Alberta bill tackles property rights issues of common law couples

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

A part of Alberta legislation that speaks to common law couples who have split is getting an overhaul. The new bill has the stamp of approval of Alberta’s lawyers who say the law regarding property division and property rights among common law couples who separate, as it currently stands, isn’t comprehensive enough.  Bill 28, which will be renamed the Family Property Act from the Matrimonial Property Act, will also include adult interdependent partners (aka common law partners).

The bill, which passed third reading in the Alberta legislature recently, will become law on Jan. 1, 2020. The Alberta Law Reform Institute (ALRI) had been lobbying the government for quite some time to secure this change since common law couples had very little to guide them. This law will bring a cohesiveness to how property is divided when common law partners break up.

There are about 300,000 Albertans in common law unions. They will now have some idea as to what would happen to their property should they ever separate. They can continue in their relationships and allow the law to step in should they separate or they can write their own cohabitation agreements, spelling out what should happen if they separate.

An Alberta lawyer will now be able to provide his or her clients with clarity regarding property rights of common law couples. He or she can also help a client to draft a cohabitation agreement outlining the particulars of who should get what in a break up situation. In any case, a lawyer can shed light on how the law looks at those who are living together in a domestic partnership.

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