Common Law Relationships

“In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for couples to live together without being legally married. Couples who live together in a marriagelike relationship without being legally married are often said to be living in a common-law relationship …”

Although the term “common law” is still widely used, under Alberta law, there is no longer the use of the term “common law”.  Instead, Alberta uses the term “Adult Interdependent Partners” or AIP which, although it may seem similar to “common law” relationships, is different..

In Alberta, a couple is considered an AIP relationship when one of the following exist: 

  • the two individuals have lived together in a relationship of Interdependence for three (3) or more years;
    the two individuals have lived together in a relationship of Interdependence with some degree of permanence (and less than three years), and has a child together;
  • the two individuals have entered into an adult interdependent partnership agreement.

A “relationship of interdependence” is when 2 people are not married to one another but still:

  • share one another’s lives
  • are emotionally committed to one another, and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit

In Alberta, the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act sets out factors to consider when determining whether 2 people function as an economic and domestic unit, including: 

  • the exclusivity of the relationship
  • how they behave when it comes to household activities and living arrangements
  • how they hold themselves out to others
  • the contributions they make to each other or their mutual well-being
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence between them
  • the care and support of children
  • the ownership and use of property

You cannot enter into an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement if:

  • you have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement with someone else;
  • you are legally married;
  • you are a minor (unless you are at least 16 years old, your guardians give written consent to the agreement, and you are not related to your partner by blood or adoption);
  • you are forced to sign the agreement under fraud or duress (being forced or pressured into the agreement);
  • you do not have the capacity to understand what you are agreeing to; or
  • you and your partner are not living together when you sign the Agreement and do not intend to live together.

On January 1, 2020 the Matrimonial Property Act changed to the Family Property Act. The Family Property Act now:

  • applies to both adult interdependent partners as well as married spouses;
  • allow adult interdependent partners to draft their own property division agreement, rather than following all the rules in the legislation;
  • specifies that property division rules will apply to property acquired after beginning a relationship of interdependence; this applies to adult interdependent partners and married couples who lived together prior to marrying each other;
  • gives each adult interdependent partner 3 years from the date that their adult interdependent relationship ended to make a claim for property division; and
  • clarifies that partners can enter into a cohabitation (living together before marriage) agreement dealing with property ownership and division) and may enter into a separate pre-nuptial agreement at the time of marriage.

In Alberta, when you are cohabiting and your relationship ends, you may have certain legal rights and responsibilities.  It is important that you understand whether you are simply a roommate or whether your situation has evolved into an adult interdependent partner relationship. At Young Family Law, we help Albertans navigate relationship breakdowns and ending an adult interdependent partner relationship.