What Are The Differences Between Common Law And Marriage In Alberta?

What you should know about changes to the Divorce Act
The laws relating to families and relationships can vary from province to province, leading to confusion regarding the rights of common law couples and how they differ from those of married couples.

If you have questions about what are the differences between common law and marriage in Alberta, our family law lawyers can help.

What Is An Adult Interdependent Partnership And How Do You Enter One?

In Alberta, the various laws relating to relationships use the term “Adult Interdependent Partnership” rather than “common law relationship.” There are various ways to enter into an Adult Interdependent Partnership with another person.

Two adults can enter into a written Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement. If the adults are related by blood, this is the only method that they can use to enter such a relationship.

Otherwise, two adults become Adult Interdependent Partners when they have:

  • lived together continuously for at least three years in a relationship of interdependence, or
  • lived together in a relationship of some permanence and have a child together.

In the absence of a written agreement, the Adult Interdependent Partners may not be aware that they are in such a relationship. It happens automatically.

How Are Common Law Relationships And Marriage Treated In Alberta?

In Alberta, married spouses and common law spouses are treated the same under many laws including those relating to:

  • child support and spousal support (including the ability to apply to the court for support from the estate of a deceased spouse)
  • child custody and parenting schedules
  • the treatment of the family home
  • the division of property after a separation
  • the division of property when one spouse dies without a will
  • the benefits available to the spouse of a severely handicapped person under the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program
  • the ability to insure the life of a spouse and to receive certain insurance benefits
  • the right to receive benefits if a spouse dies in a workplace accident or is the victim of crime.

How is property divided for common law spouses after a separation?

In most provinces, property division after separation is one area where common law spouses and married spouses are treated differently. However, since January 1, 2020, changes to the law in Alberta ensure that individuals in an Adult Interdependent Partnership benefit from the same protection as married spouses when it comes to dividing assets after the breakdown of a relationship.

How Are Common Law Spouses And Married Spouses Treated Differently?

So what are the differences between common law and marriage in Alberta? After separation, married spouses must apply for a divorce in order to be eligible to marry again. In contrast, a common law relationship is dissolved automatically.

Alberta’s Dower Act applies only to married spouses. This law ensures that where one married spouse owns the matrimonial home, they cannot mortgage or sell the home without the agreement of the non-owning spouse.

Contact Our Edmonton Divorce Lawyers For Legal Help Today

Our team of Edmonton family and divorce lawyers is available to answer any questions you have about marriage, Adult Interdependent Partnerships and your rights in relation to either. Contact us today for immediate legal assistance.

*Disclaimer: Please note this content is intended to act as an overview on a legal topic and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an Edmonton divorce lawyer for more specific legal advice as it pertains to your unique circumstances.

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