The differences between British Columbia and Quebec
A few posts back I wrote about Quebec couples who are not obliged to share in their wealth, if a couple was not married and they break up. Only official marriage guaranteed that both spouses have the usual property rights, such as property sharing (50-50) and spousal support if reasonable. Of course a different arrangement between partners is still an option, but no sharing of accumulated property and no spousal support payment are enforceable after the partners in these de facto unions break up. Going to court will make no difference, even if 35% of Quebecois live in such de facto unions. I questioned this arrangement and called it discriminative.
Now the province of British Columbia has declared the rather opposite stance of marriage, compared to Quebec. The law has been changed, so that a couple living together for two years will be considered as married. There will be no differences between the two forms of unions when it comes to property. It needed no referendum apparently, and we as voters were not told by any political party that it had campaigned on that platform. It was just done.
I feel a bit taken aback by that on first reaction. Marriage always was a hot potato in many societies. It was the cause of the Anglican church coming into existence when British king Henry VIII wanted a new wife and the pope would not annul his previous marriage. Wars were started over it and peace pacts sealed with a marriage. People killed others for it. Popes thought it second best and preferred all priest be not in any relationship, not even married. The marriage: overall a situation worth debating.
I never wanted to be married, as I always found it an institution that did not serve women very well, looking around me while growing up and later, when entering the years of the sexual revolution during the sixties and seventies (previous century).
Over the years, the property laws and divorce options, as well as social acceptance of divorce became more women-friendly and thus the option of leaving a loveless or abusive marriage was created. Still, marriage was not really my “thing”, although I was married once when I came to Canada. It lasted pretty much 17 years-enough to raise a child; our daughter was 16 when it all fell apart.
A whole lot of duties and assumptions of each partner’s roles are implied when people get married. Yes, they set out to make it last forever and grow old together, assuming eternal love. More commonly, the women still do most of the household tasks, raising the children, and work a job out of the home as well. That attitude seems to fortunately be changing with the last generation and I see many young men become more actively involved with their families, in Canada at least.
In more than half of the marriages this expectation of togetherness “till death do us part” is false and people divorce or just separate, if they were not married.
I personally see no difference between the couples who needed the official certificate stating they are legally married and those whose words say they are committed to each other. I would not need that expensive party, the diamond ring or the other trappings of a wedding that are so coveted by many who still believe in the form.
The only difference that I noticed was in how people responded to me after I was married. Somehow I was made legitimate and joined their crowd, although I never ever felt myself that I had joined any particular crowd.
“Like seeks like”. Now I was welcome in groups of married people. That stopped after I divorced; the married couples stopped (for most part) inviting me to their events.
I saw that in Canada, but not so much in the Netherlands, where among my friends singles and couples freely mixed, including gay unions or singles, including drug using or alcohol using friends. It might be a cultural thing. The two nations are separated by a traditional-conservative belief system.
People love and fall out of love. For some couples, children are the glue that binds them together. That is a laudable commitment and I am all for it. Children need to be raised and, in these times, two incomes are better than one and yes, raising kids is expensive.
There are also many who do not see it that way and feel that when the sexual attraction is gone, it’s time to move on. They have serial relationships or marriages. In those cases, child support payments after divorce is a good thing and should be maintained.
In BC from now on it will now not matter whether you were married or not when you leave your partner: you will have to share your accumulated property. As well, if your house that you owned before marriage or the start of living together increased in value, you will have to share that increase in value with the partner when you are leaving him/her after a minimum of two years living together.
I think that is a fair law and it equalizes the relationships between men and women, in a time where most men earn more than most women, generally speaking. In my view money and assets between them should be shared to raise their offspring. “The interest of the child” has become the only consideration: the New Family Law as it is called stipulates this principle.
On the other hand, this new law might cause those naive people to wake up and smell the coffee that think they are loved for their beautiful mind or body and start living together without any thoughts about who they are and especially, what their material assets are.
To all men I would say: be aware, there’s no more moving in without considering the consequences, and no more creating children and hoping to walk away relatively unscathed.
Of course, there are loopholes, but that will take money and a legal process to be set aside, with good reasons, in specific cases. It’s like negative billing: you get charged, but need to be assertive to opt out.
In my cynical view, I see another reason why our government has come to develop this law: many children are raised in poverty. I believe it is said to be a third of all children in BC. That is enough of a reason for me to do something about this shameful statistic.
To our provincial government I say Good For You: our children’s welfare should be the first consideration.
What do you think about this law?
Do you think that couples see their commitment represented though marriage only?
What about sharing financial burdens for children between parents?