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What is Common Law in Alberta

What is Common Law in Alberta?

The common law in Alberta is popular among the new generations. The province recognizes Adult Interdependent Relationships (AIPs) through common law.  But living with your partner doesn’t automatically grant AIP status. 

Today, we will untangle the legal knots and understand the common law, what rights it provides, how it differs from marriage, and how to prove it.

What Does Common Law Mean in Alberta?

Alberta uses the term “Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP)” instead of “common-law partner.” An AIP relationship exists when two 18+ individuals independently live together for at least three years and agree formally. There are two criteria for AIP or common law in Alberta. Those are—

  • Cohabitation with Permanence: Living together with a child in common signifies permanence, regardless of the cohabitation duration.
  • Formal Agreement: Signing an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement legally establishes an AIP relationship.

When are You Considering Common Law in Alberta?

Living together doesn’t automatically grant AIP or common-law status. Shared finances, joint decision-making, and emotional dependence contribute to establishing interdependence. Here, the three-year cohabitation rule serves as a clear benchmark for common law in Alberta.

What Rights Do You Have in Common Law Relationship in Alberta?

Alberta’s AIP legislation grants spousal support, property division, inheritance rights, and coverage rights to recognized partners.

  • Spousal Support: Similar to divorce proceedings, a court may order financial support for one partner upon separation.
  • Property Division: Assets acquired during the relationship may be divided equitably upon separation, considering each partner’s contributions.
  • Inheritance Rights: AIP partners may inherit intestate (without a will) from their deceased partner under specific circumstances.
  • Benefits and Coverage: Certain government benefits and insurance plans may recognize AIP partners as dependants.

Difference between Common Law vs Marriage in Alberta

Here is a comparison chart between AIP/common Law and Marriage in Alberta, Canada:

FeatureCommon Law (Adult Interdependent Partners)Marriage
Formation
  • Cohabitation for 3+ years or shared child/formal agreement.
  • No legal ceremony or registration is required.
  • Legal ceremony and marriage license required.
Dissolution
  • No formal process is required.
  • Separation automatically dissolves the relationship.
  • Legal proceedings are necessary for property division, spousal support, and child custody.
  • Divorce proceedings are required, including court filing and waiting periods.
Spousal Support
  • Available under specific circumstances, determined by the court based on factors like income, needs, and contributions during the relationship.
  • Generally awarded based on need, but less flexible than Common Law.
Property Division
  • It is not automatic and requires legal proceedings.
  • Determined based on contributions and unjust enrichment during the relationship.
  • Presumption of equal division of property acquired during marriage, with exceptions.
Inheritance
  • Intestate inheritance rights only under specific conditions (e.g., cohabiting with a child). 
  • May require proof of relationship.
  • Automatic intestate inheritance rights, unless superseded by a will.
Tax Implications
  • No joint tax filing is available.
  • Joint tax filing is available, potentially offering benefits.
Immigration Sponsorship
  • Sponsoring an AIP partner is more complex than sponsoring a spouse.
  • Sponsoring a spouse simplifies the immigration process.
Benefits and Coverage
  • May be recognized as dependants for certain government benefits and insurance plans.
  • Automatic recognition as dependents for most benefits and insurance plans.
Public Perception
  • Less formal recognition than marriage.
  • Traditionally considered the more formal and recognized relationship type.

How to Prove the Common Law Relationship?

You may need some documentation to solidify your AIP or common-law status. These are the proof you might need:

  • Combined lease agreements, utility bills, or bank statements
  • Shared ownership of assets like property or vehicles
  • Medical or insurance records listing each other as beneficiaries
  • Witness testimonies from friends or family confirming the relationship

What is the Process of Common Law Divorce in Alberta?

Separation under an AIP doesn’t require official divorce proceedings. If property division, spousal support, or child custody issues arise, you may need to navigate legal channels similar to a divorce. Consulting a lawyer is crucial to understanding your rights and navigating the separation process smoothly.

How to Protect own Assets during a Common Law Relationship in Alberta?

Protecting your assets in a common-law relationship in Alberta is about proactive planning and clear communication with your partner. We have listed some strategies you can consider:

Before Moving in Together

  • Maintain separate bank accounts, financial records, and ownership titles for assets you bring into the relationship. 
  • Create a cohabitation agreement outlining how you will handle property division, finances, and potential separation in the future.
  • Openly discuss financial goals, budgeting, and how you’ll share expenses. Transparency and alignment can mitigate future conflicts.

While Living Together

  • While keeping some joint accounts for shared expenses is practical, maintain separate accounts for personal savings, inheritances, or gifts from individual families.
  • If acquiring joint assets like property or vehicles, track financial contributions made by each partner to ensure fair division if needed.
  • Periodically review your cohabitation agreement to ensure it reflects any changes in your circumstances or legal requirements.

Conclusion

The common law is Alberta wants to provide dignity in the relationship. Living in an AIP in Alberta signifies a committed relationship with legal implications. Clear communication and, potentially, a written agreement can further safeguard your partnership and prevent future complexities.

FAQs

What is a cohabitation agreement in Alberta?

In Alberta, a cohabitation agreement is also known as an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIP). It is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of two individuals in a common-law relationship, like a pre-nuptial agreement for married couples.

Who is entitled to spousal support in Alberta?

Spousal support in Alberta is available to partners in “Adult Interdependent Relationships” (like common law), even without children. But, having a child together isn’t enough to guarantee support – courts consider both partners’ financial needs and contributions.

How do I sign common law in Alberta?

There’s no formal signing of common law in Alberta. Alberta doesn’t have to sign common law. You become an Adult Interdependent Partner (common-law equivalent) through cohabiting for 3+ years, having a child together, or signing an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement. No official ceremony is required.

What happens when a common law relationship ends in Alberta?

Common-law couples in Alberta handle separation like spouses. Property, support, and child custody may be divided, but no official divorce process. Legal proceedings are possible for complex issues like property and child custody. Applicant must seek legal guidance for navigating their rights and responsibilities.

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