Although there is a legal concept of common law marriage in British Columbia, this does not mean that individuals who have been living together in a common law relationship must get a divorce if the relationship ends. However, it does mean that some sort of legal separation agreement may be wise.
A number of factors are used to determine whether a relationship is a common law marriage. In addition to time spent living together, a court will weigh factors such as whether there are children and whether the two considered themselves a couple and were considered a couple by others.
At no point does the common law relationship ever become a legal marriage. However, in British Columbia, individuals in a common law relationship are considered unmarried spouses, and property and debts are divided as though the two were married. Family law in British Columbia and throughout Canada may also require one individual to pay support or child support. One individual may also be able to get support in the case of the death of the other.
Individuals who are separating from a common law relationship may wish to work with a lawyer. Even though it is not a divorce, there are issues around separating property and child custody and support that must be worked out. An amicable solution may be particularly important when children are involved, and lawyers may be able to work with individuals to ensure that a separation agreement can be arranged that is satisfactory to all parties.
For example, two individuals may have been living together in a common law relationship for four years. If one of those individuals bought a house, in British Columbia, it may be considered family property after a split.