Common Law Relationships Overview

In Alberta, you are considered to be in a “common law relationship” if you have been living together as a couple for three years; or if there is some “permanence” such as if there is a child born from the relationship; or if you jointly decide to enter such a relationship willingly by choice.

Until recently, a common law relationship was seen very differently than from traditional marriages in Alberta. Effectively, the collapse of a common law relationship was treated as merely an accounting exercise, in which the Court determined what each partner brought into the relationship, and what he or she owned at the end of it. This was a very distinct contrast from how the law treated married couples, who were viewed as a unit and were both expected to have a share in all property irrespective of who officially owned it; and that was especially true regarding the marital home.


Today, that has changed. In Alberta, as long as you both acted as if you were married – for example, if you had joint bank accounts – for the most part, you are treated that way before the law.

Times have changed. At one time, if you moved into your partner’s home and lived there for 10 years, at the end of your relationship, you had no rights to the house. However, today it is often assumed that you do have an interest in the home. Furthermore, it is also assumed that failing to give you a reasonable interest might result in “unjust enrichment” for your former partner, since you may have contributed to the family with your time, money and child care services, but he or she ended up with most of the property that was earned during the relationship.

With GDE FAMILY LAW, we can help you determine what is fair and practical compensation for all that you gave to the relationship, and help make sure that you are treated justly under Alberta law.


Don’t hesitate! Delay can be costly, emotionally, financially and otherwise. If you are not married and are experiencing a breakdown in your common law relationship, contact GDE FAMILY LAW today at 403-475-9525. Our Calgary Common Law Marriage and Common Law Separation Lawyers have a focus in this area, and will meet with you and help to explain your rights under Alberta’s legislation.