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Common-Law Separation In Alberta: How It Works

Common-Law Separation In Alberta: How It Works

When it comes to obtaining a divorce, you have certain legal rights and obligations. Prior to granting a Divorce Judgment in Alberta, parties must address certain legal matters including child support, spousal support, parenting matters and division of property.

However, as separation lawyers in Calgary, we understand that many parties are confused about their legal responsibilities upon the breakdown of a relationship, especially when the parties are not married but have been cohabitating. It is important to note that there are legal differences between being roommates and being in a common law relationship.

Let’s look at the primary considerations when a common-law relationship breaks down in Alberta.

Common Law vs Adult Interdependent Relationships

As of January 1, 2020, couples in a common-law relationship in Canada have the same legal rights and obligations as married couples. While they are not legally married, Alberta’s family law system recognizes couples in common law relationships as living in an interdependent relationship and having legal obligations upon the breakdown of the relationship.

As separation lawyers in Calgary, we use the term “adult interdependent relationships” in legal proceedings over “common law”. Common law is a term rooted in tax law and has become the standard verbiage for many years. So, if your legal counsel refers to adult interdependent relationships, you know they are referring to common-law partners.

Qualifying for Common Law Separation Proceedings in Alberta

To be considered an adult interdependent relationship, there are two main factors:

  1. If the parties have been living together in a relationship of interdependence for at least three years; and
  2. If the parties have entered into an adult interdependent relationship agreement (which is a legal document signed by both parties)

Couples often enter into a cohabitation agreement to protect their assets when planning to live together. As separation lawyers in Calgary, we know that having a child in a relationship can negate the general three-year requirement and create a bit of a grey area.

Common Law Separation and Property in Alberta

When you start the process of common-law separation, you’ll need to consider the same legal obligations as those who are married, including division of property, finances, spousal support, child support and parenting matters.

Alberta’s property is subject to a 50/50 division except for exempt property. As such, we strongly encourage anyone getting married or choosing to live in a common-law relationship enter into a Pre-nuptial or Cohabitation Agreement advising how they would want the property to be divided should the relationship break down.

Updates on the Matrimonial Property Act

As separation lawyers in Calgary, we acknowledge the ongoing updates to the Family Property Act. In Alberta, if you are separated after January 1, 2020, and are eligible to be considered as an adult interdependent relationship, the division of property law is the same as for a divorce.

The properties are treated the same as matrimonial property and are equitable to division rules. Each partner must exchange financial disclosure according to a Notice to Disclose Application to ensure all assets and debts are divided fairly.

Getting Help When Going Through the Separation Process

Separation can be complicated, and you want to be prepared to protect your rights and interest.

Seeking a skilled, professional separation lawyer in Calgary who understands Alberta’s Family Property Act will reduce the stress of dividing assets and debts.

If you are going through a common-law separation and have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Jones Divorce & Family Law. We specialize in the breakdown of relationships, including:

  • Negotiations
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Litigation
  • Parenting coordination and more.

We’re here for you during what is often one of the most challenging times in your and your family’s life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Common Law Separation in Alberta

Do I need a divorce lawyer in Calgary for common-law separation?

You are not legally required to hire a lawyer during a common-law separation. However, a lawyer ensures that your rights are protected and helps you make sound long-term decisions during a stressful time. A separation is emotionally draining, and you may not be in the right frame of mind to navigate the process, including division of property, parenting rights, and spousal support.

Having a lawyer on your side will help ease your mind and give you the best outcome possible.

Can I receive spousal support after a common-law relationship ends?

Either person in a common-law relationship can seek spousal support if the separation qualifies under the Family Law Act. Unmarried couples with children have the same parental rights as married couples, including the right to order spousal support.

What do I need to consider during a common-law separation?

When you start the process of common law separation, you’ll need to consider the division of property, division of finances, spousal support, child support, and parenting matters.

What is an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement?

This is a formal document signed by the two people in the common-law relationship that indicates they are in an adult interdependent relationship. You can find the specific format for the required information here. You don’t need to file this agreement with the court, but it would be in your best interest to keep a copy and place it in a safe place. You must also receive independent legal advice and sign with a lawyer to ensure the agreement is legally binding.

How is property divided when a common-law relationship ends?

If your separation qualifies under Alberta’s Family Property Act, the property is divided the same way that married couples divide property, which is subject to a 50/50 division of all assets and debts. When children and property are involved, most common-law partners seek legal counsel to protect their rights and interest.

If you’re going through a common-law separation and have questions about the process, don’t hesitate to contact us at Jones Divorce & Family Law. We specialize in the breakdown of relationships, including negotiations, mediation, arbitration, litigation, parenting coordination, and more.

We’re here for you during what is often one of the most challenging times in your and your family’s life.


Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.