’s partner could claim a portion of the trust funds, when and if their divorced spouse received the trust funds.

Common-law couples had no property rights under the provincial law. If they wanted to claim a portion of their ex-partner’s assets they had to prove they had contributed to the acquisition, maintenance or improvement of the property. Their “contribution” could be through money, labour or child care and household management.

This week everything has changed. As of March 18, 2013, both married spouses and common-law partners (two persons who live together in a marriage-like relationship for two years) are covered by B.C.’s new Family Law Act, but the rules are very different.

All property brought into a marriage or relationship belongs exclusively to the person who owns the property. Inheritances are no longer sharable property, but income tax refunds are. If a spouse or common-law partner is the beneficiary of a trust fund, those funds will not be shared unless the spouse or partner contributed funds to the trust.

If a spouse commenced a family property claim before this week, the old law still applies but all other conjugal relationships, including same-sex, are subject to the new Family Law Act.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang