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 as married spouses, 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.

Division of Property

As of January 1, 2020 the law in Alberta dealing with the division of property upon the breakdown of common-law relationships changed significantly.

On January 1, 2020 the new Family Property Act replaced the Matrimonial Property Act. This new act introduced important changes to the rights of common law spouses. Common law spouses will now have the same property rights as married couples. It is hoped that this significant change will bring some certainty to this area and will make property disputes for common law spouses easier to resolve with more predictable outcomes.

These changes affect you if you are in “an adult interdependent partnership”. This means that you have:

1. Lived with a person in a relationship of interdependence for a continuous period of 3 years or more; or,
2. Lived with a person in a relationship of interdependence for less than 3 years but you have a child together; or,
3. Signed an agreement with the other person.

Under the new legislation, if you are in an adult interdependent partnership, you are generally entitled to keep the property you owned at the beginning of that relationship as well as certain other types of property such as an inheritance, a gift etc. You will however be required to share with your partner, the increase in value of the property you owned at the beginning of the relationship as well as property that you each accumulated during the relationship.

This is a complex area of the law and so we strongly advise you to contact one of the lawyers at Calgary Family Law Associates to fully explore your rights and obligations under this new Family Property Act. As we examine your particular circumstances, we will explain the options available to you.


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