Vancouver Family Lawyers Providing Skilled Assistance with Property Division
The division of family property after a separation or divorce is technically complex and requires a robust understanding of both federal and provincial family laws. The equal distribution of property provided under British Columbia’s Family Law Act can involve careful consideration of the nature, history, and value of a couple’s assets.
Meridian Law Group takes quick and decisive legal action to ensure clients move forward with as much financial stability as possible after a relationship ends. Through an in-depth knowledge of family law and its application to all types of property, the firm creates customized, proactive legal strategies that secure clients’ property rights and protect their interests.
What is “Family Property”?
Under British Columbia’s Family Law Act, spouses are entitled to an equal division of all family property. “Family property” includes any asset owned by either spouse on the date of separation, unless expressly excluded under the Family Law Act.
Some examples of family property are:
- The family home and other real estate;
- Business interests;
- Bank accounts, investments, and retirement savings;
- Pension funds and insurance benefits;
- Personal possessions;
- The increase in an asset’s value (this also applies to assets that are excluded from the family property); and
What Property Is Not Divided Equally?
While most assets qualify as “family property” and must be divided equally after separation, there are some exceptions. These include:
- Property owned by a spouse before the marriage or common-law relationship began;
- Gifts or inheritances to one spouse, as well as property purchased using a gift or inheritance (unless that property is registered in both spouses’ names);
- Some monetary awards (damages) made by court order or through an Insurance Corporation of British Columbia settlement;
- Property governed by discretionary trusts held by a third party; and
- Property or debt governed by a domestic agreement or consent court order will be divided in accordance with the terms of the agreement or order.
If a spouse can prove that it would be significantly unfair to divide some family property equally, they may apply to the court for an order allowing it to be divided unequally or excluded entirely.
Are Common-Law Partners Entitled to an Equal Property Division?
In British Columbia, eligible common-law partners are considered spouses under the Family Law Act. As a result, they enjoy the same property rights as married spouses, including an equal share of property upon separation. Under the Family Law Act, a common-law partner qualifies as a “spouse” if they have continuously lived with another person in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years.
While the Family Law Act does not expressly define what qualifies as a “marriage-like relationship”, courts in British Columbia consider the entire context of the relationship to determine whether such a relationship existed between a couple. Some factors considered by the courts include:
- Whether the couple intended for their relationship to be long-term or indefinite in length;
- The level of financial interdependence between the partners;
- Whether the partners resided together, and if so, whether they did so as roommates or as a couple;
- The parties’ lifestyle and interactions; and
- Whether the parties were sexually and personally intimate with each other.
These circumstances are not exhaustive and bear different weights depending on each couple’s unique situation. Courts have stated that the relationship should be viewed “holistically” and not simply be reduced to a “checklist” of factors.
What Happens to the Family Home?
After separation, both spouses are legally entitled to remain in the family home. Spouses can choose to remain in the house together for financial reasons but still live “separate and apart” (i.e. maintain independent lives from each other) to establish the marriage’s breakdown and obtain a divorce.
In cases involving family violence, a spouse may apply to the court for exclusive occupancy of the home to ensure their own safety and that of their children (if there is no criminal no-contact order in place already).
A spouse doesn’t lose their right to half of the home’s value if they do move out post-separation. However, before moving out, spouses should speak with a family lawyer to ensure they do not affect their parental or support rights and obligations.
The Benefit of Experienced Legal Advice
While the default 50/50 division of property under the Family Law Act seems relatively straightforward, in practice, it can involve a myriad of legal and financial complexities. Complicated assets such as pensions, business interests or family-owned businesses, insurance proceeds, court awards or settlements, and estate property can require an in-depth knowledge of the applicable family and tax laws.
Meridian Law Group’s extensive experience and established relationships with financial experts ensure clients’ family property is correctly identified, valued, and divided fairly under the law. Clients can be confident that their case is handled properly from the outset, avoiding costly errors and additional litigation.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Dependable Advice on Family Property Division
Meridian Law Group understands the complexities of property division following a separation or divorce. The firm’s skilled family lawyers develop creative, practical legal solutions to resolve property disputes and ease clients’ concerns. The Meridian Law Group team exceeds expectations and assertively advocates for clients’ rights and property interests in any legal forum, including mediation, arbitration, and trial.
The lawyers of Meridian Law Group have been an integral part of the British Columbia family law community for over 30 years. Located in Nelson Square in downtown Vancouver, the firm proudly serves clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia, including West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To discuss your family law matter, please call (604) 687-2277 or reach out online.