Ending a Non-married Romantic Relationship

Law

Unmarried partners who are separating may have to take specific steps to legally end their relationship. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Determining if you were in a common-law relationship
  • Determining if you were in an Adult Interdependent Relationship
  • Ways to legally end your common-law relationship
  • Ways to legally end your Adult Interdependent Relationship
  • Living “separate and apart” (including when it starts and how to prove it)
  • How separation affects your taxes
  • Ending an engagement
  • Changing your name
  • Updating your Will and other legal documents
  • Options for resolving issues out of court
  • Deciding whether you need to go to court

Choose the Process tab above for forms and steps you may need to take during or after your separation.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for couples who were not in a married relationship, whose relationship is breaking down and who want to bring a formal end to that relationship.

  • The law that applies to couples who were not in a married relationship is the Alberta Family Law Act. The information on this Information Page is all about the Family Law Act and the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.
  • To be clear, if you were not married, Canada’s Divorce Act and Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act do not apply to you: both of these laws can only apply to people who were married.

This Information Page does not apply to married couples. If you were married and wish to end your married relationship, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

There are many legal issues to consider when separating. This Information Page deals only with the actual “separation” or “ending” of the relationship—see the following Information Pages for more information about other issues to consider.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

In general, the law and processes described on this Information Page are about people who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the partners should live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

  • any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already);
  • any of the parties live in another province; or
  • any of the parties have been “ordinarily resident” outside of Alberta during the past year.

For more information about out-of-province issues, including how “ordinarily resident” is defined, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about bringing a formal end to a non-married relationship. For information on the process you need to follow to formally end your non-married relationship, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

separation

When a couple (married or unmarried) decides to live apart from each other because the relationship has broken down.

separation agreement

A contract created by partners or spouses to deal with the issues that come up as they end their relationship.

This agreement can address many topics, including:

  • child custody, access, guardianship, and parenting time arrangements;
  • child support;
  • spousal/partner support; and
  • property division.

The separating couple can reach this agreement on their own, or with the help of third parties (such as mediators or lawyers).

“common-law” partner

In Alberta, the term “common-law” only applies to certain couples and only for certain federal laws (such as the Income Tax Act). Under most federal laws, the term “common-law” refers to a couple who has lived together in a romantic relationship:

  • for at least one year; or
  • for less than one year but they have a child together.

Under Alberta’s provincial laws, there is no such thing as “common-law” partners and “common-law” relationships. In Alberta, similar rights and responsibilities come from being in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship” (see below).

Be Aware

Under the federal Indian Act and the federal Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, the term “common-law” is used only for a couple who has been living together in a romantic relationship for at least one year (regardless of whether or not they have had a child together).

Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

The term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” relationship.

A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (see below); or
  • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”). However, on this Information Page, we will only deal with the breakdown of romantic relationships. For information about the breakdown of non-romantic AIRs, see the Ending a Non-Romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship Information Page instead.

Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP)

A person who is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship with another person (see above).

Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIPA)

A written contract in which 2 adults agree to become Adult Interdependent Partners. That contract must be in the form required by the Alberta Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation—see the following resource.

PDF Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation
Government of Alberta
English

conjugal

“Conjugal” is a word used to describe a relationship—a “conjugal relationship” means the people involved have sex. This is also called a “romantic relationship.” This is different from a “platonic relationship,” which is a relationship of any kind that does not include having sex.

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your separation issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:


Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”), and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).  

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, the children, or both? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe. Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings. If there was violence against the child, it could even dictate how you must proceed.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • It is never your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to family court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Depending on your location, there may be ways that general family law can help to keep you and your children safer, such as safe transfer and supervised access. These and other concepts are explained on the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.
  • Do not just believe an abuser who has told you that “You can’t leave me” or “You’ll get nothing”: it is not up to the abuser, it is a question of law. Keep reading to find out more.

If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.

For more information on domestic violence in the context of family law issues, see the individual Information Pages (listed above) as well as the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

As a last thought, remember that abusive situations are very complicated. There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Resources to Help Information Page.

At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. Perhaps your partner has just told you that he or she is leaving. Maybe it is you who is ready to leave. This can be scary and overwhelming. That is natural. There a few places to start.

Get any important documents you need

Once you leave, it may be difficult to get any important documents that you may need. Take a moment to get copies of items such as:

  • your last 3 years’ tax returns,
  • financial documents,
  • birth certificates,
  • health care cards, and
  • personal identification.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Living Together or Living Apart
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 10.

