Moving in together, “Common-Law Relationships” and Unmarried Spouses in BC

Are we or aren’t we?

0_censusThis past year, your household would have received some form of the 2016 Census, which included a question that could stump a few people: Are you married? Do you have a common-law partner?

The Statistics Canada website defines Common-Law Partner as “persons who are members of an opposite-sex or same-sex couple living common law. A couple living common law is one in which the members are not legally married to each other but live together as a couple in the same dwelling.”

“Common-law partner” is the term used federally (Canada-wide) to mean a marriage-like relationship that has lasted for two years, just one year or even less, depending on what law applies.

In BC, our provincial family laws use the term “spouse” or “unmarried spouse” to refer to an unmarried couple who has lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years, or less than that if they have had a child together. There is no such thing as a “common-law spouse” or “common-law marriage” in BC. However, there are still certain consequences of being an “unmarried spouse”. See Unmarried Spouses.

What should I know about before moving in with my partner?

keys-525732_1280In BC, If you have lived together in a “marriage-type relationship” for two years (with some variability), these are some important consequences to know about:

  • the debts either of you incurred while you were living together are considered “family debt”, which means that when you break up, the responsibility for this debt may be divided equally between you. Read more about this at: How to divide property and debts, Property & Debt in Family Matters;
  • if you buy property together during your relationship, regardless of who paid the downpayment, you could equally share it and equally share the increase in value of property you had before the relationship, which can even apply to the increase in value of “excluded property” like gifts and inheritances;
  • the courts will treat you like a married couple when determining spousal support. See Spousal Support;
  • you may be considered spouses for the purpose of social assistance and other benefits* (which may negatively or positively affect your eligibility). See Thinking of moving in together?;
  • it may affect your partner’s right to “contest” your will. See What Happens When Your Spouse Dies.

I’m already living with my partner. Is there anything I could do?

I want legal advice and/or more information on my situation. Where can I get it?

If you are low income and have questions on family law matters, the Family LawLine can provide more information and help.

To find legal advice and other help on family law issues, see Helpmap results for “family law” and “legal advice” here. It includes services like the CBABC’s Lawyer Referral Service, which connects you with a lawyer who will offer an initial 30-minute consultation for a nominal fee of $25 plus taxes.

This post didn’t cover everything. Read more about this topic:

For example, we weren’t able to discuss situations where an unmarried couple have had a child together. That would have made this post very long indeed! Read the resources linked throughout this post for more information. Another great resource to consult is: Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce

Past posts on Family Law from the Clicklaw Blog:


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2016 Bi-monthly Update Series: May-June

In our 2015 year-end update, we promised to provide bimonthly updates to new resources and services added to Clicklaw in those two months. Here is a sample from the hundreds of changes in May and June:

Jan-Feb | Mar-Apr | May-Jun | Jul-Aug | Sep-Oct | Nov-Dec


New Resources on Adult Guardianship & Enduring Powers of Attorney
by Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry

 

Sponsorship Breakdown
by Legal Services Society

New French Edition added. Sponsorship Breakdown is for permanent residents and conditional permanent residents who need help when the person sponsoring them in Canada is no longer supporting them, and they are unable to support themselves. Explains what happens when a sponsorship breaks down, and how to apply for welfare.

 

Updated Dial-a-Law Scripts
by Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch

 

A Guide for Manufactured Home Park Landlords and Tenants in British Columbia
by BC Residential Tenancy Branch

This booklet provides a summary of the key features of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and how they affect landlords and tenants in manufactured home parks in British Columbia.

 

Roads to Safety: Legal Information for Older Women in BC
by West Coast LEAF

Roads to Safety is a legal handbook for older women in BC that covers legal issues that older women may face when they have experienced violence. It explains rights and options, using stories to illustrate the legal information.

 

Rise Women’s Legal Centre

Formed through a partnership between West Coast LEAF and UBC’s Allard School of Law to provides free and low-cost legal services to women. Services are provided by upper year law students, under the supervision of staff lawyers. Rise offers a range of services, from information and summary advice, unbundled legal services, and in some instances representation in court. Currently accepting appointments for Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May 24 to July 20; fall dates TBA.

