There’s a new Act coming into force on January 1, 2020 – the Family Property Act – replacing the current Matrimonial Property Act. The biggest change is that this legislation now gives unmarried separating couples in Alberta the right to automatically divide their assets and debts. This is huge – until now, these separated couples had to prove that there should be a division of assets and debts accumulated during the relationship using the antiquated common law doctrine of unjust enrichment.
Another huge leap forward for unmarried separating couples or those who live together for a long period prior to marriage is the issue of “exemptions” – one example of an exemption is property owned by one of the parties prior to the relationship/marriage. Under the current law, for the most part the exemption is only given to items owned at the date of marriage. Now, it will go back all the way to the date that the adult interdependent relationship started – for married & unmarried people.
In order for unmarried former couples to fall within the scope of the legislation, they must fit within the definition of “adult interdependent partners” by virtue of:
- Living together for over 3 years
- Living together for under 3 years but have a child together
- Have entered into an agreement wherein they define themselves as such
Another important piece to this is that the legislation requires that in order to be eligible to automatically divide assets and debts, the couple must not have separated prior to January 1, 2020 and cannot be “former adult interdependent partners” as defined by the legislation. Any former couples falling into this category must default back to the old-school “unjust enrichment” arguments.
For more information or to see whether you are eligible to use this new legislation to effect your division of assets and debts, please contact our office.