When it comes to breaking up, common-law relationships don't have the same rights

16 October 2017

An Alberta woman and her common-law partner raised three children and owned two homes during their 20-year relationship. After splitting up, she found out that she had no rights to the properties. Learn how she fought for her rights to the houses they owned together and about the plight facing common-law relationships.

Common-Law Relationships

From the story :

Common-law relationships are on the rise. But what some partners might not realize is they aren't afforded the same legal protections as married couples when it comes to breaking up. That's what Denise found out the hard way when she separated from her common-law partner of 20 years. Denise agreed to speak to CBC News on the condition that her last name and face would be kept private, as she's still fighting a legal battle against her ex. "I honestly can't think of how my relationship was any different from anyone else who lives on this street and happens to be married," Denise said. Denise and her partner raised three children together, and by the time they broke up they owned two homes. But Denise discovered she wasn't entitled to either property. She and her children were forced to move into a distant family member's home for months after her separation. "I left and there were two houses in this relationship but neither of them were in my name," she said.

Legal action only option for many

In Alberta, there is no section under the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act that determines how property should be divided when a common-law partnership splits up. Under the Matrimonial Property Act, it's presumed both partners are entitled to property that they've accumulated during their time together. But that act only applies to married couples. So, if former common-law partners can't agree on how to split up their property, the only option is legal action. "A lot people think, well, it should be half. So this really needs to be addressed," said Karen Stewart, CEO and founder of Fairway Divorce Solutions.

Read the CBC article discussing common-law relationships and what our CEO Karen Stewart has to say on the lack of legal options for Alberta common-law couples who break up.