Alberta Law Reform Institute Update: New Report for Discussion on Property Division

9 November 2017

By Valerie Le Blanc

In October 2017, the Alberta Law Reform Institute announced a call for public comments on proposals to reform Alberta’s laws on property division for common-law couples and adult interdependent partners. On October 31, 2017, the institute published the Report for Discussion on Property Division: Living Together Before Marriage (PDF) as part of its Property Division for Cohabitants Project. The report makes five recommendations:

  • An agreement about ownership and division of property should continue in effect if the partners marry, unless the partners agree otherwise.
  • Unless the spouses agree otherwise, the presumption of equal division should apply to any property acquired while the spouses were living together in a relationship of interdependence before marriage.
  • Property acquired by the spouses before the commencement of the relationship of interdependence should be exempt from the presumption of equal division.
  • 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.
  • New property division legislation should only apply to couples who separate after the legislation comes into force.

The institute notes that, in light of proposals from its recent report to extend property division rules to common-law partners, the question then becomes how the law should address spouses who live together before marriage. The purpose of this latest report for discussion is to outline the institute’s recommendations to:

“extend the presumption of equal division to property acquired by the spouses while they lived together before marriage. If the relationship is an economic partnership, the spouses should be presumed to intend to share property acquired from the beginning of that relationship, including any period of premarital cohabitation. The proposal is intended to make the law clearer, more predictable, and consistent with other family law statutes.”

The report contains background information on its report on property division for common-law partners, the laws of property division for married spouses in Alberta, and the law and policy on property acquired before marriage in other Canadian jurisdictions.

The deadline for comments on the issues raised in the report is December 15, 2017. For more information, visit the institute’s Property Division for Cohabitants project page.

For BCLI’s previous post on the institute’s consultation report, visit here.

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