 

Common Questions: In response to questions we have been asked repeatedly via email, reference or by webinar attendees, we added three new FAQs this June:

 


An Evaluation of the Clicklaw Wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law: Final Report
by Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

This study assesses outputs & outcomes of the JP Boyd on Family Law wikibook by analyzing data from Google Analytics and data collected from a pop-up survey of users, a follow-up survey administered 1 week later and a follow-up survey 6 months later, to gauge the efficacy of wikibooks as a collaborative PLE model.


Disclosing Your Disability: A Legal Guide for People with Disabilities in BC
by Disability Alliance BC

The guide discusses the legal rights and responsibilities around disclosure for people with disabilities in the context of employment.

 


HIGH STAKES: The impacts of child care on the human rights of women and children
by West Coast LEAF

This report is grounded in diverse women’s real-life stories about how the inadequacy of the child care system has impacted them and their children—undermining their safety, well-being, & human rights. The report analyzes the legal implications of these harms and calls for urgent government action.

 


Responding to Child Welfare Concerns: Your Role in Knowing When and What to Report
by BC Ministry of Children and Family Development

Updated for 2016, this booklet explains when to report child abuse and neglect, and what to report. Includes what child abuse and neglect is, warning signs, what to do if a child tells you about the abuse, and what to do if you suspect abuse. It also explains what to expect when you make the report and what happens next.

 

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Clicklaw Refresher (Webinar Recording)
by Clicklaw + LawMatters (Courthouse Libraries BC)

See the recording of our live 1-hr webinar for front-line community workers, advocates and public librarians. Learn how to search online for reliable legal information & help specific to BC, with an overview of how to use Clicklaw, the HelpMap, and the Clicklaw Wikibooks.

 

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Women and Family Law: Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities (Webinar Recording)
by West Coast LEAF and Courthouse Libraries BC

See the recording of this live 1.5-hr webinar on recent changes to family law in BC and their impacts on the parenting experiences of women with abusive or harassing exes. Speaker Zara Suleman considers some common legal challenges including parenting assessment reports, denial of parenting time, relocating with a child, and litigation harassment. Zara offers lawyers and frontline service providers who assist women fleeing abuse effective strategies to cope with and address these issues.

 


Notice – BC Government URLs

You may have noticed that some of the links to websites hosted by the BC Government may be broken as they restructure. We are currently working with BC Gov website staff to keep links updated. For example, see the updated link to Family Justice in BC.

Stay informed:

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Free Webinar for Community Workers & Advocates: Clicklaw Refresher

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LawMatters and Clicklaw will be collaborating on this upcoming webinar.
For: Community Workers, Advocates, and Public Librarians
When: June 28th 1:00-2:00pm PST*
Presenters: Audrey Jun and Shannon McLeod
Cost: Free

Brush up with this great introduction (or review) to using Clicklaw to help answer legal information questions and make effective referrals.
We will be reviewing how to search Clicklaw for reliable legal information as well as how to use Clicklaw Wikibooks and the Clicklaw HelpMap.

Raise your awareness of different resources, publishers, and organizations and sign up today!

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New information on Certificates of Divorce

CQ_iconWe’ve added a question to Clicklaw that gets asked quite often by people who visit our Courthouse LibrariesHow can I get my Certificate of Divorce? Does it make my divorce official? What forms do I need?

Our new Common Question clarifies that you do not need a certificate to make your divorce legal, but that it can be useful in some cases.

If you want more info on the different ways you can apply for a certificate, you are directed to a brand new page of the JP Boyd on Family Law Clicklaw Wikibook (JPBOFL), which:

  • answers when you can get your certificate, and
  • gives 3 options for how you can apply for it: (1) at a Supreme Court Registry in person – if you have a lawyer, or (2) in person if you are doing it by yourself, and (3) via snail mail.

We also include tips on finding your court file number, and getting a copy of your divorce order.

What is a Clicklaw Wikibook?

Clicklaw Wikibooks is Clicklaw’s companion site – it provides plain language legal information and is a platform for lawyers and legal organizations in BC to publish and update legal information in a range of different digital and physical formats by editing a single source. I like to call it a curated wiki of BC law.

