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New law to govern division of property of common law couples

Couples who have been living together without getting formally married have some considerations when they decide to separate. When it comes to the division of property, Alberta common law couples -- those who have been living together for three or more years or less than that if they have a child together -- will soon be  governed by laws under the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act (AIRA). The law comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The AIRA addresses what it means to be in a domestic partnership and considers the factors to determine those relationships. For instance, the AIRA looks at things like how exclusive the relationship is, how living arrangements and household activities are handled, how the individuals present themselves to others, how they look after each other's well-being. It also looks at how a couple shares finances and how they care for their children if they have them. 

The AIRA could also include those who are in a committed, nonromantic relationship. It can also speak to two family members who have an interdependent living arrangement between them. As of Jan. 1, 2020, the AIRA will apply to all adult interdependent relationships and to married couples including anytime they lived together before becoming married. It will also allow common law or interdependent partners to claim property within two years from the date of separation. Any existing property division agreements that were legally binding prior to Jan. 1, 2020, will still be enforceable.

Changes to family laws in Alberta -- including those affecting the division of property -- can be confusing. A family law lawyer may be able to explain these new laws to clients who are affected by them. Understanding new rules may make it easier to make difficult decisions.

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