What does it mean to live “separate and apart” from my spouse?

Most commonly, a couple lives “separate and apart” by choosing to live in different residences. However, this is not a legal requirement. Some couples may stay in the same house for financial or co-parenting purposes but live separate and apart by maintaining independent lives. If the date of separation is in dispute, a court may examine the spouses’ particular circumstances to determine when they started living separate and apart.

What is the difference between divorce and annulment?

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a legal marriage, which occurs after establishing that there has been a “breakdown of the marriage” as per the Divorce Act. There is no question that the marriage was valid and legally binding.

By contrast, an annulment can only be granted by proving the marriage was invalid from the outset, often by demonstrating one spouse was legally unable to enter the marriage (e.g. by lacking the mental capacity to consent, by already being married to someone else, by being forced into the marriage by fraud or threat).

Am I “common-law” with my partner?

In British Columbia, you are legally considered a “common-law” spouse (with corresponding division of property rights) if you have lived together in a marriage-like relationship continuously for at least two years. However, to be eligible for spousal support, a partner is considered a common-law spouse if they have a child with their partner, even if they have lived together for less than two years.