Alberta has long been one of the few Canadian provinces which treat unmarried couples differently than married couples when it comes to the division of property upon the end of the relationship. As of January 1, 2020, that is no longer the case.

On January 1, 2020, Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act (“MPA”), which applied only to married couples, was renamed the Family Property Act (“FPA”) and, along with that name change came the inclusion within the FPA of “adult interdependent partners”, as well as significant modifications to the law that previously applied to married couples.

Unmarried Couples

For people who have chosen not to be married in order to avoid some of the legal issues and responsibilities surrounding marriage, the FPA has greatly reduced the differences between those choices, unless they take very specific steps to opt out of the legislation. If they do not opt out, they will, if they meet the definition below, be considered adult interdependent partners, and will be subject to the FPA.

An Adult Interdependent Partner (“AIP”), as defined in Alberta’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, is someone who:

  1. Lived with someone, in a “relationship of interdependence” for a period of at least 3 years; or
  2. Lived with someone in a “relationship of interdependence” for any time period and there is a child of the relationship; or
  3. Entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with another person.

Simply, those we call “common-law couples” would almost always now be considered AIPs, and the new legislation will apply to them. In the past, common-law couples, or AIPs, had to rely on decisions previously made by judges, or the common law, in order to determine their interest in the property of their former partner. That process is complicated, extremely difficult to predict, and almost invariably requires hiring a lawyer and going to court. Inclusion within the FPA will give people more certainty on their rights and responsibilities, and may help former AIPs to resolve their property issues without expensive court applications.

Married and Unmarried Couples

An important adjustment which affects all couples within the FPA is the valuation date of property. While the previous act states that, for anyone who is claiming an exemption due to having brought property into the relationship, that property should be valued at the date of the marriage.

The FPA now states that, in order to determine what property belongs to the relationship, all property will be valued from the date that the parties began their relationship of interdependence. Therefore, for both married and unmarried couples, it is likely that property will be valued from the date that they began to live together and, in some instances, perhaps even before they lived together.

In a nutshell, the Family Property Act has brought many important changes to family law and separation in Alberta. Whether you are married or not, it is vital that you understand your rights and what to expect in the event of a breakdown of your relationship.

The lawyers at Gunn Law Group can help you with any questions you may have regarding these matters – call (780) 488-4460 today to book a consultation.

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