Alberta Law Reform Institute seeking comments on proposed rules for property division upon breakdown of a relationship between common-law partners

24 October 2017

By Valerie Le Blanc

The Alberta Law Reform Institute is asking the public for comments on proposals to reform Alberta’s laws on property division for common-law couples and adult interdependent partners. On September 30, 2017, the institute published the Report for Discussion on Property Division for Common Law Couples and Adult Interdependent Partners (PDF) as part of its Property Division for Cohabitants Project. The report makes ten provisional recommendations for comment:

  • Legislation should expressly provide that partners may make an agreement about ownership and division of property.
  • Legislation should include formal requirements for agreements about ownership and division of property based on the requirements in the Matrimonial Property Act. It should also require that an agreement be in writing, and that each partner obtain independent legal advice.
  • An agreement about the date a relationship began should not require that each partner obtain independent legal advice.
  • An agreement about ownership and division of property should continue in effect if the partners marry, unless the partners agree otherwise.
  • Property division rules should apply to couples who are adult interdependent partners, as defined in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.
  • Property division rules should be based on the Matrimonial Property Act.
  • For purposes of property division, an adult interdependent relationship began on the date that the partners began living together in a relationship of interdependence, unless the partners agree otherwise.
  • The default valuation date should be the date on which the parties began to live separate and apart.
    • If the default valuation date remains the date of trial, the parties to the relationship that is first in time should value and divide property first.
  • Property division legislation should state that a property division order may be made if adult interdependent partners have become former adult interdependent partners in accordance with the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, unless the reason they became former adult interdependent partners was that they married each other.
  • New property division legislation should only apply to couples who separate after the legislation comes into force.

The institute states the purpose of the proposed recommendations are “to make the law clearer and more predictable, promote settlement, and improve access to justice.”

The report contains background information on the existing laws of property division in Alberta, the access-to-justice barriers for common-law partners, and the law and policy on property division in other Canadian jurisdictions.

The consultation is open until 20 November 2017. Responses may be given through an online survey, or by email, fax or regular mail to the institute.

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