Before the U-Haul: 10 Family Law Tips for Queers

In honor the Pride season, Christine Murray, family lawyer extraordinaire, and I compiled the top 10 family law “quick tips” for queer couples or families. The family law applies to all marriage-like relationships, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender.

Tip #1: Two years living together – what does it mean and why do you care:

You are considered a spouse. The law applies to you with regard to property division and spousal support upon marriage or after two years of cohabitation.

If you have a child together the law applies to you with respect to spousal support before two years.

Tip #2: Get a cohabitation agreement – do the heavy lifting on the front end:

You can opt out of the law and make your own arrangements for property division and spousal support by agreement (best written, signed witnessed)

Tip #3: Property division and debt division:

General rule: Keep what was “yours” (pre-relationship, gifts and inheritances) and share what accrues during the relationship (debts, property and increase in value of excluded property).

Tip #4: Spousal Support:

You may be obligated to pay spousal support or be entitled to receive spousal support if there is a need for support, to compensate a spouse or if there is an agreement for support.

Tip #5: Parenting:

Generally parents are guardians (unless they have not lived with the child). Guardians have parental responsibilities and parenting time. Non-guardians have “contact”. No presumptions of what is in the child’s best interest respecting shared parenting, responsibility or equal time. Parenting arrangements are to be made only in the best interests of the children. Step-parents do not become guardians.

Tip #6: Child support:

Parents are obligated to pay child support (can’t opt out). Step-parents (including in same-sex couples) may be obligated to pay child support after living with a step-child for one year.

Tip #7: Family Violence:

Definition includes, physical, sexual and emotional or psychological abuse.

Protection orders and conduct orders can be obtained in family court where a person’s behavior toward their partner is risky or where boundaries are required to manage behaviors that may not be safety related.

Tip #8: Sexual intercourse and parentage:

That’s a daddy not a donor: where a child is conceived through sexual intercourse the biological parents are the child’s legal parents.

Tip #9: Assisted reproduction 101:

When creating families with assisted reproduction (clinic /turkey baster method) the intention to parent trumps genetic connection with the child. A genetic connection between the parents and the child in BC, where the child is conceived through assisted reproduction.

Tip #10: Who is a parent where assisted reproduction is used – general rules:

  1. Donor (sperm or egg) is not a parent.
  2. Parents are the birth parent and their partner (regardless of sex or gender). No additional process is required to confirm the other parents status. For example, same sex parents can simply register as the child’s parents with Vital Statistics Agency upon the birth of the child, and those parents will be named on the child’s birth certificate.
  3. Surrogate is not a parent; the intended parents are the parents – must be a written agreement prior to conception and another after birth.
  4. Multiple parent families are a-ok!  (in certain circumstances)- there must be a written agreement prior to conception.

Useful links and resources:

This is not legal advice. If you want specific legal advice you should consult a lawyer!