Overview

Many people in Alberta live in committed partnerships and relationships without getting married.

Recent family law changes will set out how these unmarried partners divide their property, such as houses and belongings, if their relationship breaks down.

Generally, these changes will only apply to married spouses and adult interdependent partners who separate on or after January 1, 2020.

Adult interdependent relationships

It’s currently confusing and costly to divide property when a committed relationship outside of marriage ends.

Upcoming changes will help those in committed relationships outside of marriage – known as 'adult interdependent relationships' – divide their property.

‘Adult interdependent partners’ are defined in Alberta’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act as 2 people who live together in a relationship of interdependence:

  • for a continuous period of at least 3 years
  • of some permanence (and less than 3 years) if the couple has a child together, or
  • who have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement

A relationship of interdependence is when 2 people are not married to one another but still:

  • share one another's lives
  • are emotionally committed to one another, and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit

The Adult Interdependent Relationships Act sets out factors to consider when determining whether 2 people function as an economic and domestic unit. They include:

  • the exclusivity of the relationship
  • how they behave when it comes to household activities and living arrangements
  • how they hold themselves out to others
  • the contributions they make to each other or their mutual well-being
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence between them
  • the care and support of children
  • the ownership and use of property

The only way for 2 people who are related to each other – by blood or adoption – to become adult interdependent partners is to sign an adult interdependent partner agreement.

Create an adult interdependent partner agreement

To create an adult interdependent partner agreement, use the form in the Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation.

Types of relationships

Adult interdependent partners

In Alberta, the term ‘adult interdependent relationships’ is used for a wide range of committed partnerships. This could include:

  • 2 people in a marriage-like relationship
  • 2 people in a non-romantic relationship
  • 2 family members who have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement

The upcoming changes to the law will ensure adult interdependent partners have the same property division rules and protections as married spouses.

If you’re unsure if you’re considered an adult interdependent partner, contact a lawyer.

Married spouses

There's an important upcoming change for married spouses who lived together before marriage. If you lived together in a relationship of interdependence before you were married, the same property division rules will apply to your entire relationship – not just the years you’ve been married.

Currently, married spouses can ‘opt out’ of the rules and draft their own property division agreement if they want to divide property differently than the rules in the legislation. If they don’t draft their own agreement, the rules will apply to property obtained after the marriage.

Upcoming changes

At this time, legislated property division rules only apply to married spouses and are found in the Matrimonial Property Act.

On January 1, 2020, the Matrimonial Property Act will be renamed the Family Property Act. It will apply to both:

  • adult interdependent relationships
  • married spouses, including anytime they lived together in a relationship of interdependence before they were married

You can ‘opt out’ and draft your own agreement if you want to divide property differently than the rules in the new legislation. If you don’t draft your own agreement, the rules will apply to property obtained after the beginning of your relationship of interdependence.

Starting on January 1, 2020, the Family Property Act will allow adult interdependent partners to make a claim for property division within 2 years from the date the applicant knew the relationship had ended or should have known that it had ended.

Existing property division agreements that were enforceable under the law when they were signed will still be enforceable.

For information about 'opting out' of the property division rules, contact a lawyer.