Take steps to financially protect yourself

It is quite common for partners to hurt one another financially after a breakup. As a result, you need to make sure that you take steps to protect your financial interests. A few examples:

  • When you separate, you will need a complete picture of your family finances. You may not be able to get that once you have left the home you shared. As a result, you may wish to make copies of important documents before you leave.
  • Some of your credit cards and lines of credit may be in joint names. This means that you are both responsible for the debts. To help ensure that you will not be responsible for your ex-partner’s post-separation debts, you may wish to talk to your bank about what you can do (for example: closing accounts, opening new accounts, and freezing accounts).
  • Things with your name on it are your responsibility. If you have a credit card in your name, and your ex-partner has a secondary card, you may wish to cancel that secondary card.

For more information about how being together affected your finances (including things like credit cards, loans, joint property, leases, and utility bills), see the Before Moving in Together Information Page and the resources listed at the end of this section.

You can agree

Although it may not seem like it right now, you can come to an agreement with your ex-partner. Going to court is not a requirement. For more information, see the following resources and the “Out of court resolution options” section below. These resources describe ending a married relationship, but the same concepts apply to unmarried partners separating.

Web Setting the course for a positive relationship after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web What All Divorcees Can Learn From a Couple That Spent 500K on a Child Custody Battle
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Being Civil in the Face of Infidelity
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Adultery, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse and Leaving Your Spouse: Shame, Shame, You Want to Blame
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Temporary arrangements are possible

Whether you come to an agreement on your own or have to involve a court, you can start with temporary solutions. You do not have to decide about the rest of your life right now, or even in the next month. Temporary, or “interim,” arrangements can be made.

For more information about going to court to get interim arrangements, see the individual Information Pages listed below.

Slow down if you can

If at all possible, try not to make rash decisions. Taking time to think and plan can save you trouble later on.

The following resources provide information about things to consider. Some information is given in the context of ending a marriage, but many things also apply to ending a non-married relationship.

Web Divorce and Separation
Government of Canada
English

Web Divorce et séparation
Government of Canada
French

Web Considering divorce? Take these steps to prepare
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Preparing for a divorce can make the process easier
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Getting separated or divorced
Government of Canada
English

Web Se séparer ou divorcer
Government of Canada
French

Web Reducing stress during the divorce process
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Counselling, It’s Not Just for Couples Anymore
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Learn

Take the time to learn about the law that applies. It is important. Consider talking to a lawyer (or legal advocate) about your options and how best to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.

For detailed information on all of the things to consider when family breakdown has just occurred, including financial issues, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

For more information about general things to consider when leaving a relationship, see the following resources. Some information is given in the context of the end of a marriage, but many things also apply to ending a non-married relationship.

Audio/Web Your Rights when you Separate
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Moving On: A Practical Guide for Women Leaving a Relationship
Government of Prince Edward Island
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Aller de l’avant: Guide pratique à l’intention des femmes qui décident de mettre fin à une relation
Government of Prince Edward Island
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video How do I protect myself during separation? - Divorce Planning
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 203- The Break Up - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more detailed information on financial issues in particular, see the following resources. Some information is given in the context of the end of a marriage, but many things also apply to a non-married relationship.

PDF Divorce & Your Credit
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.
English

Web Protecting Your Finances During a Divorce
Loans Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web FREE Credit Counselling and Financial Assessment for Albertans
Money Mentors
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Separation & Joint Debt
Divorce Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Audio/Web Cohabiting Relationships and Adult Interdependent Partners
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Think about these financial matters when divorcing
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more detailed information on child-related issues in particular, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page and the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page, as well as the following resources. Some information is given in the context of the end of a marriage, but many things also apply to a non-married relationship.


Web Children and Divorce FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF What Children Need when Parents Separate
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for kids
Government of Canada
English

Web De l'aide pour les enfants
Government of Canada
French

Audio/Web Cohabiting Relationships and Adult Interdependent Partners
Calgary Legal Guidance
English
If there was a domestic contract (cohabitation agreement)

A cohabitation agreement is a contract created by two people who are living together, or are about to start living together. In this agreement the couple can address many issues, including partner support and what the property rights of both partners will be if they separate.

In general, if you and your partner have a cohabitation agreement and you separate, you must follow the terms of that contract to settle the legal issues that come up. In other words, usually you must obey the contract.

However, that is not always the case. For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • You or your partner provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if you can prove that one of you did not understand the contract because of something that was going on when the agreement was made. Or, if one of you did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, you may have included an agreement that no child support would be paid. This is not allowed. It should not have been agreed to, and it will not be honoured. This is because child support is the right of the child.

Also, you would still have to deal with any legal issues that were not covered in the agreement.

For more information about how cohabitation agreements are treated and the law around setting them aside, see the Relationship Breakdown if You Had a Domestic Contract Information Page.

