On March 18, 2013, the new Family Law Act (the “Act”) is coming into effect and along with it are several changes to the law as we know it in British Columbia.  Although we are not family law lawyers, the changes brought in by the Act could affect almost anyone who is in a relationship and it is important that anyone who wishes to know how it applies to their specific situation seeks legal advice.

One of the major changes is that property division laws will now apply to common law couples along with married couples.  This means that any couple who has lived together in a marriage-like relationship for two years will be subject to the proviso of a 50/50 division of family property if the relationship breaks down.

Unlike the Family Relations Act pre-relationship property and inheritances will be classed as excluded property and generally not be shared upon separation.  However, the growth in value of any excluded property will be shared upon separation.

Another change is that family debt is also subject to division, so the debts incurred during the relationship by one spouse will be divided upon the relationship with the proviso that the debt would be split 50/50 between the spouses.

The Act also focuses on a more collaborative approach to resolving matrimonial disputes and provides for ways of settling matters out of court, if appropriate through agreements, mediation and arbitration.

Due to the number of changes, it is impossible to cover them in one article.  We suggest that you visit the Attorney-General’s website to seek further information.  As under the Family Relations Act, it will be possible to enter into marriage agreements or co-habitation agreements (also known as prenuptial agreements) to contract out of the proviso of a 50/50 division of assets and debt. We would be happy to discuss this further with any of our clients.