Common-law relationships, or adult interdependent partnerships (AIPs), as they are known in Alberta, are similar to a legal marriage, but with some key differences. Specifically, the rights to support and property for AIPs diverge significantly from the rights granted to married couples. Further, the law in respect of property rights for AIPs is set to transition on January 1, 2020, granting AIPs the same rights as married couples, bringing a need for those in common-law relationships to plan for and understand the changes to their rights and obligations regarding their and their partner’s property. Whether you are looking to enter into a carefully thought-out domestic agreement in an existing relationship or seeking honest and thoughtful legal guidance through a separation, a skilled and experienced family lawyer can help.
Mincher Koeman’s family lawyers have extensive experience drafting prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements that enable individuals to set their own terms in the event of a future split, rather than leaving these important decisions up to statutory law. Further, we will provide knowledgeable guidance through the process of ending a relationship with respect to issues such as child or spousal support and the division of property or a business.
In Alberta, the legal term for a common-law relationship is an adult interdependent partnership and as of 2003, these relationships have been governed by the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. It is important to note that while most aspects of an AIP are governed by provincial law, federal legislation still imposes rules in some contexts, such as income tax reporting. The rules regarding the formation of a common-law relationship vs. an AIP differ as well. The federal government can deem a couple to be living as common-law for immigration sponsorship and tax purposes after having resided together for only 12 months. However, such a finding of the federal government is not relevant to provincially governed matters in Alberta, such as the division of property or awards of partner support. To establish an AIP in Alberta, one of three criteria must be met:
A relationship of interdependence is defined under the legislation as one in which two people share in each other’s lives, are emotionally committed to one another, and function as an economic and domestic unit. Note that these relationships do not need to be romantic or sexual in nature. Two platonic friends can legally enter into an AIP if they satisfy the criteria outlined above.
Like a legal marriage, the participants must meet certain legal qualifications in order to legally participate. For example, the legislation prohibits the following people from entering into a valid AIP:
Most issues, such as spousal and child support, are handled similarly with respect to AIPs and legal marriage. A key difference between a marriage and an AIP concerns the division of property. Upon a breakdown of an AIP, each person generally leaves the relationship with what they came in with, and shared property will need to be divided up or sold, with the parties splitting the proceeds. Unlike a marriage, there is currently no concept of a matrimonial home in an AIP or a presumption of sharing of property. For an individual to assert a claim over property owned by their ex-common-law partner, that individual must claim that their ex-partner has been unjustly enriched by virtue of the relationship such that it would only be fair and equitable to share some of the property held in the ex-partner’s name. This has historically been a complex matter and the courts have been inconsistent over time in how they determine when and how much property should be shared. However, there are legislative changes coming into effect in January of 2020 which will significantly address these issues and grant property rights to partners in an AIP equivalent to those currently granted to married couples.
Presently, matrimonial property division is governed by the Matrimonial Property Act. As of January 2020, this Act will be renamed the Family Property Act, allowing for the inclusion of non-married partners in a relationship of interdependence. All parties will be subject to the same rights and benefits that married couples currently have, including the rights attached to the matrimonial home, which will be referred to as the family home going forward.
Mincher Koeman has extensive experience in assisting clients with the drafting and review of Adult Interdependent Partnership agreements, as well as providing first-rate legal representation when a relationship of this nature comes to an end. Whether you are embarking on a new partnership with another person or ending one, we will ensure that your rights and your interests remain protected throughout. Please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our family lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contacting us online.
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