How Do I Get Out of Sharing My Assets?

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Married spouses and unmarried spouses[edit]

Presumption of shared property[edit]

Married spouses and unmarried couples who have lived together for at least two years are presumed to have a one-half interest in all property either or both of them acquired after the date the couple married or began to live together, whichever came first.

Excluded property[edit]

Certain property is excluded from the family property the spouses are expected to divide, including:

  • the value of the property owned by each spouse on the date the couple married or began to live together, whichever came first,
  • property bought with the property owned by each spouse on the date the couple married or began to live together,
  • inheritances and gifts (provided that the gift was to the spouse only and not to the couple) received during the relationship,
  • court awards for damages incurred prior to the relationship and insurance proceeds for pain and suffering (not wage loss) received during the relationship, and
  • trusts to which the spouse did not contribute and which the spouse does not control.


If you want to do better than this, you'll have to sign a marriage agreement or a cohabitation agreement at some point before or shortly after you marry or begin to live together. To ensure that agreement is enforceable, it is best practice to ensure both you and your spouse receive independent legal advice (ILA), and that you update the agreement any time you begin to depart from the terms of the agreement (for example, if you agreed to terms that assume no children, but you and your spouse later have kids).

Practical tips for managing assets in a relationship[edit]

If you don't want to spend the money getting an agreement drawn up, here are some other things that can help:

  • When you begin to live together, take copies of the statements from all of your bank, investment, retirement, credit, and loan accounts, copies of your BC Assessments for all real property and staple them together and put them in a safety deposit box. This will help you to establish the value of the property you brought into the relationship.
  • During your relationship, keep a careful record of what you buy with the property you brought into the relationship (so you can trace the excluded property that was used to buy new property during the relationship).
  • During your relationship, keep records of the dates and values of any inheritances, gifts, insurance proceeds, or court awards that you receive.
  • If you received a gift during the relationship, keep documents that proves the intention of the gift-giver (i.e. a letter, note, or electronic communication from the donor stating that the funds were a gift only to this particular person/spouse and not a gift to the couple, especially if the funds are then used to buy family property).
  • Keep an eye on the debts your spouse incurs during the relationship.

Recent changes to law[edit]

In May 2023, the BC Government made updates to the Family Law Act that were intended to clarify how spouses can prove and trace their separate (excluded) property over time. For example, if you brought a home or bank account into the relationship and later added your spouse’s name as a joint owner, that does not automatically mean your spouse is entitled to half. The judge will look at your intention at the time and whether you intended to gift that property to your spouse.

Court discretion in some cases[edit]

Under section 96 of the Family Law Act, if the court decides it would be significantly unfair not to divide up excluded property, the court has the power to do this. The factors the court will look at include how long the relationship lasted, and what the other spouse did to help with that property, but there are other factors that the court can turn to, and much of that is discretionary. A situation where things are significantly unfair is more likely in a relationship that has lasted longer than 20 years, a relationship where there are children, where there is any kind of verbal agreement about dividing the property someone now claims is excluded, and if there is insufficient income and family property available within the available family property pot to satisfy a spouse's entitlement to spousal support.

You can find out more about how married spouses and unmarried spouses divide property and debt in the chapter Property and Debt in Family Law Matters.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Shannon Beebe, September 24, 2023.

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