The Difference in Rights Between Married and Unmarried Partners in Alberta
At one point, being married was important to a person's legal rights, particularly in a family law context. Over time, the law has changed to recognize that unmarried couples should have the same rights as married couples in similar situations.
In Alberta, particular legal rights are available to unmarried partners if the unmarried partners qualify as "Adult Interdependent Partners" pursuant to the Adult Interdependent Partners Act. Our Edmonton family lawyers can help you understand the difference in rights between married and unmarried partners in Alberta.
Who is an Adult Interdependent Partner?
There are two ways to enter into an Adult Interdependent Partnership with another person. The first is to sign an Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement that meets the requirements of the Act. Two people who are related by blood or adoption must have a valid agreement in order to be considered partners under the Act.
The second way is for two non-related individuals to either:
- - Live together in a relationship of interdependence for at least 3 years, or
- - Live together in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence and have a child together.
Is There Any Difference in Rights Between Married Partners and Adult Interdependent Partners?
For some time, the law has treated married partners and Adult Interdependent Partners the same with respect to many legal issues, including:
- - Child custody and parenting issues
- - Child support
- - Spousal support
- - The right to inherit property from a partner who dies without a will.
As of January 1, 2020, the Family Property Act was updated so that provisions dealing with the division of family property upon separation or divorce apply equally to Adult Interdependent Partners and married partners.
The Dower Act continues to apply only to married partners. The Dower Act provides protection for the married spouse of a sole homeowner, in their matrimonial home. The owner spouse cannot mortgage or transfer the home without their spouse's permission, and if the owner spouse dies, their spouse has the right to live in the home for the rest of their life, regardless of what provisions the owner spouse may have made for the home in their will.
Ending a Relationship
One of the main differences remaining between married partners and Adult Interdependent Partners is the way relationships can be ended. A marriage must be ended through divorce. While married partners can separate without ever getting a divorce, a court order granting a divorce is necessary if either partner wants to enter a new marriage or sign an Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement with someone else.
An Adult Interdependent Partnership can be ended by:
- - Written agreement
- - Living separate and apart for 1 year
- - Getting married (either to each other, or if one partner marries someone else)
- - Entering an Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement with someone else
- - Obtaining a declaration of irreconcilability from the Court.
What If You Do Not Qualify as an Adult Interdependent Partner?
If you have a child with a partner or live with a partner but do not meet the conditions of an Adult Interdependent Partner, you may still have legal rights depending on your specific situation. Our Edmonton Family Lawyer may be able to help determine your rights and ensure that you understand the difference in rights between married and unmarried partners in Albert.
Contact our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today For a Consultation
It can be challenging to navigate the laws affecting married and unmarried couples in Alberta, and each situation is unique. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how our Edmonton family lawyers may be able to help you, contact us today.
*Please note that this article does not offer legal advice, but a general overview on the topic of marriage law in Alberta. For legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.