Common Law Relationships

If you are living common law, whether in a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship, your separation is covered by Alberta's Family Law Act and the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, not Canada's Divorce Act.

While most of the challenges will be the same, some of the solutions and vocabulary may be slightly different. For example, custody and access are called parenting time. Spousal support is referred to as adult interdependent partner support, and requires that you establish that you had a relationship of interdependent partners.

One of the biggest differences in approach between the acts has to do with division of property. If you are married, it is generally accepted that you are entitled to an equal share of all of the property that is not exempt, whether your name is on the ownership document or not. Some circumstances may justify departing from this. If you are not married, you need to establish why is it appropriate that the property be divided with you and what portion you should receive.

A Fair Split

Property division for common law couples is based on the idea of unjust enrichment. If your name is not on property that was acquired during the relationship, you may be able to show that not giving you a share of the property would be unfair because:

  • Your contribution to the property was greater than your benefit from it
  • Your contribution benefited your partner
  • In fairness, there is no reason not to reward you for your contribution

If you can show these points reflect your situation, you will have proven that a constructive trust has been created and that you should be compensated for your contributions.

Showing that you helped to pay for an asset and that it was meant to be owned by both of you, even though only one person's name was on it, is called a resulting trust, which can lead to a greater share of the property being given to you.

As we examine your particular common law marriage, we will explain the rights and options available to you as a common law spouse.

Contact Calgary Family Law Associates

Contact our common law relationship lawyers if you are going through family difficulties in Calgary and surrounding parts of Alberta. Call us at 587-316-1125, or contact each lawyer individually. You can also fill out our online form.