Family law changes

Bill 28 updates property division laws to include unmarried partners and improve child support for adult children with disabilities.

Status: Bill 28 received Royal Assent Dec. 11, 2018
Ministry responsible: Justice and Solicitor General


Bill 28, the Family Statutes Amendment Act, 2018 has been passed to:

  • make it easier for unmarried partners to divide their property if they break up
  • make it clear that all parents can apply for child support for their adult children with disabilities — regardless of their marital status
  • repeal the Married Women's Act since newer legislation has been passed that better reflects the needs of women in today's society

Property division changes

The amendments to the Matrimonial Property Act extend its rules to include adult interdependent partners. This will make it easier for unmarried partners to divide their property if their relationship breaks down. The following changes will come into force on January 1, 2020:

  • rename the Matrimonial Property Act the Family Property Act
  • amend the act to 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
  • 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
    • agreements made during cohabitation would not apply after marriage unless that is the clear intention

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

“Adult interdependent partners” is defined in Alberta’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act as two people who live together in a relationship of interdependence:

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

A relationship of interdependence is when two 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

Child support changes

Alberta's Family Law Act governs child support for the children of unmarried parents and married parents in non-divorce situations. The federal Divorce Act governs child support for the children of married parents who are divorcing.

The amendments make it clear in Alberta's legislation that the same rules apply to all families when they make an application for child support for adult children who are 18 years old or older.

The new legislation has clarified the child support eligibility criteria in the Family Law Act by:

  • removing the age limit for adult child support
  • stating that adult children who are unable to withdraw from their parents' care due to illness, disability, being a full-time student or "other cause" are to be eligible for a child support application
  • aligning the Family Law Act with legislation in all other Canadian jurisdictions and the federal Divorce Act when it comes to adult child support

These changes make it clear in the legislation when an application for adult child support can be made. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will determine the amount of child support, if any, that should be awarded in a particular case.

Repealing the Married Women's Act

The Married Women’s Act came into force in 1922. While this legislation gave women more freedom to handle money, property and legal responsibilities without their husbands, it stopped short of recognizing that married women have their own legal personalities and capacities distinct from their husbands.

The Family Law Act now recognizes that married women have a legal personality that is independent from that of their spouse. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equality rights. The Married Women's Act is no longer needed and has been repealed.

Next steps

Now that Bill 28, the Family Statutes Amendment Act, 2018 has received royal assent:

  • changes to adult child support eligibility in the Family Law Act are in effect
  • property division rules for adult interdependent partners come into force January 1, 2020
  • the Married Women's Act has been repealed