Alberta Changes Property Division and Child Support Laws

Alberta is clarifying its property division and child support legislation.

The Alberta Government is changing the law regarding property division for unmarried partners if they break up to make easier for them to divide property acquired during their relationship. Child support law is changing because the existing law, which applied only to divorcing couples, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Alberta law will now allow all families to apply for child support for adult children with a disability or illness, not just divorcing couples.

Adult Interdependent Partners And Property Division

Alberta currently has no legislation regulating how property is to be divided between the partners when an unmarried couple breaks up. This leads to prolonged legal battles over which partner gets what property.

Bill 28, the Family Statutes Amendment Act, redresses this problem. This legislation, if passed, will:

· Rename the Matrimonial Property Act as the Family Property Act

· Amend the Act to apply to both adult interdependent partners and spouses

In Alberta, 'adult interdependent partners' is defined as two people who live together in a relationship of interdependence for

· At least three years

· Less than three years if the couple has a child, or

· Less than three years if they have entered into an adult interdependent agreement

A relationship of interdependence exists between two adults. It may be conjugal or platonic. The adults are not married to each other, but:

· Share each other's lives

· Are emotionally committed to each other, and

· Function as an economic and domestic unit

The New Property Division Legislation

The Family Property Act establishes how property is to be divided between separating couples:

· Property division rules apply to any property acquired after the interdependent relationship begins; this applies to couples who live together before marrying and adult interdependent partners

· Each adult interdependent partner has two years from the date they knew (or should have known) the partnership ended to make a property division claim

· Partners can enter a property ownership and division agreement that applies during cohabitation and the time after marriage (though this must be clearly intended by an agreement made during cohabitation)

· Partners may draft their own property agreement rather than follow the legislation's rules

Existing property agreements enforceable at law now are still enforceable if the new law comes into force.

Child Support Changes

Currently, the federal Divorce Act states a partner can seek child support for an adult child with disabilities from the other partner. Alberta's Family Law Act restricts child support for adult children to full-time students between the ages of 18 to 22. This violates the Charter.

Bill 28 changes this. It:

· Removes the age limit for child support

· States that adult children who cannot withdraw from their parents' care because of illness or disability are eligible for a child support application

· Brings the Family Law Act into alignment with all other Canadian jurisdictions' family legislation and the federal Divorce Act

Repealing The Married Women's Act of 1922

The Married Women's Act was passed in 1922. Women had more freedom to control money and property, but the Act still saw spouses as one person at law.

This is no longer the case, and the Charter guarantees women's equality. The Married Women's Act is being repealed as it is irrelevant today.

When These Changes Become Law If Bill 28 becomes law, these changes will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Until then, separating common-law individuals should consult experienced family law lawyers about how to best protect their rights under existing law.