If you were not yet in an Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

Living together for less than one year with no children together

If you have been living together for less than one year and have no children together, your relationship has no legal status. You do not qualify as “common-law” partners under federal law. Similarly, if you do not have a child together, or have not signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement, you do not qualify as Adult Interdependent Partners under Alberta law.

In fact, there are no laws that specifically address the breakdown of your relationship. Although there might be specific relationship breakdown laws in other provinces or countries that would apply to your relationship, this is not the case in Alberta.

This means that you do not need to do anything to officially end the relationship. When you decide to separate, the relationship is over.

You also do not have any of the obligations, responsibilities, or benefits that come with being “common-law” or “Adult Interdependent Partners.” In other words: when your relationship ends, you are not entitled to apply for partner support or division of property.

However, although there is no law specifically addressing the breakdown of this kind of relationship, all other general law applies. For example: what the law says about owning things in “joint tenancy” or having a “joint debt” still applies. For that reason, please review the “At the start: Breakup has just occurred” section above.

Be Aware

Every province has a different law about living in a “marriage-like” relationship without getting married. Just because your relationship may previously have been recognized as some kind of “marriage-like” relationship in another province or country does not mean that you are “common-law” partners or “Adult Interdependent Partners” in Alberta.

“Common-law” partners under federal law

Under federal law, you become “common-law partners” (also called “unmarried spouses”) after one year of living together in a romantic (or “conjugal”) relationship. You also become common-law partners when you have a child together (including adopting a child together), even if you have been living together for less than a year. As a result, for federal purposes (such as filing taxes), your “marital status” becomes “common-law.” This happens no matter where you live in Canada.

Once you are in a “common-law” relationship, you and your partner are treated very much like married spouses for many federal issues (including tax benefits). Couples who have been living together for less than one year are not treated the same as married spouses (unless they also have a child together).

However, a couple may be considered “common-law” under federal law, but does not necessarily meet the requirements to be in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship” under Alberta law. See the “Were you in an Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)?” section below for information about those requirements.

Be Aware

If you live together, as soon as you have a child together, you also become Adult Interdependent Partners under Alberta law.

Officially ending a common-law relationship under federal law

To end a common-law relationship, you and your former partner will have to live separate and apart for 90 days in a row. Living “separate and apart” means that at least one of you believes that the relationship is at an end, even if you are still living together in the same house. A physical separation that is based on need or special circumstances (such as going to school or working in another province), when both parties still consider themselves a couple, is not considered an end of the relationship. Any separation of less than 90 days does not count toward the 90 days.

For example:

  • you separate for 60 days;
  • you then get back together for a few weeks, then separate again;
  • the 90-day period starts again from the first day of that second separation.

Once you have met the 90-day separation requirement, you will need to register your new “marital status” with the federal government. For information about how to do this, see the “Ending the relationship: If you were living together but not in an AIR” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

No entitlements under Alberta’s Family Law Act

In Alberta, when you have only federal “common-law” status (that is, you do not meet the requirements to be considered an Adult Interdependent Partner under Alberta law), there are no laws that specifically address the breakdown of your relationship. Although there might be in other provinces or countries, this is not the case in Alberta. In other words: when your relationship ends, you are not entitled to apply for partner support or division of property.

However, although there is no law specifically addressing the breakdown of this kind of relationship, all other general law applies. For example: what the law says about owning things in “joint tenancy” or having a “joint debt” still applies. For that reason, please review the “At the start: Breakup has just occurred” section above, and continue reading this Information Page as some of the information does apply to you.

Be Aware

Every province has a different law about living in a “marriage-like” relationship without getting married. Just because your relationship may previously have been recognized as some kind of “marriage-like” relationship in another province or country does not mean that you are “common-law” partners or “Adult Interdependent Partners” in Alberta.

Were you in an Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)?

In Alberta, your rights and options upon separation depend in part on whether or not you were in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship.” 

A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a relationship of interdependence with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (see the “What the words mean” section above); or
  • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

For more general information about Adult Interdependent Relationships, including how to determine if you were in an AIR, see the following resources.

Web Adult Interdependent Relationships FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Living Together: Adult Interdependent Relationships
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Dating and New Relationships for Older Adults
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

If you were in an AIR, you may be able to apply for partner support under the Family Law Act, You may also be able to make a claim for some of the property you acquired together. For more information about these topics, see the following Information Pages.

If you were not in an AIR, neither of the above options are available to you.

Be Aware

Regardless of your relationship status, if you have a child with another person, that child has a right to child support. For more information about that, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

For more information about your rights and obligations when leaving an AIR, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Cohabiting Relationships and Adult Interdependent Partners
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Common Law Separation in Canada
Divorce Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
The issue of the “separation”: Common-law partners and Adult Interdependent Partners

The word “separation” can get confusing, as lawyers, courts, and legal information materials can use this term to refer to both:

  • the first stage of separation (living “separate and apart”); and
  • the “official” separation (when the common-law partners have been separated for more than 90 days and when AIPs are legally considered “former Adult Interdependent Partners”).

