A common-law breakup: splitting up property


When Jake and Sarah broke up, they realized they've got a lot of decisions to make. They have to divide everything they accumulated together over the years, but have no idea where to start. Many common-law couples (couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples) will need to divide their property. If they can't agree how to divide it, they might even end up in court.

Family property is almost everything either you or your partner own together or separately on the date you separate, including your family home, investments, bank accounts, and more. It doesn't matter whose name the property is in.

Property division laws are the same for both married and common-law couples: unless you have a written and signed agreement that says otherwise, all family property will be divided equally. A court will only order a different division if it would be considered “significantly unfair” to do otherwise (this decision considers things such as the length of relationship, and if other agreements were made). Note, you must apply to divide family property within 2 years of the date you separated.

There are exceptions to these divisions, called excluded property, which you don't have to split equally. This includes property you owned before the relationship started, and gifts and inheritances given during the relationship.

There are many resources and services available to help you divide your property and avoid going to court. Some services are free if you have low income. Please visit familylaw.lss.bc.ca and mylawbc.com for more information.

Family lawLegal Aid