03/18/2013 12:12 EDT

BC Family Law Act Makes Common Law Couples 'Married'

Many couples in B.C. who live together were likely shocked to find out they were essentially married Monday morning after the province's Family Law Act came into force.

One person's new car becomes "family property" under the act, which grants the same rights to common-law couples who've been living together for two years as already existed for married couples, the Globe and Mail reports.

Common-law couples who have been living together for two years now have equal entitlement to property acquired during the relationship, as well as responsibility for debt. Property acquired prior to the relationship is excluded, the newspaper reported.

The law was drafted as a way to resolve a glut of family cases jamming up the B.C. court system by eliminating many of the legal hurdles that come with a common-law split, the National Post reported.

Common-law spouses are being advised to have "full and frank discussions" with their partners about finances and property, and to come up with a separation agreement in case the couple splits down the road, said the newspaper.

When it comes to children, the Family Law Act states that both parents remain their kids' guardians after separation, with each getting parenting time and responsibilities, said the B.C. government.

Parenting arrangements can also be tailored so that one guardian gets the majority of parenting time, or else they can also work out a "parallel parenting" arrangement where one parent has different responsibilities over their parenting time.

One parent, for example, might deal with a child's education while the other deals with extra-curricular activities, the province said.

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