B.C. common-law couples to get marriage rights | National Union of Public and General Employees

B.C. common-law couples to get marriage rights

First major overhaul in 30 years would modernize the province's Family Relations Act.

Victoria (20 July 2010) - B.C.'s Liberal government wants to extend laws governing the division of property to common-law spouses who have lived together for two years or who have children together.

Existing property division laws don't generally apply to common-law separations. This means couples choosing not to get married to avoid the marriage property division laws may need to reassess their arrangements.

The proposals are part of a package of major changes to the province's family law put forward by Attorney General Mike de Jong.

The minister says the changes are intended to modernize the province's Family Relations Act for first time in 30 years, making the statute less adversarial and easier to understand.

If passed, the changes would cover a wide range of issues such as separations, child custody, support payments, division of property and pensions, access responsibilities, children's participation in the legal process and family violence.

The changes also includes proposals to create more options for out-of-court dispute resolution and for improving tools to enforce court rulings. Family court professionals would be required to advise couples on how to resolve their differences out of court.

There are also measures meant to curb domestic violence, including a proposal to replace restraining orders with protection orders that would be enforceable under the Criminal Code.

The public will be able to contribute comments on the proposed changes until Oct. 8 through the B.C. government website.

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