In addition to reading the Wikibooks online, you can find several of them in print at your local public library, through the LawMatters programJP Boyd is a well-known family law expert and the founding author of this post’s featured Clicklaw Wikibook, which is updated by BC lawyers.

Other posts ft. JPBOFL

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How Do I Get Married In British Columbia?

Photo courtesy of Freepik.com

In British Columbia, opposite and same-sex couples who are 19 years or older (with some exceptions) and are currently unmarried can marry. Although it is not difficult to get married in BC, there are a number of crucial steps that must be taken before, during and after the ceremony. Here is a quick checklist:

CheckboxApply for a marriage licence

You and your partner need a licence to get married in BC. To apply, one of you has to go in person with primary identification for both individuals (e.g. birth certificate, citizenship card) to a Vital Statistics Agency office. The license is ~$100 and is valid for three months.

CheckboxGet married in a religious or civil ceremony

You can choose either a religious or civil ceremony. The person performing the ceremony must be licensed under the B.C. Marriage Act

  • Not all religious officials are licensed. They must register with Vital Statistics.
  • For civil ceremonies, this person is known as a marriage commissioner. The base fee for a marriage commissioner is $78.75 and they may charge additional fees.
  • The marriage ceremony must be held in the presence of at least two witnesses, in addition to the marriage commissioner or religious official.

CheckboxWhere you cannot get married and who cannot marry you

“The City of Vancouver does not provide marriage licences or perform marriage ceremonies any longer”, says Brad, an information rep from City Hall who referred us to the BC Vital Statistics Agency. Nor can you get married inside a courtroom. Similarly, marriages are not performed by judges or judicial justices. As stated above, either a marriage commissioner or religious official conducts the ceremony.

CheckboxRegister the marriage

The marriage commissioner or religious official who conducts the ceremony will help you complete a Marriage Registration Form. This form must be sent, within 48 hours of the ceremony, to the Vital Statistics Agency for registration.

CheckboxFor more information

Details regarding how to get married in BC can be found at: JP Boyd on Family Law, CBA BC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts and BC’s Vital Statistics Agency.

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New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education

CRILF LogoBy Lorne Bertrand & Joanne Paetsch
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

Wikibooks are websites built on the MediaWiki platform, an open-source application that powers websites such as Wikipedia, Scholarpedia and the notorious WikiLeaks. Wikibooks are agile and highly adaptable, and are normally used to present large amounts of text from multiple authors in a digestible, easily accessible format. Clicklaw, a public legal education web resource run by Courthouse Libraries BC, has adapted the wikibook concept to provide plain language legal information to the public.

Unlike most MediaWiki websites that allow any user to add and revise content, Clicklaw Wikibooks use a unique development model in which potential contributors are screened by the Clicklaw Wikibooks team before being given editorial privileges. This collaborative approach allows several lawyers to contribute content and ensures that the task of maintaining and updating the material is not overly burdensome for any one individual.

In 2013, Clicklaw added JP Boyd on Family Law to its collection of wikibooks. The resource offers more than 120 webpages of substantive legal information, about 500 definitions of common legal words and phrases, links to hundreds of key government and non-government resources, and more than 100 downloadable forms for the British Columbia Supreme and Provincial Courts.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released the findings of the first phase of its evaluation of JP Boyd on Family Law, conducted with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Courthouse Libraries BC. The evaluation used data from several sources to assess the use and usefulness of the wikibook, including: a pop-up survey completed by 546 users of the website; a follow-up survey of 142 users administered one week after completing the pop-up; and website traffic information generated by Google Analytics.

Continue reading

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The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal Information now available as a Clicklaw Wikibook!

BGLI coverCourthouse Libraries BC is pleased to announce that our new Clicklaw Wikibook, The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal Information; A how-to for legal research and representing yourself in court in British Columbia is now available online. Our news release gives detailed information about the publication.

We describe the Guide as a new resource that “helps people handle their everyday legal problems. It is particularly useful to people who are representing themselves in court in British Columbia. Written by librarians at Courthouse Libraries BC, the new Guide gives a basic introduction to understanding laws & legislation, and gives how-to instructions to find specific legal resources on a given topic.”

