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Are You in a Marriage-Like Relationship?


Prepared by Harry Saini, Associate Counsel

· Family Law,Marriage

In British Columbia, unmarried individuals who have been in a continuous marriage-like relationship with each over for over 2 years are considered spouses for the purposes of division of assets and liabilities, spousal and child support and parenting issues upon separation.

Whether you're in a marriage-like relationship depends on a lot of different factors. The Supreme
Court takes a "holistic approach" to consider whether a marriage-like relationship exists.

The Supreme Court has determined that parties can like together in a marriage-like relationship
even though you're not living under the same roof. You can live in separate homes, but still be in a marriage-like relationship. As long as you're in, or were in, a loving and intimate relationship where you and your partner emotionally supported each other, loved each other, were faithful to each
other, and communicated with each other almost every day when they were not together, and you considered yourselves to be (and presented yourself) as partners, its likely you were in a marriage-like relationship.

A determination of whether or not you're "spouses" or in a "marriage-like" relationship depends on the specific facts of your case.

Some of the factors that the considers are the following:

  • whether you vacation together;
  • the presence or absence of marital relationships;
  • how you conducted your financial affairs and financial planning;
  • estate planning;
  • your future plans; and
  • your social life.

Your specific intentions while you're in a relationship matters too. Although intentions are subjective, the Supreme Court will look to objective factors to determine intentions. The objective factors that the Supreme Court considers include the following:

  • your expectation of whether the relationship will be lengthy;
  • your lifestyle and interactions with others;
  • whether you acted as a family;
  • whether you lived together;
  • whether you had a sexual relationship;
  • evidence of emotional interdependence and attachment;
  • whether you comingled assets (e.g., your home, your bank accounts, shared expenses, etc.); and
  • your tax filings

If you're worried about whether you're in a marriage-like relationship, or whether you want a cohabitation agreement drafted, contact us to figure out how we can help you.


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