The Expert Truth About Living Common Law in Alberta [2019]

common law couple standing in street in alberta

As one of Edmonton’s trusted, top family law firms, one of the most common questions we get in the field of family law is this:

What is considered “common law” in Alberta?

The fact of the matter is that couples engaged in a “common law” relationship don’t have the same legal rights or obligations as a married couple, and this is where the situation can get sticky.

The rights and obligations of unmarried couples are determined based on what might be fair in the particular circumstances of their relationship, which is problematic because it makes it difficult for couples to negotiate at the end of a relationship without a clear set of expectations about what might happen if they go to court.

So where do you draw the line?

Let’s dive in…

What does it mean to live ‘Common Law’ in Alberta?

While many still refer to an unwed couple that is living together as “common law,” the term is no longer used in Alberta’s law system.

As of 2003, the Adult Interdependent Partner Act now refers to the pair as Adult Interdependent Partners, or AIP.

When it comes to those under 18, a minor may enter into an AIP so long as that individual is at least 16 years old, and the minor’s guardians have given their written consent to the partnership.

A person cannot have, at any one time, more than one Adult Interdependent Partner.

January 2020 will see a change to the Matrimonial Property Act, which will be renamed as the Family Property Act, and apply to both adult interdependent relationships and married spouses.

When Are You Considered Common Law in Alberta?

In Alberta, a couple is considered “common law” or is seen as an Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP), when one of these circumstances are true:

  • the two individuals have lived together for three (3) or more years
  • the two individuals have lived together with some degree of permanence, and has a child together
  • the two individuals have entered into an Adult Interdependent Partnership

In contrast, to enter into a marriage, a couple need only apply for and obtain a marriage license and then go through a legal ceremony.

“Common Law” vs. Marriage

What’s the difference between living “common law” and marriage?

Let’s take a quick look at some key differentiating factors between a common law relationship and legal marriage.

“Common Law”

Marriage

Age

Must be 16 years or older

Must be 18 years or older (persons between the ages of 16-18 must have consent from a legal guardian.)
Marital Status Cannot be currently married or in another AIR relationship. Cannot be currently married to another person.
Personal People may not enter this relationship under duress. The marriage must be voluntary.
Property Upon separation, property is divided between the parties as may be fair in all the circumstances. Basically everything obtained during the marriage is divided equally.
Support Each partner may have an obligation to support the other financially, and definitely has an obligation to support any children resulting from the union. Each partner may have an obligation to support the other financially, and definitely has an obligation to support any children resulting from the union.
Relation Partners can be related to one another. Partners cannot be closely related to one another.

Common Law Separation in Alberta

McGlashan & Mackinnon is a full-service law firm serving Edmonton, Alberta and surrounding areas, specializing in Family Law.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel for common law separation in Alberta, get in touch with one of our common law separation lawyers to discuss your situation in confidentiality today.

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Resources

Adult Interdependent Relationship Act