THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE YOU MOVE INOct 20 2014
In popular culture, moving in with a loving partner is portrayed as a romantic decision of the heart. The couple fall in love, pack up their belongings and live together happily ever after with never a bump in the road.
In reality, moving in together—while still romantic—can bring serious consequences. Fortunately, with a little forethought and preparation, you can forge a stronger relationship and prevent future disagreements over finances, property, debts, children and benefits.
Before you start picking out furniture and stocking your kitchen, talk to your partner about household expenses. Will you share expenses equally? If not, how will you divide them? Also, consider your banking arrangements. Will you share a bank account? Or keep your finances separate?
Under B.C.’s Family Law Act, if you’ve been living in a common-law relationship (that is, a marriage-like relationship for at least two years), you’re each entitled to half of the property you accumulate while you’re together. This applies not just to property you accumulate together but also property you accumulate separately. Here, property includes land, housing, furniture, cars, pensions, bank accounts and more.
In contrast, neither of you are entitled to property owned by the other before you started living together. However, you will share any increase in value of this property during your relationship.
As with property, debts accumulated during the common law relationship are shared equally between partners. This applies regardless of the name on the loan or how the proceeds were used.
If you want to start a family with your partner, talk about your plans before you move in. If you do plan to have children, discuss whether one of you will stay home with the children and for how long.
If you or your partner has children from a previous relationship, you should talk about that as well. Will those children live with you? What role will you and your partner play in their lives?
Do you have property you intend to leave your children? Will you or your partner support the children financially? In some cases, you may be legally obligated to pay child support for your partner’s children even after you separate.
Once you qualify as a common law spouse, you may be able to share benefits, such as Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, MSP, medical and dental plans and social assistance. Investigate benefits carefully before you enroll to make sure you won’t lose existing benefits.
If you and your partner do not want the Family Law Act to apply to your relationship, you can use a cohabitation agreement to make other provisions.
If you’re not comfortable discussing these issues with your future partner, you may want to consider whether you’re ready to move in. Working through a cohabitation agreement together is a great way to communicate openly and make sure you both agree on the big issues that could derail your relationship.
Already moved in? It’s not too late. You and your partner can write an agreement any time during your relationship.