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Effective March 18, 2013 BC got a new Family Law Act which is considered the most significant change since the Family Relations Act which was passed in 1978.

The new FLA changes how BC courts will view relationships - both married and common law - and how assets are dealt with upon relationship breakdown.

Under the current FRA, unmarried spouses are excluded from property division. The only recourse for unmarried spouses is to claim spousal support, or to make a claim via a constructive trust.

Upon marriage breakdown there is a 50/50 division of family assets, which are characterized by how they ae used, not by who owns them.

The new Family Law Act moves to an excluded property model. It'll no longer rely on a two stage process of identifying the property subject to divison and then determining if that property has an "ordinary use for a family purpose" says the Ministry of Justice. Family property will include all real and personal property owned by one or both spouses at the date of separaton, unless the asset in question is excluded, in which case only the increase in the value of the asset during the relationship is divisible.

Whether an asset was ordinarily used for a family purpose will not be relevant in deciding if it is family property.

The exclusions include:

  • property acquied before or after the relationship - gifts or inheritances 
  • damage awards and insurance proceeds with some exceptions 
  • some kinds of trust property
These changes make the law simpler, clearer and easier to apply and easier to understand for the people who are subject toit. The one of importance is the date at which assets are valued. The new triggering event for crystallizing interests is the date of separation.
For the purpose of the FLA, spouses may be separated, despite continuing to live together.

In conclusion, couples are encouraged to enter into family law agreements.
There are four types: co-habitation, prenuptial, postnuptial and separation. It's important to identiry and value assets at the outset, and enter into an agreement to protect them.

courtesy Stan Clark Financial Team

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