Common Law Relationships

“In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for couples to live together without being legally married. Couples who live together in a marriagelike relationship without being legally married are often said to be living in a common-law relationship …

Common-law partners now have many rights, benefits, and obligations in Alberta law. Under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act[ Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, SA 2002, c A-4.5]common-law partners who meet certain criteria are recognized as adult interdependent partners. Adult interdependent partners have many of the same rights, benefits and obligations as married spouses under Alberta legislation
[ See e.g. Family Law Act, SA 2003, c F-4.5, ss 56–63; Wills and Succession Act, SA 2010, c W-12.2, ss 60–62, 72(b), 88].

In Alberta, there are no legislated rules about agreements about division of property for common-law partners. ”[ Property Division: Common Law Couples and Adult Interdependent Partners, Report for Discussion 30, September, 2017, Alberta Law Reform Institute] That is changing on January 1, 2020.

The Alberta Law Reform Institute (ALRI) recommended, among other things, that “there should be legislation that expressly states common-law partners may make an agreement about ownership and division of property. ALRI has also recommended that “Legislation should include formal requirements based on the requirements in the Matrimonial Property Act. In particular, legislation should require that an agreement be in writing and that each partner obtain independent legal advice.

On January 1, 2020 the name of the Matrimonial Property Act will be changed to the Family Property Act and the following amendments will come into effect:

The act will:

“apply to both adult interdependent partners as well as spouses;
allow partners to draft their own property division agreement rather than following the rules in the legislation;
specify that property division rules will apply to property acquired after beginning a relationship of interdependence; this applies to adult interdependent partners and married couples who lived together prior to marrying each other;

give each adult interdependent partner 2 years from the date they knew (or should have known) their adult interdependent relationship ended to make a claim for property division; and

clarify that partners can enter into a property ownership and division agreement that applies both during cohabitation (living together before marriage) and the time after marriage.”