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How Does Common Law Separation Work in Alberta?

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Divorces are relatively easily understood based on specific Albertan laws that address issues. Regarding how the courts should handle child custody, parenting, support, and marital property division are thoroughly laid out.

However, separation during a common-law relationship has not been laid out so clearly. Along with this simple confusion, there isn’t as precise a determination as what constitutes a common-law relationship.

How Do You Determine If You Qualify For a Common Law Separation?

The first question a person should ask themselves before determining if they qualify for a common-law separation is: “Am I in a Common-Law relationship?” Common-Law partners are not married through legal definition but are acknowledged by Alberta’s family law system.

However, in the family court system, these are referred to as “adult interdependent relationships.” Common-law, as a phrase, is no longer used in the court system, though it is still a common shortening you may hear a lawyer utter.

To determine whether a couple is engaged in an adult interdependent relationship, rather than just a couple living together, a court must consider the following factors:

  • Has the couple lived in a relationship of interdependence for at least three years?
  • Have the couple entered into an adult interdependent relationship agreement legally?

If both questions are yes, the couple is likely in an adult interdependent relationship. In this case, they may qualify for a “Common Law Separation.”

How Are Properties and Assets Divided in Common Law?

Property is generally kept or built separately in the case of a common-law relationship. As such, the separation of property is determined by the original owner. However, if assets are purchased after living together, they fall under the division of assets just as with a marriage/divorce.

During the division of assets and debts, each partner is required to “take one’s own things” upon the termination of the relationship. There is no automatic entitlement to spousal support in Canada, though there are certain situations in which a court may find it appropriate to order it. Just as with a divorce, the couple shall divide their assets equally amongst each other: 50/50.

How Do You Set Out the Separation Agreement?

Entering into a separation agreement remains crucial to common-law partners, or those in adult interdependent relationships, and has for nearly a century. Non-married people have been fighting discrimination in the court of law for that time in Canada. Filing for official documentation legitimizes the legality that a relationship existed first and further solidifies adult, unmarried, and interdependent relationships as legal entities.

After a separation agreement is filed, the unmarried couple can maintain a neutral ground while addressing their concerns and without having to divide property and fall for support issues personally. If children are involved, legal and financial obligation awareness is critical for the parents partaking in the adult interdependent relationship.

If you want to see if you qualify for a separation agreement in your common-law relationship, call Getz Collins and Associates for consultation on your upcoming steps. Just call 403-934-2500 to schedule an appointment.

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