Family Law

What Rights Do Individuals in Adult Interdependent Partnerships Have in Alberta?

November 28, 2023

photo of couple sitting on rock looking at mountains representing adult interdependent relationships in alberta

In Alberta, the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act governs individual’s rights and entitlements for those living in an “adult interdependent relationship”. This term refers to two people who have lived together and shared their lives in a significant way continuously for at least three years but are not married. Alternatively, if parties have a child together but have resided together for less than three years, they may be considered to be in an adult interdependent relationship if they are resided together in a relationship of some permanence.

This blog post will provide a high-level overview of adult interdependent relationships in Alberta and will explore what rights, entitlements, and responsibilities those in an interdependent relationship have in light of various family law considerations.

Understanding Adult Interdependent Relationships in Alberta

In Alberta, the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act provides more than just inclusive terminology, as it applies to couples who formerly would have been considered “common law spouses” as well as other types of relationships, including same-sex relationships.

Interdependence means that two people share their lives as part of a serious, committed relationship, and have fused their household finances and responsibilities to function as a unit. Establishing an adult interdependent relationship (also referred to as an “AIR”) can be of particular importance if a dispute arises that requires litigation.

Establishing an Adult Interdependent Relationship

Under the legislation, a person may establish that they are in an adult interdependent relationship in the following circumstances:

  • they have lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence for a continuous period of not less than 3 years, or
  • they have lived with the other person in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence and there is a child of the relationship by birth or adoption, or
  • they have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with the other person.

An Interdependent Partner Agreement can be considered a domestic agreement, similar to that of a co-habitation or pre-nuptial agreement that outlines out the nature of the relationship, along with the parties’ rights and obligations towards each other.

In order to determine whether two people function as an economic and domestic unit, all circumstances of the relationship will be considered. As such, if a party seeks to establish that they are involved in an adult interdependent relationship, they may rely on supporting evidence to show that:

  • the parties present themselves to friends and family as a couple;
  • the parties had a conjugal relationship;
  • the parties share household duties, property ownership, and financial responsibilities;
  • the parties provided and cared for their children together; and
  • the parties were exclusive to each other.

Exceptions to Creating an Adult Interdependent Relationships

There are, however, several exceptions on adult interdependent relationships for parties to be aware of. For example, individuals who are related to each other by blood or through adoption may only become adult interdependent partners by entering into an adult interdependent partner agreement. A person may only have one adult interdependent relationship at one time and cannot be involved in an adult interdependent relationship with one person while residing with their spouse. Furthermore, a “relationship of interdependence” will not exist in cases where one person provides the other with personal care and household support for a fee or other consideration, or on behalf of another person or entity.

How Does an Adult Interdependent Relationship Impact Your Rights?

Individuals involved in an adult interdependent relationship generally possess the same rights and responsibilities that married couples are granted, regardless of whether they have entered into an adult interdependent partnership agreement or not, and whether the relationship is conjugal or platonic. For instance, a party in an adult interdependent relationship may be entitled to, or be responsible for paying, partner support as set out under Alberta’s Family Law Act in the event of the breakdown of the relationship. Parties may also be subject to the division of property in accordance with the regime set out in Alberta’s Family Property Act if the relationship ended after January 1, 2020. This means that once the relationship begins, property obtained in the context of a shared family unit becomes subject to equal division, with the exception of circumstances involving gifts and inheritances.

In cases where the relationship ceases to exist due to the death of one partner, a party may be entitled to apply for maintenance from their deceased partner’s estate under Alberta’s Wills and Successions Act in cases where the deceased dies intestate or failed to adequately provide for the other partner in their will.

Disputes Following the Breakdown of an Adult Interdependent Relationship

In cases where a dispute arises following the breakdown of a relationship, even in cases where the relationship circumstances do not obviously meet the strict criteria set out in the legislation, a party may have another valid claim under other legal principles, such as a constructive trust or unjust enrichment. Therefore, it is imperative for parties involved in family law-related disputes to seek legal advice to determine whether they may have a claim.

Ending an Adult Interdependent Relationship

Couples may decide to separate at any time, including those involved in an adult interdependent relationship. As such, the following actions may cease the existence of an adult interdependent relationship:

  • the parties sign a written agreement indicating that they intend to live separate and apart without the possibility of reconciliation,
  • the parties live separate and apart for longer than one year, and one or both of them intend that the relationship stop,
  • the parties enter into marriage together, or one party marries someone else,
  • one party entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement with someone else, or
  • one or both of the parties obtains a declaration of irreconcilability under Alberta’s Family Law Act.

The Family Lawyers at DBB Law Provide Comprehensive and Practical Advice on Complex Family Law Issues

Living with someone prior to marriage, or without formalizing the relationship further, is becoming increasingly common. However, navigating the law that applies to your relationship can be complex. Therefore, whether you are currently cohabiting with someone, or are thinking of doing so in the future, it is important to discuss your circumstances with a trusted family lawyer who can advise you on your rights and obligations in an adult interdependent partnership in order to mitigate disputes in the event of a relationship breakdown.

At DBB Law in Calgary, our knowledgeable team of family lawyers regularly work with clients involved in a variety of relationship scenarios. We can help you understand what law applies to your circumstances and explain how various legal consequences may apply to you. To learn more domestic agreements and adult interdependent relationships, contact us today online or by phone at 403-265-7777.

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