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Splitting Up in a Common Law Relationship

Splitting Up in a Common Law Relationship

Splitting Up in a Common Law Relationship

There are many reasons a couple may choose to not get married. Financial matters, personal issues, long distance, and other factors may all contribute to that decision. Many couples today don’t feel marriage is necessary and would rather retain their independence.

In Alberta, common law relationships, also called adult interdependent relationships, are defined as couples who are unrelated and have been living together for at least three years, or less if they have children together.

Navigating the legal issues surrounding a divorce can be tricky enough, but matters are complicated when the couple splitting up isn’t married.

Are you in a common law relationship and wondering about your rights in the case of a split?

Below are some things to consider.

Property Rights

Couples in common law relationships don’t have the right to division of property as a married couple would. However, through unjust enrichment and joint family venture, a court can determine how much of the property you are entitled to based on a variety of factors beyond simply the monetary contributions you made to the relationship. So, if you were a stay-at-home parent or made less money than your partner, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing all of your property in the breakup of your common law relationship.

Spousal & Child Support

Couples in adult interdependent relationships can make claims for spousal support, and they hold the same rights as married couples for child support under the Family Law Act (as opposed to the Divorce Act used to protect married couples). A judge can order a paternity test for the man in a common law couple. Our lawyers at Verhaeghe Law Office are highly experienced in helping common law partners seek the support they need to maintain their quality of life post-splitting up.

Child Custody

If the common law couple has children, the mother is automatically considered the sole guardian of the child if the father doesn’t claim paternity or make intentions to take care of the child. However, through the Family Law Act, the father can make claims for custodial rights or parenting time. In this case, the matter would be settled in court to determine custody and visitation.

Wills & Inheritance

What happens if your partner passes away without a will? Do you have a right to their inheritance? It depends on if you have children with your partner or not. If you do, you are entitled to 100% of the estate. If you don’t, but your partner had children with someone else, you are entitled to 50% of the estate. However, if your partner did leave a will, you are entitled to whatever they left you.


The last thing you want to think about while in a relationship is the potential of splitting up. But taking a few precautions ahead of time can protect both parties in the case that something goes wrong. For example, you might consider creating a contract or cohabitation agreement that details division of property, alimony, or other factors for which you wouldn’t otherwise have legal protection. Both partners should make sure they have a legal will so they can ensure their estate will be divided according to their wishes.

Contact Verhaeghe Law Office for Your Common Law Relationship Needs

Our lawyers are highly experienced in the nuances of Alberta’s common law relationship and adult interdependent partnership laws. We will defend your rights and work towards your best interests in the case the relationship dissolves. Contact us today at (587) 410-2500 for questions or to schedule an appointment.

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