In this section we discuss the first stage—living “separate and apart.”

For couples with federal common-law status, living “separate and apart” is the only way to end their status as common-law partners under federal law.

For Adult Interdependent Partners, living “separate and apart” is only one way to reach the status of “former Adult Interdependent Partners”—the other ways are described in the “Ending an AIR” section below.

Remember

For people who lived together for less than one year and do not have a child together, the start of the separation is also the end of the relationship—there is no need to live “separate and apart” for any length of time to formally end such a relationship.

Just as with married couples, it is possible for Adult Interdependent Partners, or couples with federal common-law status, to “separate” without ending the relationship. For example, couples may have to live apart because one partner has to be away for an extended period of time because of school or work. Such couples are not “separating.” Or, they may briefly live apart for a while in a “trial separation,” during which time they have not officially decided to end the relationship.

As a result, in order to reach the point when you will be considered “separated,” and your relationship will be at an end, you must meet certain requirements. Specifically:

  • federal common-law partners must be separated for at least 90 days, with at least one of the partners intending this to be a separation, before their status as common-law ends; and
  • Adult Interdependent Partners must be separated for a year, with at least one of the partners intending this to be a separation, before their status as Adult Interdependent Partners ends—after a year of separation, they become “former” Adult Interdependent Partners. However, “separation” for one year is not the only way to end an Adult Interdependent Relationship—there are faster ways (see the “Ending an AIR” section below for more information).

When does separation start?

Usually, the start of the “separation” period is when one partner tells the other that he or she wants to separate. The partner being told about the separation does not have to “agree” to the separation. In many cases, the former partners can agree on the date of separation.

In Alberta, for all non-married partners (whether in an AIR or having federal common-law status), there is no specific paperwork that has to be filed to “prove” a separation. You can be “legally separated” (either temporarily or permanently) without a piece of paper.

What does separation look like?

Although separation usually means living in separate places, this does not have to be the case. You may be separated from your partner even if you continue to live in the same house. However, when you do live in the same house, it is more difficult to prove that you are separated if you ever need to do so.

If you are ever in court about this issue, the judge will look at all of the facts of the situation. The key concern is when the couple stopped “marriage-like” activities such as:

  • sharing a bedroom;
  • having sex;
  • going to family events together;
  • sharing a social life;
  • eating together;
  • providing emotional comfort;
  • doing each other’s laundry; and
  • cooking and cleaning for each other.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web How can you prove you're separated if you and your spouse still live together?
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The 16 Ways to Know You are Separated
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

“Proof” of separation

One way you can prove that you have separated is to provide evidence of the recent changes in your life, such as a change in address, bank accounts, utilities bills, and Designations of Beneficiary forms. Another way is to sign a “Statutory Declaration.” For information on how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Reconciliation

Sometimes partners separate for awhile and then get back together. This is called “reconciliation.” If you and your partner reconcile, it can change the date when the relationship officially comes to an end.

For couples with only federal common-law status, any separation of less than 90 days does not count toward the 90 days. For example:

  • you separate for 60 days;
  • you then get back together for a few weeks, then separate again;
  • the 90-day period starts again from the first day of that second separation.

For Adult Interdependent Partners, , a reconciliation of more than 90 days will change your situation. If the reconciliation is longer than 90 days, the one-year separation period will have to begin again if the partners later decide to permanently separate. So, if you get back together for more than 90 days, the clock resets. This means you will have to live separate and apart for another 12 months to end your AIR. However, you can still choose to use one of the other ways to end the AIR (see the “Ending an AIR” section below for more information about that).

For example:

  • You separate for 6 months.
  • You get back together for 4 months, then separate again.
  • The first separation does not count because you reconciled for more than 90 days. The 1-year separation period starts again from the first day of that second separation.
Ending an AIR: Becoming “former” Adult Interdependent Partners

When a person is married, there is a specific document required to end the relationship: the divorce certificate. There is no such document at the end of an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

However, Adult Interdependent Relationships are still somewhat regulated in Alberta, and your AIR does not officially end until you become “former” Adult Interdependent Partners. Unlike for people not in an AIR, you cannot become “former” Adult Interdependent Partners simply by moving out. This is important to understand, because as long as you are considered to be another person’s Adult Interdependent Partner, you continue to have all the rights and responsibilities of an Adult Interdependent Partner. For more information on what those rights and responsibilities are, see the Living Together: Common-law Partnerships and Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

