The Adult Interdependent Relationship Act is the legislation that provides the guidelines for relationships of interdependence – such as a common-law relationships. Such a relationship exists if two people, living together, have operated as an economic and domestic unit for at least 3 years (or a shorter period of time if there are children of the relationship) or have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement.
What does that mean and why should I care?
Once it is established that you are in an adult interdependent relationship, your adult interdependent partner (“AIP”) and yourself open yourselves to all the benefits that come along with being in an interdependent relationship. The benefits can be economical and emotional. You also open yourselves up to all the negative aspects, if there is not an agreement in place and the relationship ends. Negative aspects include lawsuits to divide jointly owned property and claims for partner support.
How do I ensure my assets stay mine?
In Alberta, the law distinguishes between married spouses and domestic cohabitating partners. When a marriage ends, the Matrimonial Property Act provides for how all property owned by both spouses will be divided between the spouses, with certain defined exemptions and in the absence of an agreement. Generally in an adult interdependent relationship, the AIP that owns the property gets to keep the property when the relationship ends.
The Adult Interdependent Relationship Act does not provide property division rights for domestic partners. There is no presumed entitlement to property sharing. If at the end of the relationship one party wants a share of the property acquired during the relationship and the other partner disagrees, then the party seeking a share must sue the other partner for unjust enrichment. Successfully proving that there has been unjust enrichment does not entitle an AIP to an equal (50/50) share in the assets of the other. If you are concerned about ensuring your assets stay your property, it is highly recommended that you enter into an agreement with your AIP. It’s never too late to enter into an agreement. The lawyers at Ahlstrom Wright can help you protect yourself, in the event the relationship ends.
The Supreme Court of Canada in Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10 (CanLII) clarified what must be proven for the court to grant unjust enrichment to an AIP The AIP seeking a share must prove the following:
- An enrichment or benefit was received by the defendant;
- A corresponding deprivation was experienced by the plaintiff; and
- There was no juristic reason for the enrichment, meaning the benefit by the defendant did not happen due to a gift or another reason that should be satisfactory for public policy reasons.
The goal of the court is to have the enriched AIP repay the deprived AIP for the benefit it received unjustly. Determining whether or not you have a good claim for unjust enrichment depends on your individual circumstances. Please contact an Ahlstrom Wright lawyer to discuss your circumstances.
Should I kick the other person out after 2.5 years to prevent having to lose all of my assets?
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that while cohabitation is part of a common law relationship it is not the same as co-residence. Meaning, the fact that one party maintains a separate resides does not mean that the parties are not cohabitating in a relationship of interdependence. Kicking one partner out after 2.5 years will not necessarily prevent a court from finding that there was or is an adult interdependent relationship. Every person’s circumstances is different and it depends on your particular circumstances that will determine if there is an adult interdependent relationship.
I Am In an Adult Interdependent Relationship… Now What?
- Your lawyer at Ahlstrom Wright can prepare an adult interdependent partner agreement for you.
- If your plan is to marry, your lawyer can prepare a pre-nuptial agreement.
- A legal agreement will determine your and your partner’s rights relating to spousal support, child custody and access and property and ﬁnancial issues in the event that the relationship breaks down.
- Without such an agreement, you may have no option but to litigate the issues through the court system. This is costly, emotionally draining, and time consuming.
- The lawyers at Ahlstrom Wright will explain your rights and obligations to help you reach an equitable settlement and represent you in court when needed.
- Talk to your lawyer at Ahlstrom Wright about cohabitation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, and adult interdependent partner agreements so that your interests are protected.
Do you have questions about your interdependent relationship?
Contact Ahlstrom Wright in Sherwood Park, Alberta
Call us toll-free 1-844-558-8750
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