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What you need to know about common law and Adult Interdependent Relationships

common law agreements, separation and cohabitation

When a couple lives together and are not married, but maintain a "marriage-like relationship for a minimum of three years, they are considered to be living common law. (In Alberta, the term Adult Interdependent Relations, or AIR, is used). You are also considered to be living common if you:

  • Have an ongoing relationship with another person that involves a child who became part of the relationship through birth or adoption
  • Agreed to enter a common law relationship

Common law individuals are entitled to some of the same rights as a married couple, but not all. For example, when common law partners decide to split, one of the partners can apply for financial support. However, the split of any financial assets is based on what each partner brought into the relationship, not an equal division of property.

There are three ways to end a common law relationship:

  • Enter an agreement to live separate and apart, without the possibility of getting back together ('reconciliation').
  • Live separate and apart for more than one year or both partners intend that the adult interdependent relationship end.
  • The partners decided to marry each other or one partner decides to enter into a relationship with a third person, either common low or marriage.

Quick Facts about Common Law

Co-habitation agreement - A cohabitation agreement sets out how a couple who live together will proceed if they decide to separate. The agreement can include property rights, financial assets, support payments and child support and access.

Death of your partner – Unlike a married spouse, you are not entitled to automatic inheritance and you would only be an inheritor if your partner named you in his or her Will.

Split of assets - If you have made financial or non-financial contributions, such as mortgage payments or home improvements, you can come to an agreement with your former partner on compensation. If you can’t come to an agreement, you can go to court to seek compensation.

What is a separation agreement?
A separation agreement is an alternative to going to court for individuals who want an uncontested or joint divorce. The separation agreement has far ranging implications for both parties and as such should be written by a Family Law Lawyer. Typical issues covered by a separation agreement include child custody, spousal support, property distribution, debts and pensions. One lawyer can draft the agreement for both parties, but a separate lawyer should review the agreement to ensure it protects both parties.

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