The 5 ways to end your AIR

There are 5 ways to end your AIR, and become a “former” Adult Interdependent Partner:

  1. Enter into a written agreement that says that the Adult Interdependent Partners intend to live separate and apart without the possibility of reconciliation. In this case, the AIR ends as soon as the agreement is signed. There is no need to wait one year. For more information about signing such an agreement, see the Process tab of this Information Page. Keep in mind that this is a contract like any other, and must include the standard requirements for contracts, such as a date and signatures. For more information about these requirements, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.
  2. Live separate and apart for more than one year, without getting back together (“reconciling”) for a period of more than 90 days. During that year, at least one of the Adult Interdependent Partners must intend that the AIR not continue. The other partner does not have to agree. For more information about living “separate and apart” and reconciliation, see the “The issue of the separation” section above.
  3. One of the Adult Interdependent Partners becomes the Adult Interdependent Partner of someone else. You cannot have more than one Adult Interdependent Partner at a time. In this case, the AIR ends as soon as that person becomes the Adult Interdependent Partner of another person. There is no need to wait one year.
  4. One of the Adult Interdependent Partners marries another person. In this case, the AIR ends upon the marriage.
  5. Get a Declaration of Irreconcilability (see below). In this case, the AIR ends as soon as the appeal period is over.There is no need to wait one year.

For more general information about ending an AIR, see the following resource.

Web Adult Interdependent Relationships FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See questions 16-18.

Declaration of Irreconcilability

Queen's Bench

 

A “Declaration of Irreconcilability” is a court-issued document that indicates you are separated and not working on getting back together. Married couples can use this in the time before they get a divorce to prove that they are separated. For adult interdependent partners, however, this document is one of the ways to bring the relationship to an end. You do not need this document to end your adult interdependent relationship (there are 4 other ways, described above).

Be Aware

Getting this document is a full court process, and can be complicated and time-consuming.

 

If you think you need a Declaration of Irreconcilability, see the “Declaration of Irreconcilability” section on the Process tab of this Information Page and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
How separation affects your taxes

Separating from your partner will affect your taxes. This is true for both Adult Interdependent Partners and couples with only federal common-law status. For information on updating your “marital status” with the Canada Revenue Agency, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

It is important to know about these tax implications so that you can plan accordingly. See the following resources for more information. Some information is given in the context of the end of a marriage, but many things also apply to ending a non-married relationship.

PDF Tax Matters Toolkit: Separation & Divorce
Canadian Bar Association
English


Web Tax Implications of Divorce for Ontario, Canada Residents
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outsife Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Can we afford to get divorced? Costs of Divorce - Separation
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Tax Consequences in Family Law (article included in Family Law Boot Camp: Family Law by the Numbers)
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Ending an engagement

If you and your partner were engaged when you decided to separate, you may have some additional issues to think about.

Breach of promise to marry

Although many of us think of an engagement as only a tradition, in some jurisdictions (including Alberta), an engagement is viewed as an “agreement to marry”—in other words, a contract—and there may be legal consequences if that contract is broken.

Although an engaged couple cannot be forced to marry if one of them does not want to, the person who breaks the engagement may be sued for “breach of promise to marry,” and damages may be awarded if the other person suffered financial losses as a result of the marriage not going ahead as planned. Given the high cost of going to court, suing for breach of promise is quite rare and is usually only done in extreme circumstances.

Be Aware

Suing for breach of promise to marry is not possible in all provinces (for example: Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia). However, it is still possible in Alberta.

 

For more information about breach of promise to marry, see the following resources.

Web About marriage in Canada
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Getting Married in Alberta
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See "Engagement."

Web What happens when an engagement is broken?
Legal Line
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 8.

The following resource is an example of a court case about breach of promise to marry. Although it is from 1962, it still applies in Alberta.

The engagement ring

A more common topic that comes up as a result of the broken engagement is the issue of who gets to keep the engagement ring.

Usually, whoever broke off the engagement gives up the right to the ring. This approach views the ring as the symbol of the contract to marry: whoever breaks the contract loses the ring.

However, court judgments do not always take this approach. Instead, some courts have viewed the ring as a “conditional” gift. If the condition is not met (in this case, the “condition” is the wedding), the ring should be returned to the person who bought it, no matter who ended the engagement.

Other courts may view the ring as an “unconditional” gift, meaning it belongs to the recipient as soon as it is given, no matter what happens later (including the wedding not going ahead).

Again, given the high cost of going to court, bringing this issue to court is quite rare and is usually only done in extreme circumstances.

For more information about what happens to the engagement ring, please see the following resources.

Web The Engagement Ring: Whose Property is it?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Who keeps engagement ring?
Wagner Sidlofsky LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web About marriage in Canada
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Wedding gifts

Sometimes, engagements are ended very close to the wedding day, or even on the wedding day. In such cases, many people may have bought gifts for the couple who was supposed to get married.

