Common Law

Common law and cohabiting spouses are governed by legal principles distinct from those that apply to married couples, particularly with respect to property and support. No matter the length of the unmarried relationship, there is no presumption of equal sharing of property, and there is no comprehensive legislation in Alberta that governs the property rights of common law couples.

Under Alberta law, adult interdependent partner support may be ordered for adults who have lived together in a relationship of interdependence. Both parties in a common law relationship retain responsibility for the support of their children.

•You may acquire an interest in your partner’s specific assets if you can successfully prove “unjust enrichment” with respect to those assets.

•If you can show that you and your partner were engaged in a joint family venture, you can then make a claim against all assets owned by your partner.

•You can claim support as an adult interdependent partner if you have lived with someone in a relationship of interdependence (a question of fact) for a continuous period of not less than three years, or if you have a child by birth or adoption with that partner.

The law around common law relationships is very complex and subject to strict time limitations. It is important that you obtain legal advice to assist in the assessment of your claim for property and support and ensure that it is filed in a timely manner.

We at Daunais McKay & Harms have extensive experience in assessing and advising on common law relationships and providing advice and guidance with respect to your rights and obligations toward your common law partner and to any children.

Common Law FAQ

Under what circumstances will I be entitled to half of my common law partner's assets?

There is no automatic entitlement to any share of your partner’s assets unless you can show unjust enrichment or an agreement to share those assets. Even if you can show unjust enrichment or prove a joint family venture, that doesn’t mean you will be entitled to half of the assets; depending on the specific facts of the situation, you may be entitled to a substantially smaller share.

Is there a time limit by which I must make a property claim against my common law partner?

Yes. The time limit is two years from the date you knew, or ought to have known, that you have a claim against your partner. Generally speaking your claim must be made within two years of the date of separation, although in exceptional situations this may not be the case.

How long must I have lived with my common law partner in order to make a claim for adult interdependent partner and child support?

If there are no children, you must have lived together for three years. If you do have a child with your partner, then you can claim support for yourself even if you have not lived together for three years. A child support claim can be made no matter how long you have lived together, or if you have never lived together at all.