In 2005, marriage equality became the law.
Following a number of court decisions across the country, the
Canadian government finally enacted legislation which extended the
right to marry to same-sex couples. Since that time, thousands of
same-sex couples have chosen to celebrate their relationship
through marriage. Those married couples have also chosen to accept
the legislatively imposed financial rights and responsibilities
which equally apply to same-sex couples. For many, those
obligations are completely unknown at the time of marriage and
become known only in the unfortunate event of a breakdown of the
relationship. It is imperative that all persons contemplating
marriage understand its implications. With equality comes the need
to understand what equality means. This article discusses, in a
very general sense, those implications.
Broadly stated, married spouses share in the value of all
property (whether it is owned jointly or solely) that is
accumulated during the course of marriage. Each spouse is given
credit for the property that he or she owned on the date of
marriage, although any increase in the value of such is to be
shared. Property that is excluded from this sharing includes gifts
from third parties, inheritances, life insurance proceeds and money
received as a result of a personal injury. The most important
exception, however, is the matrimonial home, that being the home
the parties ordinarily occupy as their family residence at the time
of the breakdown of the relationship. If this is the same home that
was owned on the date of marriage, the party who owned the home
will not receive credit for the value of
the home owned on the date of marriage. In other words, the entire
value of the home will be shared by the spouses.
The legal recognition of an economic partnership through
marriage does not stop with the sharing of property. In the event
of separation, one spouse may owe the other spousal support.
Entitlement to support arises in the event there is financial
disadvantage that accrues to one party as a result of the
separation or where one spouse has put his or her career on hold in
order to support and care for the family unit. At the same time,
the law also recognizes an individual's obligation to support
himself or herself and such consideration will affect the outcome
of the amount and duration of spousal support that will be
In the event that individuals who intend to marry, or who are
already married, do not wish to be governed by the law of property
division and/ or spousal support, it is possible to enter into a
contract which implements different property and/ or support rights
and obligations. That said, marriage contracts are often complex
documents requiring certain elements and considerations to insulate
them, as much as possible , from future challenge.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
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