Gifts given “in contemplation of marriage” (in other words, “wedding gifts”) are generally returned to the people who bought them. However, this topic is not really dealt with in law, and is more a question of custom.

Changing your name

If you took your former partner’s name during your relationship, you may wish to change back to your birth name after separating.

Often, when a person takes his or her partner’s last name, it is based on tradition—this is also called “assuming” your partner’s last name. It is not a formal “legal name change” unless the person applied to the government (through Vital Statistics) to legally change his or her name (which most people do not do). If you completed a legal name change, you will need to complete another legal name change.

If you did not complete a legal name change, you can go back to using the name on your birth certificate at any time. You do not need to apply to the government to do this, and you do not need to wait for your common-law status to end or wait to be “former” Adult Interdependent Partners.

However, institutions like banks sometimes want to see “evidence” of a name change. This is usually to avoid fraud—so that you cannot borrow money or get credit in more than one name. If this applies to you, and if you have any court paperwork related to the breakdown of your relationship, you can demonstrate your name change by showing your court paperwork to the bank. To do so, you will include all of your names in the court paperwork. For example: your birth name was Mary Elizabeth Smith. You changed your name to Mary Elizabeth Jones. In your court paperwork, you could say: “Mary Elizabeth Jones, also known by her maiden name, Mary Elizabeth Smith.”

If you do not have any court paperwork, you can try to show the bank your separation agreement (if you have one), or the bank may have its own paperwork that you can use (but then that will only be usable at that bank). Or, you may be able to use a “Statutory Declaration”—for more information about that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about changing your name, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Changing Your Name
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Changing a Name | How it works
Government of Alberta
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For many of the above issues, being Aboriginal does not change anything.


However, if you live on-reserve (whether or not you are Aboriginal) there can be major differences. If you live on-reserve, you will want to see the information about what special rights exist upon the breakdown of a non-married relationship, as well as how general separation-related rights can be affected by living on-reserve. If you have children and/or are applying to the Court for partner support, living on-reserve can affect you as well.

See the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page for detailed information about these topics.

Blended family considerations

The law around non-married relationships is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your separation will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

LGBTQ considerations

In Canada and Alberta, the laws around non-married relationships are no different for LGBTQ couples than they are for anyone else. Your separation will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, there may be some difficulties if you have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning. Whenever you involve the law, you must identify yourself and you must always identify yourself in the same way. This can take some extra work.

For example, if you became an Adult Interdependent Partner while still using the name and/or gender assigned at birth. Now you are involving a court using a different name and/or gender than that assigned at birth. You may have additional steps to take to show that you are the same person.

This is a very complex area: consider consulting a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Polyamorous relationships

Under the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, a person cannot have more than one Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP) at the same time. Also, a person cannot become the AIP of another person if that first person is already living with his or her married spouse. Therefore, there can only ever be two AIPs that are subject to the rights and responsibilities related to the ending of an AIR.

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

One or more parties in the relationship may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • conditional permanent residents;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

In these situations, family breakdown may be much more complex. This is especially true if one partner is being sponsored by the other for immigration, or if the relationship involves domestic violence.

Although all of the general family law rules and processes still apply, immigration issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • what to do when,
  • whether and when to involve a lawyer,
  • what you need to include in any agreement, and even
  • what you can ask for in court.

If any of the above applies to you, be sure to review the ​Family Breakdown and the Immigration Process ​and the following resource.

Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
If one or both of the partners are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or both of the partners is involved in criminal law issues at the time of family breakdown, the situation is much more complex. This is even more true if there is also domestic violence involved. Although all the general family law rules and processes still apply, the involvement of criminal issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • whether and when to involve a lawyer;
  • visitation and support issues; and
  • when and how to schedule court hearings.

If you are experiencing family breakdown and one or more of you is involved in criminal proceedings, be sure to review the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law Information Page.

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your separation issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate.

A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your partner. It can deal with some, or all, of your separation-related issues, including:

  • the separation itself;
  • guardianship and parenting;
  • child support;
  • partner support; and
  • division of property.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Separation Agreement Checklist
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Webinar Separation Agreements: A Plan to Move On After Separation
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more detailed information about the law around agreements, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

More information

See the following resources for a good overview of all of the above non-court options.

PDF Breaking up: Without court
Canadian Bar Association
English

PDF Se séparer sans l’aide des tribunaux
Canadian Bar Association
French

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #1.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English

Do you need to go to court?

Unlike married spouses, as unmarried partners you do not have to involve the court to officially end your relationship.

