01 March 2012

Little Known Family Law Facts #6

Section 60(1) of the Law and Equity Act says that:
"For all purposes of the law of British Columbia, a married man has a legal personality that is independent, separate and distinct from that of his wife and a married woman has a legal personality that is independent, separate and distinct from that of her husband."
The purpose of this subsection is to cure a problem of the antique common law on domestic relations arising from the unity of the person doctrine. Under this doctrine, a married man and woman were treated as one person by the law, although one person under the man's control. Among other things, this meant that upon marriage the husband took all of his wife's property, but also became responsible for the law suits she had started and those started against her, and the wife became able to pledge her husband's credit.

The doctrine is expressed by the Latin maxim sunt quasi unica persona, quia caro una, sanguide unus which, although my Latin is pretty weak, means something to the effect of "they are as if one person, with one heart and one blood."

The Law and Equity Act is chock full of little gems like this, and except for the dreadful portions on mortgages and foreclosures, is well worth a read. For the law nerds in the crowd, the act also contains at s. 2 the enactment of the 19 November 1858 proclamation of Governor Sir James Douglas by which the laws of England were adopted as the laws of the Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.


  1. Law nerd here. Always wondered, "Why 19 Nov. 1858?" Thanks!

    1. That's the date James Douglas was sworn in as the first governor of the Colony of British Columbia.