What is an Adult Interdependent Partner

Adult Interdependent Partner blog post

September 15th, 2021

Most individuals have heard the term “common-law partner” used to describe an unmarried couple who have lived together for the required period of time.  To many, the term adult interdependent partner is a new term that they have never heard of before.  Although there are some similarities between a common-law partner and an adult interdependent partner, there are some important differences.

Adult Interdependent Relations Act

In June 2003, the Alberta government introduced the Adult Interdependent Relations Act, S.A. 2002, c A-4.5.  With the introduction of the Adult Interdependent Relations Act, the term “common-law partner” ceased to be used in Alberta and the new term “adult interdependent partner” or AIP, was formed.  Section 3(1) of the Adult Interdependent Relations Act defines AIPs as:

“3(1) Subject to subsection (2), a person is the adult interdependent partner of another person if

    • The person has lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence
        1. For a continuous period of not less than 3 years, or
        2. Of some permanence, if there is a child of the relationship by birth or adoption.


      1. The person has entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with the other person under section 7. 

According to Section 1(1)(f), a “relationship of interdependence means a relationship outside marriage in which any 2 persons:

  1. Share one another’s lives,
  2. Are emotionally committed to one another, and
  3. Function as an economic and domestic unit.”

There is no rule or definition which determines if two people “function as an economic and domestic unit”.  Instead, the Act sets out factors in Section 1(2) which must be considered, including:

  1. Whether or not the persons have a conjugal relationship;
  2. The degree of exclusivity of the relationship;
  3. The conduct and habits of the persons in respect of household activities and living arrangements;
  4. The degree to which the persons hold themselves out to other as an economic and domestic unit;
  5. The degree to which the persons formalize their legal obligations, intentions and responsibilities towards one another;
  6. The extent to which direct and indirect contributions have been made by either person to the other or to their mutual well-being;
  7. The degree of financial dependence or interdependence and any arrangements for financial support between the persons;
  8. The care and support of children; and
  9. The ownership, use and acquisition of property.

The list of factors to be reviewed when deciding if two persons function as an economic and domestic unit would suggest that the partners would have to be engaged in some form of romantic relationship.  What is particularly interesting about AIPs is that the two partners can be related to each other by blood or by adoption. The term is not exclusive to those engaged in a romantic relationship, which contrasts with how most people think of common-law partners.

How Are AIPs different from Married Spouses?

Many individuals know that, when a married couple separates, each spouse is generally entitled to half of the family property, such as any property or RRSPs.  The ability for individuals to receive spousal support or child support when a marriage ends is also well understood.  What many individuals are not aware of is that, with the introduction of the new Family Property Act on January 1, 2020, along with Alberta’s Family Law Act, AIPs have many of the same entitlements as married couples.

There are still differences in how the law treats married couples and AIPs, both during the relationship and upon separation.  For example, The Dower Act and the benefits as well as the protections that flow from the Dower Act only applies to married couples.    

Agreements for AIPs? Are They Right for You?

If you want to enter an adult interdependent partnership, you may want to consider whether you should enter into an adult interdependent partner agreement.  Entering a properly executed adult interdependent partner agreement will make you an adult interdependent partner with the other party to the agreement without needing to live in a relationship of interdependence for three years.  

An adult interdependent partner agreement though, should not be confused with a cohabitation agreement.  Cohabitation agreements may be used by two people who are living together but are not necessarily AIPs.  Even though parties to a cohabitation agreement do not necessarily need to be AIPs, they should consider entering into a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements, similar to pre-matrimonial agreements, may decide issues between the AIPs upon separation such as how property will be divided and if financial support will be provided.  Cohabitation agreements may also set out the obligations of AIPs during the relationship.  Cohabitation agreements can be useful tools for AIPs that provide certainty to each partner in the relationship. 

The best practice is to consult with a lawyer if you are considering whether you should sign an adult interdependent partner agreement or cohabitation agreement.  There are important laws affecting your finances and property if you become an AIP with another person.  A lawyer will be able to help you navigate the laws and benefits surrounding being an AIP. 

In Calgary, contact Anthony Young QC with Young Family Law to discuss whether an adult interdependent partnership agreement or cohabitation agreement is right for you.  Ensure your property is divided according to your wishes – and not left to Alberta provincial legislation and the Alberta courts.  Call Anthony at 403-219-4216.

Anthony Young QC is a Calgary lawyer with extensive experience in interdependent partner and cohabitation agreements. www.youngfamilylaw.ca

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