Cohabitation Agreements Rise In Popularity for Risk-Averse Couples

For those who agree to share their apartments or homes, if not their entire lives together, a legal document may help smooth out the details in the event of romantic derailment. 

With more and more Canadians – British Columbians especially – eschewing marriage in favor of the less-formal arrangements, a cohabitation agreements has become a must-have. 

The agreements draw up conditions for couples who fear not only the consequences of a failed marriage, but what a break-up might do to their living situation.  You might not be able to escape the messy entanglements of the heart that remain long after a long-term relationship ends, but at least you can protect yourself from losing your home, or your pets. 


What is a cohabitation agreement?  It’s like a prenuptial agreement without being married.  The unmarried couple may have their own career and assets and know that it is super important for each of them to protect themselves in case the relationship doesn’t work out.


While everyone understands that with marriage co-mingling of the assets and debts comes with the marriage license, the new BC Family Law Act makes the co-mingling of assets and debts apply to unmarried couples.  The new BC Family Law Act Bill 16 will govern after March 18, 2013 and replace the existing British Columbia Family Relations Act. 


The new BC Family Law Act imposes dramatic property and spousal law changes for unmarried spouses.

  1. Property – The BC Family Law Act extends the same property division (assets and debts) that applied to married spouses to common-law spouses who have lived together for two years in a marriage-like relationship;
  2. Spousal Support – The BC Family Law Act applies the same test for spousal support to common-law spouses who are in marriage-like relationships for two years; Or Less if they have a child together;
  3. Pensions –  The BC Family Law Act extends the pension division scheme to unmarried spouses who meet the definition of spouse.  


Strict limitation act periods exist and they begin to run before you actually separate.  Don’t postpone, you should immediately visit experienced Family Lawyer, Marla Gilsig.


British Columbia Family Law Act

Spouses and relationships between spouses

3 (1) A person is a spouse for the purposes of this Act if the person

(a) is married to another person, or

(b) has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and

(i) has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or

(ii) except in Parts 5 [Property Division] and 6 [Pension Division], has a child with the other person.

(2) A spouse includes a former spouse.

(3) A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following:

(a) the date on which they began to live together in a marriage-like relationship;

(b) the date of their marriage.

(4) For the purposes of this Act,

(a) spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence, and

(b) the court may consider, as evidence of separation,

i) communication, by one spouse to the other spouse, of an intention to separate permanently, and

(ii) an action, taken by a spouse, that demonstrates the spouse’s intention to separate permanently.


Time Limits

198 (1) Subject to this Act, a proceeding under this Act may be started at any time.

(2) A spouse may start a proceeding for an order under Part 5 to divide property or family debt, Part 6 [Pension Division] to divide a pension, or Part 7 [Child and Spousal Support] for spousal support, no later than 2 years after,

(b) in the case of spouses who were living in a marriage-like relationship, the date the spouses separated.

(5) The running of the time limits set out in subsection (2) is suspended during any period in which persons are engaged in family dispute resolution with a family dispute resolution professional.


Please contact Family Lawyer, Marla Gilsig,

  1. before signing any document regarding your rights in your relationship; 
  2. to find out if you need a cohabitation agreement; or,
  3. if you are considering separating, to find out why you need a separation agreement.

You can set-up  your appointment for an initial consultation today at [email protected] or call her direct line 604.222.2902.   


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