smiling couple in adult interdependent relationship

How Does the Family Property Act Apply to Adult Interdependent Relationships in Alberta?

The legality of the Family Property Act can be difficult to understand. Dukeshire Law Office is here to help you understand how the Family Property Act, established in 2020, could apply to you if you were in a common law relationship in Alberta.

If you are separated from your partner, you could be entitled to property ownership. Keep reading to see what the Family Property Act means for you!


Common-Law Relationship Definition

An adult interdependent relationship was previously known as a common-law relationship. This refers to two people who chose to live together without getting married. This also applies to same-sex couples. The Adult Interdependent Relationship Act was established in 2002 and updated in 2019.

The act defines an interdependent relationship as a relationship between two unmarried people who:

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

A person must have lived with their partner for a consecutive three years or of some permanence—if there is a child involved.

Although the term Adult Interdependent Relationship is more commonly used now, the term Common Law is still used in Canadian laws. For example, for tax purposes, a couple only needs to live together for one year to qualify as "common law."

A person cannot enter into an Adult Interdependent Relationship if they are:

  • already in an existing interdependent relationship
  • married
  • or a minor

A minor is defined in Alberta as someone under the age of 18.

Family Property Act

The Family Property Act, issued in 2020, replaces the Matrimonial Property Act. Unlike the Matrimonial Property Act, the Family Property Act applies to both married and unmarried couples.

This act governs the division of property if there is a breakdown between a married couple or an interdependent partnership. This includes separation or divorce.

Previously there was no clear legislation to guide the division of property when two persons in an interdependent relationship separated. The Family Property Act remedies that.

The act defines a "family home" as property that is owned or leased by one or both spouses or partners, has been occupied by the spouses or partners as their family's home, and includes a house or a part of the house used as a self-contained dwelling unit.

This act determines what property can be distributed by the court in the occurrence of separation.

How the Act Applies to Interdependent Partners

Before the Family Property Act, interdependent partners did not have clear legislation that would designate the division of their shared property when they separated. Now, unmarried couples have access to the same legal privileges as married couples do when they separate.

Unmarried couples qualify as interdependent partners if they meet the criteria defined in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.

The act states that if you and your interdependent partner separate on or after January 1, 2020, and become former interdependent partners, then the Family Property Act applies to you. Former interdependent partners will need to make a claim for property division within two years of their known separation.

You can opt out if you wish to make your own separation agreement. To opt out of property division rules, you will need the assistance of a family lawyer.

Utilizing the Family Property Act

If you were in a common-law relationship but have now separated, Dukeshire Law Office can provide you with assistance in managing your property division.

Dukeshire Law Office offers family law services in Calgary and is here to help make your legal separation a less stressful process. Book a consultation with Dukeshire Law Office today!