When married couples decide to end their partnership, they get a divorce. Specific legislation outlines the rights of each partner when dividing the different aspects of their shared lives.
For common-law couples, they may only agree to separate. In Alberta, common-law couples fall under the category of adult interdependent relationships. In order to protect your rights if you are separating from your partner, it’s important that you understand what protections you can apply in your situation.
Separation is not a legal designation, but an agreement between two people on how to divide shared assets. The difference is that, with divorce laws, the property or asset one person may have brought into the relationship (ex. the home the couple lives in) may be considered property of both parties. There are no clear laws that designate what may be considered shared property for non-married couples.
For the most part, divorce heavily revolves around spousal support and division of property. If there are children involved in the separation, regular child support and child custody legislation will apply whether or not you are married.
For married couples, spousal support is not automatic – eligibility needs to be proven. s even harder for common-law couples, as there is no clear legislation governing the criteria for spousal support in common-law situations. You may need to prove that one party will be at an unfair disadvantage as he or she was heavily dependent on his or her spouse for income.
It’s the same for property. Pensions, RRSPs, debts, etc. all have specific legislation under divorce and marriage laws. For common-law couples, again, there are no clear directives, meaning each situation is handled case-by-case.
If you are in a common-law relationship and need more information on your rights regarding ending your relationship, it’s best advised to contact a family lawyer. Once you know what protections are available, you can decide what you want to fight for, and what you are willing to negotiate on to reach a reasonable settlement.