Common Law Alberta
As in all other provinces, couples living common law in Alberta have similar, but not the same, rights as married couples.
Adult Interdependent Relationship
In Alberta, common law couples are legally known as adult interdependent partners and are in an adult interdependent relationship. Whew, what a mouthful! There are basically three ways you can become adult interdependent partners:
1. cohabit for three year;
2. cohabit and have a child together; or
3. enter into an adult interdependent relationship.
An adult interdependent relationship ends when there is a separation of one year, or one of the parties marries or enters into a new adult interdependent relationship.
When a marriage ends, property division in Alberta is governed by the Matrimonial Property Act. This act only applies to married couples, not common law couples. So, there is no automatic right to property division when a common law relationship ends. Each party keeps what they own, and joint property is shared equally. If one partner is not satisfied with that result, they can apply to the court on the grounds of unjust enrichment, which is a lengthy and complex legal process.
An adult interdependent partner in Alberta can bring a claim for spousal support under the Family Law Act. A married spouse brings a claim for spousal support under the Divorce Act, but for all practical purposes, spousal support under both pieces of legislation is the same.
Child Support & Child Custody
As in all provinces and territories, the laws relating to child support and child custody are exactly the same for married couples and common law couples in Alberta. Married couples are covered by the Divorce Act and unmarried couples are covered by the Family Law Act.
Under the Alberta Wills and Succession Act, a common law partner obtains the same inheritance as a married partner when someone dies without a will. Similarly this Act gives a common law partner the same right to dependents relief (basically child or spousal support from an estate) as a married partner.
When a married person dies in Alberta, the Dower Act gives that person’s spouse a dower interest in the home they live in (homestead). A dower interest means that the surviving spouse can live there for the rest of their lives. However, common law partners have no dower rights.
If you don’t like how the law treats common law partners in Alberta, you and your partner can enter into a cohabitation agreement that sets out your rights and obligations towards each other.
By now, living common law in Alberta gives a person the same rights as a married person with the exception of property division upon separation and dower interests upon death.