Common-law couples in Alberta will soon be treated in the same way as married couples after they separate. Revisions to the Matrimonial Property Act allowing them access to the same rights as divorcing couples will likely be passed by the Alberta Legislature.
Currently, property division rules for common-law couples are not the same as for married couples. Alberta does not have any law setting out rules for dividing property between common-law couples that separate. The proposed legislation would affect the one-in-ten Albertans - 300,000 people and growing - who live in common-law relationships.
Changes are being made to the Matrimonial Property Act under Bill 28
When passed, Bill 28 will:
- Rename the Matrimonial Property Act as the 'Family Property Act'
- Expand the law to include adult independent partners (AIPs)
In Alberta, adult independent partners are defined as two people who
- Live together for at least three years, or
- Live and have a child together if they have lived together for less than three years
Their relationship may be conjugal or platonic.
How The New Property Division Rules Will Work
The new property division rules generally divide property acquired during the relationship evenly between the two AIPs. Either partner can make a property division claim within two years of the relationship's break-up. However, AIPs are free to draft their own property division agreement if they wish.
New Child Support Claims For Dependent Adult Children
Bill 28 also changes the law regarding support for dependent adult children under parental care due to illness or disability. Current law limits common-law child support claims to adult children between 18 and 22 years of age, or to full-time students.
A judge held this Family Law Act provision violates the Charter of Rights. Bill 28 changes the Family Law Act to extend support claims to the dependent adult children of common-law parents, with no age limit.
The new rules, if passed into law, will take effect on January 1, 2020. The delay allows the government to publicize the changes to the law. If you would like to learn more about how these potential changes could affect you, consult an experienced family law lawyer.