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What Constitutes a “Spouse” in BC?

Spouses can include both married and unmarried individuals. British Columbia has laws that provide married couples and unmarried spouses with the same rights and responsibilities under many areas of family law.

If married, the spousal relationship begins when the couple is legally married.

For the unmarried, a spouse under the province’s Family Law Act includes couples who have lived in a marriage-like relationship, and who have done so for:

  • At least two years, or
  • Less than two years if they have a child together.

The Significance Of Being A Spouse

Determining whether you are in a spousal relationship is important since it impacts your legal rights and responsibilities at the end of the relationship.

In British Columbia, unmarried spouses divide property and debt in the same way as a divorcing married couple would – 50/50.

Unmarried, childless spouses can also make an application for spousal support. Where a common-law couple has a child together, either party can seek spousal support even if they have lived together for less than two years.

Having spousal status also impacts a number of governmental benefits. For instance, being in a spousal relationship could result in a reduction of social assistance payments, or let you apply for death benefits in an ICBC car insurance claim.

Learn more about common law spouses here.