For couples who lived together for less than one year and did not have a child together, the relationship ends as soon as the couple separates, and there is no law governing that separation. As a result, you will never need to go to family court to resolve the issue of the “separation.”

For couples who only had federal common-law status, the requirement for the 90-day separation period may lead to a dispute around federal benefits or obligations, but these would be resolved with the federal government itself (through the process of changing your marital status with the CRA, and in any discussion you have with individual government departments). As a result, you will likely never need to go to family court to resolve the issue of the “separation.”

For Adult Interdependent Partners, the process of ending the Adult Interdependent Relationship (in other words, becoming “former” Adult Interdependent Partners) is more complex, and there is law about it. You do not have to resolve your separation-related issues in court. But if there is a disagreement about the separation, you could involve a court. However, usually questions about the “separation” or the “end” the Adult Interdependent Relationship do not become an issue in court on their own. Mostly, these questions are connected to one of the other issues in the breakdown of your relationship, such as partner support or property division. For example: the exact date of your separation can be important for property division.

See the following Information Pages for more information about resolving your separation-related issues in court.

Updating your Will and other legal documents

When you entered into your relationship, you may have signed various kinds of legal documents giving each other legal decision-making powers or financial benefits in case of your illness or death.

Many people assume that any previous legal documents will no longer be valid when their AIR ends. This is incorrect. As a result, you will need to review, and perhaps re-do, various kinds of legal documents.

For more information, see the following resources and the rest of this section.

Web Important to update your estate plan after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Web Changing your Estate Plan after separation
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Web Should I execute a new will after separation or divorce in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Power of Attorney (PoA)

A Power of Attorney (PoA) is a document that gives someone else the ability to make your financial decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. If you signed a PoA giving decision-making power to your former partner, you may want to sign a new one (your breakup does not make the PoA invalid). For more detailed information, see the Planning for Illness Information Page.

Personal Directive (PD)

A Personal Directive (PD) is a document that gives someone else the ability to make your personal decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. “Personal decisions” are all non-financial decisions (including medical decisions). If you signed a PD giving decision-making power to your former partner, you will now want to sign a new one (your breakup does not make the PD invalid). For more detailed information, see the Planning for Illness Information Page.

Will

A Will is a document that says what will happen to your “estate” once you have died. Your “estate” is most (or sometimes even all) of your property, including money, that is distributed by your Will.

You may have signed a Will that:

  • gives some or all of your estate to your former partner, and/or
  • makes your former partner the Executor (also called a “personal representative”) of your estate.

Your breakup does not necessarily make the Will invalid. So now you will probably want to sign a new one. For more detailed information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Designation of Beneficiary forms

When a person dies, much of what they own goes into their estate to be dealt with in their Will. But there are certain types of things that do not pass through the Will. Instead, they go directly to a specific person. This includes assets and policies that are left to someone (called the “beneficiary”) because that person is named on a “Designation of Beneficiary” form. Examples include: life insurance, pension plans, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).

A separation does not affect your Designation of Beneficiary forms. In other words, if you do not sign a new form after you separate, your former partner will get the death benefit. If you separate, be sure to sign new Designation of Beneficiary forms.

For more information about Designation of Beneficiary forms, please see the following resources.

Web The Importance of Beneficiary Designations
Advisor Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
 
PDF Beneficiary Designations: Why, when and how?
Manulife Financial
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Designated beneficiaries
Government of Canada
English

Web Bénéficiaires désignés
Government of Canada
French

PDF Understanding Insurance Basics
Government of Canada
English

PDF Mieux comprendre les assurances
Government of Canada
French

Web Module 6. Insurance
Government of Canada
English

Web Module 6. Assurances
Government of Canada
French

Process

Learn more about how to end your non-married romantic relationship, including:

  • Ways to legally end your common-law relationship
  • Ways to legally end your Adult Interdependent Relationship
  • Living “separate and apart” (including when it starts and how to prove it)
  • Changing your name
  • Options for resolving issues out of court
  • What to expect if you go to court

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is about the processes of “separation” in a non-married romantic relationship, and actually “ending” a non-married romantic relationship.

There can be many legal issues to consider when ending a non-married romantic relationship. This Information Page deals only with the process of actually separating from your Adult Interdependent Partner.

For more information about other issues to consider at the end of a relationship, see the following Information Pages.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

 

If you are spouses who were in a married relationship, you are on the wrong Information Page. See the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page instead.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is for partners who live in Alberta. If the separation will involve courts in another province (or have already), or if either of the partners live in another province it may not be possible for their separation issues to be resolved in Alberta. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab. For information on the law about ending a non-married romantic relationship, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The topics on this page are listed in the order they are generally considered—the answers of one can affect what happens next and what choices you may need to make.

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your separation issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate.