A copy of the Guide can be printed by using the PDF download option, or you can download it as an ePub on a mobile device.

We encourage feedback on the Guide’s content, because one of the great features of Clicklaw Wikibooks is that they can be updated so easily. Please send your comments to jfreeman@courthouselibrary.ca

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Clicklaw Wikibooks Go Mobile!

Mobile_3Devices
Both the Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 run on Android. The iPhone runs on iOS. But you get a similar experience looking at wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca across all devices.

Do you have a smartphone? You can already read the Clicklaw blog in a mobile-friendly format, and our Clicklaw Wikibooks (which have helpful legal info on family law, residential tenancy law, wills and estates, and more) now have a mobile option too. We are working on making the main Clicklaw website mobile-friendly, stay tuned.

Why go mobile? Mobile use is not going away; in fact, it’s increasing every year. Nearly 33% of visitors to Clicklaw and the Clicklaw Wikibooks are on either mobile or tablet. We wanted to make the experience better for you, across all devices.

Here’s what you see when you go to a specific Clicklaw Wikibook:

Mobile_Inside_Wikibook

You still have the option of downloading the Wikibook in PDF, EPUB, or ordering a print copy–right from your phone.

See more features below the cut..

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CBABC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts come to Clicklaw Wikibooks

Clicklaw, Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) and LawMatters are very pleased to let the public and legal information community know that the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch’s long-serving Dial-A-Law scripts are now on Clicklaw Wikibooks. They join a growing library of content from other key producers of 500px-Dial-A-Law_cover_imagepublic legal information, including People’s Law School, TRAC, BC CEAS and others including some authors CLBC helped to publish, such as Cliff Thorstenson and John-Paul Boyd. The collection of scripts will be printed in a 500+ page book to be shipped to public libraries in BC, at no cost to the libraries, in conjunction with the LawMatters program.

CLBC and CBABC announced this news by formal press release yesterday (April 14, 2015). It’s exciting since Dial-A-Law scripts are perhaps the longest-surviving example of the BC legal profession’s dedication to helping the public with free legal information. The scripts cover over 130 legal topics, and have existed in various formats for over 30 years. Dial-A-Law started in 1983 with help from the BC Law Foundation and its scripts have been edited by volunteer lawyers ever since. More information about the various ways you can access Dial-A-Law is on Clicklaw’s page for the service.

Yesterday’s announcement is significant because now the scripts are even more accessible. Clicklaw Wikibooks are all about keeping legal information in a single spot so that editors and lawyers can update it—this is one of the benefits of a Wikipedia-style platform—but letting the end user choose whether to print, read online, or otherwise export the content in a way that meets their needs. Users can download whole contents, or only portions, of Clicklaw Wikibook in PDF or EPUB. They can order a printed book for cost, or read it online.  Continue reading

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Clicklaw Wikibooks Survey 2015

We recently launched a survey to study users’ needs on Clicklaw Wikibooks, our collaboratively developed, plain language legal publications that are made available on the same open-source platform used for Wikipedia. Clicklaw Wikibooks provide information in a variety of formats, from browser-based reading, to PDF, to EPUB, or even print-on-demand, which is available to all users and is also used to print titles for CLBC‘s LawMatters program.

wiki

After selecting one of the titles on the site, users are prompted by a pop-up window, which asks them to answer a survey once they are finished browsing. At the end of their session, they are presented with a short survey about their visit, with a chance to enter a monthly draw for a $100 prepaid Visa Gift Card.

To prevent being asked to fill out the survey again on repeat visits, a cookie will be stored on the user’s computer after they have completed the survey. This cookie can be deleted or cleared by the user to view the survey again. Multiple entries will not be counted.

The contest is open to Canadian residents, though staff and contractors of Courthouse Libraries BC or Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family will not be eligible to enter. Depending on the type of survey the user is prompted with, they may be asked to enter a follow-up survey by email for additional chances to win.

Stay tuned for news about the survey! Read JP Boyd’s blog posts about the surveys, Subscribe to our RSS feed, and follow us on Twitter: @Clicklaw.

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