New Year, New Decade And New Changes To Property Rights For Unmarried Couples In Alberta

Up until December 31, 2019, property rights in the family law context were only extend to those who were married.  This meant that those who decided against marriage for various reasons or who were in “unconventional” relationships, were not extended the same rights that are afforded to married couples.  

As a result, and in the absence of legislative protections, unmarried partners would have to pursue a claim of unjust enrichment in order to access their entitlement to a share of the property that was accumulated during the course of their relationship, whereas married partners could enjoy the presumption of equal division.

Bill 28 – the Family Statutes Amendment Act – addresses this legislative gap as it now extends property rights to those who are in relationships that don’t quite fit “conventional” standards.  Accordingly, the following changes have come into force as of January 1, 2020:

 1.    The Family Statutes Amendment Act will apply to both adult interdependent partners as well as spouses

2.    Partners will be able to draft their own property division agreement rather than following the rules in the legislation

3.    The Family Statutes Amendment Act will specify that property division rules will apply to property acquired after beginning a relationship of interdependence; this applies to adult interdependent partners and married couples who lived together prior to marrying each other

4.    The Family Statutes Amendment Act will give each adult interdependent partner 2 years from the date they knew (or should have known) their adult interdependent relationship ended to make a claim for property division

5.    Partners will be able to enter into a property ownership and division agreement that applies both during cohabitation (living together before marriage) and the time after marriage


While this may be a welcome change for some couples in adult interdependent relationships, it may not be for others.  For Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) clients, for instance, this may be further complicated in situations where it concerns the division of property both on and off reserve. 

Rothecker Law Office is highly skilled in drafting agreements and would be happy to support you in that process whether your case deals with the division of property on and/or off reserve or if you are in a queer relationship that requires the assistance of a lawyer who is attune to the discreet issues and concerns faced by those from the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.  

Lawyers at Rothecker Law Office would be happy to discuss your rights in light of these changes as well as how these changes may impact your relationship in a consultation.

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