Common Law Divorce In Alberta: What To Expect

Common Law Divorce In Alberta

In Alberta, we typically don’t use the word divorce in conjunction with a separating common law couple. A divorce is the court order that a married couple receives to legally dissolve their relationship. If you were never legally married, then you do not need to get divorced.

However, if you are in a common law relationship, or an adult interdependent partnership, and you wish to separate from your partner, then you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Our Edmonton area family and divorce lawyers can answer all your questions about what to expect from a “common law divorce” in Alberta.

What is an adult interdependent partnership?

In Alberta, the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act creates a relationship called the “adult interdependent partnership”, which replaces the common law marriage or common law relationship. An adult interdependent partnership does not have to have a conjugal, or sexual, element. It can take place between related individuals, such as siblings or a parent and adult child, or between friends.

An adult interdependent partnership is limited to two people and you cannot be in more than one at a time. You can enter into an adult interdependent partnership by:

  • written agreement (this is the only way for individuals related by blood or adoption to enter into an adult interdependent partnership)
  • live together in a “relationship of interdependence” for at least three years, or
  • live together in a relationship of interdependence of “some permanence” and have a child together (by birth or adoption).

Whether or not a relationship qualifies as a relationship of interdependence will depend on all the circumstances. A romantic or sexual relationship is not necessary, but it may be one factor that indicates a relationship of interdependence in some circumstances.

How to dissolve an adult interdependent partnership

Either partner can choose to end an adult interdependent partnership. If you have a written Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement, the agreement ends when the relationship ends.

An adult interdependent relationship can be dissolved by:

  • written agreement between the partners (this applies whether or not you entered into the partnership by written agreement)
  • living separate and apart from your partner for one year with the intention of ending the relationship
  • you get married (to each other or to another person)
  • you enter an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement with another person (note that this is only effective if you are not a party to an existing Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement), or
  • a court makes a declaration of irreconcilability.

Factors to consider during your common law divorce in Alberta

What to expect when you separate from your adult interdependent partner:

  • if you have children with your partner, you will need to decide issues relating to the guardianship and parenting of the children as well as child support
  • you or your partner may claim spousal support from the other, depending on the circumstances of your relationship and your separation
  • as of January 1, 2020, property division laws that apply to married couples apply to those in an adult interdependent partnership as well
  • it is a good idea to redo your will, enduring power of attorney and any personal directives as soon as possible after you separate.

While you do not need a divorce, there are still many legal issues to consider when separating from your common law partner. Our legal professionals are here to help address your concerns. Contact us today!

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