Alberta family law: Myths about common law relationships

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.

Many couples today feel that they don’t need a piece of paper between them to prove they are a couple. But there are many myths tied to common law relationships, including those in Alberta. These couplings, legalities that are under the family law umbrella, can be more complex legally than most people might realize. 

One of the things most common law couples don’t realize is that not all laws are the same in Canada concerning common law spouses. Those in common law partnerships in Alberta are called adult interdependent partners. That moniker refers to an unmarried couple who has lived together for three or more years or a couple that shares a child together and lives together.

Unless a cohabitation agreement or some other legal agreement exists between common law partners, if a split should occur, there is nothing in place to address the division of assets. There is no such thing as matrimonial property. British Columbia is an exception. B.C. recently granted common law spouses the same fundamental rights as legally married spouses, after two years of living together. 

As for spousal support in the event of the breakup of a common law relationship, a partner in Alberta can launch a claim for spousal support. The same is true in Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Because of B.C.’s recent ruling, the same is true there.

There are complexities surrounding common law relationships. An Alberta lawyer with experience in family law would be able to answer any questions regarding the legal ramifications of these relationships. A lawyer would be able to draw up any pertinent documents, including a cohabitation agreement. Cohabiting couples may want to seek out the advice of such a lawyer if they have any uncertainties about the legalities of their relationships.

Source:, “Common-law couples can be ‘woefully ignorant of their rights’: lawyer“, Melanie Patten, Accessed on Sept. 25, 2017

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