When it comes to divorce, money is one of the most important topics. In BC, any assets a couple made from their marriage/cohabitation to separation will be divided. 

This blog is about general guidelines and not legal advice. If you are divorcing in BC and need a consultation for your case, please contact us.  

To understand this article better, let’s review the definition of marriage and separation in BC.

What is marriage in BC?

There are two types of marriage – Registered marriage and common-law marriage. 

Registered marriage:

It is quite clear. If you have a marriage certificate in British Columbia, you are married. Every couple marrying in British Columbia receives a marriage certificate by mail once Vital Statistics has registered their marriage. At any wedding in British Columbia, the couple, two witnesses and the officiant marrying them must sign the Marriage Licence and Registration of Marriage after the ceremony has been performed.

Some clients ask us ‘We are married overseas but not in Canada. Am I married?’ The answer is YES. No matter where you are married, if you are married somewhere, you are married.


In Canada, there is a concept called ‘Common-law’. If you are in a common law relationship, you have the same rights as legally married couples.      

You are in a common-law relationship if you live with someone for two years in a marriage-like relationship.

Therefore, you may be considered married in BC even if you did not have a wedding. 

What is separation in BC?

Separation is a marital status between married and divorced. 

In BC, you need to be separated for a year in order to get divorced. 

You are separated if you are living separately from your spouse OR you are still living with your spouse, but the relationship has ended. 

How do I know if I am separated? 

If you and your spouse both sign a separation agreement, or you and your spouse agree that the relationship is over then you are separated. 

Even without those you can argue you are separated if you and your spouse:

  • Are sleeping separately;
  • Have no intimacy; 
  • Are living like roommates

What can we divide after separation?

Again, anything you and your spouse purchased after marriage/cohabitation is considered marital property and each is entitled to half of it. 

You can divide everything such as… 

  • Property 
  • Investments 
  • Savings
  • Business
  • CPP 
  • Valuable items (Vehicles, jewelry…etc)  

As for property, even if your spouse purchased it before marriage, you are still entitled to half of the increased value. 

Do you have a marriage agreement? 

If you have a marriage agreement, it is easier to sort things out because you already have a contract (and it’s easier to communicate and talk about money when you get married rather than divorced…) 

If not, lawyers at Specht and Pryer recommend making a Separation agreement. It is a contract between separated couples and you can write how you divide assets. Couples can divide assets any way as long as both parties agree.  

A separation agreement helps to make promises official and reduce the chance of fighting later.

With a child, by law, you have to have a separation agreement regarding custody, parenting schedules, child support, etc.

Why do people fight when they separate assets? 

If everything is 50% / 50%, then there should be no argument you may think.

However, many couples cannot agree on how they divide assets because of these reasons. 

  • (Suspect) Other partner is hiding assets 
  • Claiming property as a family trust 
  • Just making things difficult because of resentment 

Lawyers at Specht and Pryer generally recommend a fair resolution so that the divorce has the best chance of being acceptable to both sides (and clients can save lawyer fees). 

What else am I entitled to after separation? 

Other than assets you may be also entitled to receive

  • Child Support 
  • Spousal support 

Child Support 

When one parent has the majority of parenting time then the other parent has to pay child support. Even if the custody is equally shared the higher earning spouse still has to pay child support based on the difference in incomes. The amount of child support is based on paying parents’ income from the previous year.  The support continues until the children become independent. 

You can check guideline from the government from here. 

Spousal Support 

A lower-income spouse is entitled to receive financial support from a higher-income spouse. The support amount is based on income from the previous year. The duration of the support is based on the length of your relationship -the longer you marry, the longer the period you will receive support. There are also Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines from the government.

In general, as long as both sides agree, any support amounts are fine. However, if you reduce child support lower than the government guideline, you have to explain in detail why and how otherwise the court may not grant your divorce order.

Can I receive compensation money (sorry money) for being cheated in BC?

Unfortunately, it is not mandatory in BC. However, if your spouse agrees to compensate you, it is possible to write it down as a separation agreement and make it official.   

My spouse has received an inheritance. Can I have half of it?  

Inheritance is generally excluded from marital property (except the increased value of a property) If you are not sure, please book a consultation with us.   

My Spouse bought a property before marriage. Is it marital property? 

It is not a marital property, but you are entitled to receive half of the increasing value. Increasing value is the value of a property at separation minus the value of a property at marriage or when common-law status began.

When we bought a house my parents helped us with the down payment. What is going to happen to it?

What happens regarding that property really depends on a few factors:

First was any legal paperwork related to this financial assistance? A loan or trust document for example?

Second, if there is legal paperwork what was the intention of the financial assistance? Was it clearly a wedding gift or celebration of a childbirth or are there other complicating factors?

We are very familiar with this kind of scenario and look forward to learning more details from you.

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