Home | Family Law | Unmarried Couples

How Family Law applies to unmarried couples

Almost everyone has some misconceptions about how Family Law applies to unmarried couples, also called common-law couples and known legally within Alberta as Adult Interdependent Partners. For example, do you know the answers to the following legal questions (answers below) about unmarried couples:

  1. Does your relationship constitute an adult interdependent partnership and when does it start to have legal significance?
  2. If you and your partner decide to separate, how is property divided?
  3. Do married and unmarried couples have the same child support obligations?


  1. You may be considered to be in a common law relationship when:
    1. You and your partner have lived together for three years
    2. You and your partner have had a child and are in a relationship of some permanence
    3. You and your partner sign a Cohabitation Agreement
  2. Property is divided based on many factors and case law in this area
  3. Child support is the right of the child regardless of the marital status of parents

Strife can be significantly reduced or even eliminated if both parties enter into a Cohabitation Agreement prior to living together. This is more likely to produce a favourable result because negotiating with a future spouse is far easier than negotiating with a future ex-spouse. Moreover, each spouse enters the relationship with a clear understanding of how Family Law applies to spouses when they are together and when they decide to separate.

Expert legal advice for unmarried couples

What you should know before entering into a living arrangement - It's best to consult with us before you enter into an unmarried couple living arrangement as that is when both parties are most likely to come to an agreement on how to live together. "Your chances of achieving an agreement that suits both spouses are always highest at the start of the relationship," says James Carr.

Protect your rights and interests with a Cohabitation Agreement - The best scenario for most unmarried couples, known in Alberta as Adult Interdependent Partners, is to establish a Cohabitation Agreement with the help of an experienced Family Law lawyer at CK Family Law. "It's what you don't know that can hurt you," explains James Carr. Most people can't imagine every possible scenario or they may be reluctant to address certain scenarios."

Recover your financial contributions - Under Family Law (and assuming there is no Cohabitation Agreement), you must establish what you contributed financially to the relationship. This can be highly complex and subject to severe challenge by the other side - two good reasons why your position should be developed and presented by a skilled Family Law Lawyer. We can also help if you need enforcement of a Cohabitation Agreement.

Advance your claim for spousal or child support - Obtaining financial support for yourself and/or child is often not simple or easy. "The initial application needs to be prepared by a skilled Family Law lawyer as even a small error or omission can hurt your interests," says Christopher King. "Once an Order has been established, either as part of a separation agreement or divorce, you may need our assistance to achieve compliance of the original order of some variation that protects your interest."

Photo of unmarried couple

Need legal help? Schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our family lawyers right now.

Contact Us

Name: *
Phone Number:
E-mail Address: *
Please provide a description of your legal problem:

Please direct my inquiry to:

Please wait while we load the rest of the form.

Recently Separated?
Wondering what happens now?

If you have recently separated from your spouse, we strongly recommend that you seek out an Edmonton divorce lawyer for a consultation. It is important to get early advice (even before attending mediation if you and your spouse agree to go to mediation) regarding your rights and responsibilities.

Learn More

Edmonton Family Law Legal Team

Website Design By:
edmonton website design - Selaris Web Media Inc.