What rights do common-law partners have in Alberta?

This article looks briefly at how common-law relationships are treated under Alberta law.

As CBC News reports, common-law relationships are on the rise in Canada, with 11 percent of Canadian women living in such relationships in 2011, compared to just 3.8 percent in 1981. While common-law relationships have become widely accepted nowadays, it is important for people who are in such relationships to understand how Alberta's laws may impact them. In Alberta, common-law relationships are legally referred to as Adult Interdependent Relationships (AIR). Furthermore, couples who are in an interdependent relationship have rights and benefits that can differ substantially from the rights of married couples.

Who can be in an AIR?

As the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) points out, there are a couple ways to be recognized as being in an AIR. The first is to simply agree to and sign an Adult Interdependent Relationship Agreement. Such an agreement is necessary for those who are related by blood or adoption in order to be recognized as being in an interdependent relationship.

The second method is to either have lived with another person in a 'relationship of interdependence' for three consecutive years or more or, alternatively, to have lived together for less than three years, but as parents of a child either by birth or adoption. While adult interdependent partners do not have to be in a conjugal relationship, they do have to be in an unmarried relationship in which they are emotionally committed, share their lives together, and live as a domestic and economic unit.

Benefits of being in an AIR

The primary benefit of being in an AIR is that it provides legal recognition of one's relationship. While the legal status of an AIR is not the same as a marriage, interdependent partners still enjoy certain legal rights and responsibilities that are similar to and sometimes the same as those enjoyed by married couples.

One of the main benefits given to interdependent partners is that, if the relationship ends, they can petition a court to grant a support order, meaning that one partner may have to provide monetary support to the other partner, similar to spousal support or alimony. Partners in an AIR are also recognized as each other's dependents in terms of estate succession. In other words, if one partner dies then the other partner can apply for relief in much the same way that a spouse could apply for relief if his or her spouse passed away.

Family law help

For anybody who is in a common-law relationship or who has recently ended one, it is important to get legal advice from a lawyer experienced in family law. As the above article shows, the complex nature of laws affecting common-law partners means that such partners could especially benefit from the guidance and assistance that a qualified lawyer can provide.