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  • Writer's pictureVivek Kanwar

Understanding Cohabitation Agreements in Alberta: A Guide for Unmarried Couples

The Shift from Common Law to Adult Interdependent Relationships in Alberta


In Alberta, the concept of 'common law' relationships has evolved, moving away from traditional interpretations. The province now recognizes "adult interdependent relationships," a term defined under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA). This shift highlights the importance of understanding legal frameworks for couples who live together without marrying.


The Relevance of AIRA in Alberta's Family Law:


- AIRA replaces the traditional 'common law' concept

- Defines adult interdependent relationships

- Establishes legal parameters for unmarried cohabiting couples


The Essence of Cohabitation Agreements:


A cohabitation agreement, similar to a domestic contract, is not a reflection of diminished commitment but an instrument for outlining the distribution of assets and financial responsibilities in the event of a relationship's dissolution. These agreements are tailored to suit each couple's unique circumstances, ensuring fairness and clarity from the beginning.


Key Features of Cohabitation Agreements:


- Allocation of property and financial assets

- Clarity on handling debts and expenses

- Customizable to each couple's specific needs and circumstances


What scenarios represent an Adult Interdependent Relationship?


Adult interdependent relationships under AIRA encompass various scenarios. These include couples living together for three years or more, sharing lives and responsibilities, or those with a child, regardless of the duration of cohabitation. The law also accommodates agreements for non-romantic or familial relationships.


Criteria for an Adult Interdependent Relationship:


- Minimum cohabitation period continuously for at least 3-years OR having a child together

- Sharing of economic and domestic responsibilities

- Not necessarily confined to romantic relationships

- However, Courts consider various other factors in defining interdependent relationships, it is best to consult with a lawyer.


Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement?


A well-structured cohabitation agreement can provide legal protection, prevent financial disputes, and ensure fair asset distribution. It fosters transparency, reduces the risk of litigation, and can seamlessly integrate with a pre-nuptial agreement if marriage follows.


Advantages of Drafting a Cohabitation Agreement:


- Legal clarity on asset and debt division

- Protection against financial liabilities

- Enhanced relationship transparency and stability


Essential Elements of a Cohabitation Agreement?


Common components of a cohabitation agreement in Alberta include asset division, debt allocation, property exclusion, financial responsibilities, and terms regarding children's custody and support. Both parties must sign the agreement and obtain independent legal advice to ensure its validity.


What would happen Without a Cohabitation Agreement?


This is a complex answer and would vary case by case. However, in summary, without a cohabitation agreement in Alberta, the division of property and debts for adult interdependent relationships is subject to the same rules as married couples under the Family Property Act, potentially leading to a 50/50 split of assets and debts, similar to a Divorce. To find out if this could apply to your case, contact one of our specialized family law lawyers to determine your legal rights.


What is the difference between a Cohabitation Agreement and a Prenuptial Agreement?


Essentially the major difference is that each deal with different relationship statuses and plans for the couple’s future. In Alberta, a prenuptial agreement is intended for couples planning to marry, covering aspects like property division, spousal support, and debt allocation, effective after the wedding. It requires fairness, full disclosure, and independent legal advice. In contrast, a cohabitation agreement applies to unmarried partners living together, outlining the division of assets, debts, and living arrangements, with the option to convert into a prenuptial agreement if marriage occurs. While prenuptial agreements can include children-related clauses, cohabitation agreements generally do not, unless the couple decides to marry. Both require voluntary consent and comprehensive financial disclosure but cater to different relationship statuses and future plans. To find out what better suits your needs, contact our law firm today.



This blog post is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. The circumstances of each case are unique. For personalized legal advice, please reach out to Urban Lawyers directly at 780-228-7226. Do not send any confidential information until a client-lawyer relationship has been formally established through a retainer agreement.


Ready for Legal Support?

If you are looking to have a cohabitation agreement, prenuptial agreement, or require any legal advice regarding family law matters, contact Urban Lawyers at 780-228-7226. If you run into any sort of family law dispute whether it is before or after marriage, we are always happy to assist you. As your legal advisors, we'll handle the complexities of your case and advocate for your best interests.


Please wait to share any sensitive details of your case until after a formal lawyer-client relationship has been established.

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