Common Law Relationships


Common-law partnerships (i.e., unmarried cohabitation with an intimate partner) have specialized laws that are different than those applying to marriages.


This is one of the most misunderstood areas in family law. Contrary to popular belief, in Alberta there are no automatic rights to sharing property or debt on the breakdown of a common law relationship (unless the law changes at some point).


The property sharing law that does apply to unmarried cohabitation is known as “Unjust Enrichment”. It is technical and highly dependent on the unique circumstances of each case. In some cases assets and debts are divided approximately equally; in others, they are not divided at all and in even more cases, the result is somewhere in the middle of that range.


When these types of relationships break down parties can create a legally binding agreement on the division of assets and debts with a contract that is reviewed and witnessed by a lawyer that suits their own sense of what is right and fair. The key to making it as legally binding as possible is that each party has been advised of their rights in their particular circumstances so that their decisions are informed. Without legal advice their agreements can be ignored by the courts.


At the beginning of relationships, many couples, due to the uncertainty around how the law in this area will apply to them in the future, choose to enter into a “Cohabitation Agreement”. It is a “pre-nup” with no marriage. With legal advice it can be binding and can take the uncertainty out of the prospect of relationship breakdown or the death of a partner.




Contact us for more information.

Moe Hannah LLP

Client safety is important to Moe Hannah and so is client service. The health of our staff and clients is our top priority.  If clients and counsel prefer to work remotely during this difficult time, options exist for us to provide this service. Moe Hannah is able to do “virtual” non face-to-face meeting through internet conferencing.  We can do virtual consultations, mediation, or mediation/arbitration.
We can make it easy!
We will email a link for the conference to each person. The only requirement is internet access and a device suitable for the conference, ideally a camera and microphone.  Some people just use their cell phones. 
If you have any questions, please call or email us to talk about how we can make this work. 
We can still meet at Moe Hannah LLP for those people that would prefer to personally attend.  Everyone entering our office will be screened in accordance with the latest Alberta Health Guidelines. 
Our lawyers and assistants are set up to work remotely and we will continue mediation, mediation/arbitration and client meetings using Teams Video Conferencing, as well as our regular telephone conferencing.
Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Courts have announced that they are limiting access to urgent family law mattes. In light of this, parties may want to consider the mediation/arbitration process.  Please get in touch with your lawyer and/or assistant if you have any questions regarding your matter.
We look forward to working with you and helping you move forward during this difficult time.