No, it doesn't count as being married. The law doesn’t see you as married unless you've gone through a legally recognized marriage ceremony in either BC or somewhere else. But if you've lived together as a couple for two years, you're considered spouses and you'll have a lot of the same rights under BC provincial law as a married couple has. If you've been living together for one year, you’ll also have some of the same rights under federal law that married couples have.
For things like health insurance, government benefits (including retirement), and inheritance, you might have the same rights as married spouses if you live together.
If you separate, you’ll be treated like a married couple in certain situations.
When it comes to dividing property and debt, you're spouses under the law and the courts will treat you like a married couple if you lived together for at least two years before you broke up. See Dividing property and debts after you separate to find out more about this.
When it comes to spousal support, the courts will treat you like a married couple if you lived together for at least two years, or if you lived together for less than two years but you have a child together. See Spousal support to find out more about this.
For more information about your rights when you live with someone, speak to a lawyer. See Tips about getting legal help for where to find a lawyer.
Read Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce for some good general information about this.
By the way, it might be helpful to know that BC law doesn't talk about "common-law" relationships. You'll probably come across the expression "cohabitation," which means living together without getting married first.
More separation & divorce questions
Yes. If you've been living in BC for at least one year and you're still living in BC, you can apply for a sole or joint undefended divorce in BC Supreme Court.
The Divorce Act says you can apply for a divorce in any province or territory where you or your spouse have been a resident for a year immediately before the divorce.
If your spouse agrees to the divorce, you can use one of our guides to help you do your own uncontested divorce.
You have to pay two separate court fees to get a divorce. It's $210 to file the first documents (a $200 filing fee, plus $10 for a Registration of Divorce), and then $80 to file your Final Application. If you decide to get a Certificate of Divorce, that's another $40. (There's no tax on these costs.)
You don't need to get a Certificate of Divorce when your divorce comes through, but you'll need it if you want to get married again. You can order a Certificate of Divorce any time you need it after your divorce has been finalized.
There are a few other costs you should know about. If you get your Affidavits sworn at the court registry, it's $40 for each Affidavit. If you don't have a certified copy of your marriage certificate or registration of marriage, you'll have to pay to get this as well. These are only court costs. You'll need to pay to get a process server to deliver your documents or to get your documents sworn anywhere other than the court registry.
The Divorce Act says you can get a divorce act on one of three grounds:
- intentional separation for more than one year
- physical or mental cruelty
It's possible to be separated even though you're still living together in the same home, but you need to prove that you're not living as a married couple if this happens. See Proving you're separated if you and your spouse still live together for more about this.
You don't need to wait a year if you want to get a divorce because of either adultery (your spouse cheated on you) or physical or mental cruelty. But if you're applying on these grounds, you need to be able to prove the adultery or cruelty. So, unless your spouse is likely to admit to being adulterous or cruel, getting a divorce on those grounds will take more time and money than waiting for a year and getting a divorce that way.
You get a divorce to end a valid marriage. You get an annulment to end an invalid marriage.
You don't need to get married in a religious ceremony for your marriage to be valid in Canada. If you were married outside Canada, the laws of the place you were married are the ones that decide if your marriage is valid or not. But if the marriage was valid in the place it was performed, it will usually be valid in BC.
If you're not sure if your marriage is valid in BC, see Marriages, divorces, and annulments inside and outside Canada.
For example, your marriage might be invalid if you or your spouse were already married when you married each other, or if you and your spouse found out you were brother and sister. Some religious authorities will give you an annulment, but the law won't see this as cancelling your marriage.