I am in a common-law relationship. Do we divide our property or debt

The property division rules apply to unmarried couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.

This means that, like married couples, they will generally share any property that accrues during the course of their relationship — but not property brought into the relationship.

As well, couples can opt-out of the rules by making an agreement if they do not want the property division rules to apply to them.

This is a change in the law. Before the Family Law Act, unmarried couples, regardless of how long they lived together, could not apply to court to divide their property under the family law property division rules. This resulted in cases that were complex and difficult to predict, lengthy and expensive litigation, and often unfair outcomes.

This new approach was taken for many reasons. The number of common-law families in British Columbia is growing at a rate three times faster than the number of married couple families. Many have children and resemble married families in a number of ways. The law needs to provide a clear and fair way for these couples to resolve their property issues.

Other areas of the law, including wills and estates and income tax, already treat common-law families the same as married families.