Jane and Bob had been together for a long time and were happily in love. They wanted to be together and build a family. They both agreed that they weren’t the marrying type. It was not a problem of faith or religion; they just did not feel the need to go through all the hassle. Instead they put that money aside and bought a house. After all, if they skip the ceremony then they can skip a messy legal proceeding if it does not work out, right?
Jane and Bob’s story is becoming more and more common. People often assume that if one is not legally married and instead considers oneself “common-law”, then if the relationship falls apart it is much easier to settle matters such as property rights. However, Alberta law calls for quite the opposite. Being married gives a person more clear-cut rights, typically leading to simpler property distributions, whereas distributing the property of non-married couples can be significantly more complicated.
The main reason for this is because married couples are entitled to rely on a piece of legislation called the Matrimonial Property Act, or MPA. This act lists what rights a married person has to property and sets out the processes involved in settling divisions of jointly owned property, such as the issue of home ownership. However, unmarried people do not have such clear rights or guarantees to property because there is no such legislation applicable to them. Each case is quite different and depends on a number of factors, including length of time of the relationship, whether there is a dependent(s) involved, and many other elements.
Not surprisingly, the analysis of these elements could make the matter of settling a common-law breakup much more difficult that an actual divorce. This makes the need for proper legal advice even more important to navigate through such complicated matters. Please contact us for an assessment of your property claim and for help through the difficult process of common-law separation.