A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your partner. It can deal with some, or all, of your separation-related issues, including:

  • the separation itself;
  • guardianship and parenting;
  • child support;
  • partner support; and
  • division of property.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Separation Agreement Checklist
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Webinar Separation Agreements: A Plan to Move On After Separation
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more detailed information about the law around agreements, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

More information

See the following resources for a good overview of all of the above non-court options.

PDF Breaking up: Without court
Canadian Bar Association
English

PDF Se séparer sans l’aide des tribunaux
Canadian Bar Association
French

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #1.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English

Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

Throughout your separation process, you can choose to either be represented by a lawyer, or to represent yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you will be called a “self-represented litigant.”

Hiring a lawyer

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will explain to you what is happening with your case and why. A lawyer can help you reach an out-of-court agreement, or represent you in court.

However, even if you do have a lawyer, you may wish to continue reading this (and other Information Pages) to educate yourself further.

For more information about your options for legal representation and other legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Contact RCAS to see what help they recommend.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

More information about available help is on the Information Pages about each topic.

What to expect in court

For some separating couples, court may be an option. So, you may want to start learning about what you can expect in court. The court process is not simple, and there are many rules. If you represent yourself, you will need to follow the required rules and processes.  

In addition, the rules and processes are different depending on the court you go to. For people who were in an Adult Interdependent Relationship, many of the issues associated with the end of the relationship are dealt with in Provincial Court (for example: guardianship and parenting time, child support, and spousal support). However, some issues can only be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench (for example: property, parentage, and Declarations of Irreconcilability).

For more information on what to expect in court, see the Understanding the Court System Information Page and the Information Pages about the following topics:

The issue of the “separation”

As described on the Law tab of this Information Page, in Alberta there is no specific process that has to be completed to “prove” a separation (in this case “separation” means the period of “living separate and apart”).

You can be “legally separated” (either temporarily or permanently) without a piece of paper. One way you can prove that you have separated is to provide evidence of the recent changes in your life, such as a change in address, bank accounts, utility bills, and Designations of Beneficiary forms.

If you are trying to prove that you are “living separate and apart,” you can also sign a “Statutory Declaration.” This can be used by either Adult Interdependent Partners or by people who were living together but not in an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

A Statutory Declaration is a written and sworn statement of fact. It is often used outside of courts to allow a person to declare something to be true. It is a way to satisfy some legal requirement when no other evidence is available. It is permitted by section 18 of the Alberta Evidence Act, which provides a sample of the wording:

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

To complete a Statutory Declaration, you swear it in front of someone who is authorized to administer oaths, such as a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public. You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is a “Notary” and why do I need one?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Ending the relationship: If you were living together but not in an Adult Interdependent Relationship

Living together for less than one year with no children together

As described on the Law tab of this Information Page, for people who were living together for less than 1 year and had no children together, the separation is also the end of the relationship. As a result, there are no further steps that need to be taken to prove that the relationship is over.

 

Common-law partners under federal law

If you have ended a common-law relationship (in other words, if you have met the requirement for a 90-day separation), you will need to let the Canada Revenue Agency know of the change in your marital status. To register your new marital status with the federal government, see the following resource.


Remember

It is illegal to lie to the government about your marital status.

Ending the relationship: Becoming “former” Adult Interdependent Partners

As described on the Law tab of this Information Page, there are 5 ways to end your Adult Interdependent Relationship, and become a “former” Adult Interdependent Partner.

Option 1: Written agreement

This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or “kitchen table” option.

This agreement can deal with:

  • only the end of the AIR (in other words, it simply says that you become “former Adult Interdependent Partners” once it is signed); or
  • the end of the AIR combined with other topics (such as support issues and/or division of property).

Regardless of the exact content, the agreement will have to include standard requirements for all contracts, such as names, a date, and signatures.

For more detailed information about the law around making an agreement see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Option 2: Living “separate and apart” for one year

Information about living separate and apart is in the “The issue of the separation” section above. There is nothing you need to do, no process to follow, at the end of the one year you become “former” Adult Interdependent Partners.

Be Aware

During that one year of separation, you are not yet a “former” Adult Interdependent Partner. Therefore, the rights and responsibilities of Adult Interdependent Relationships are not over. For this reason, you may wish to consider bringing the AIR to an end by using one of the other options available to you, which take effect immediately.

 

Option 3: Becoming someone else’s Adult Interdependent Partner

For information about becoming someone else’s Adult Interdependent Partner, see the Common Law Partnerships and Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

Option 4: Marrying someone else

For information about getting married, see the Getting Married Information Page.

Options 5: Getting a “Declaration of Irreconcilability”

A “Declaration of Irreconcilability” is a court-issued document that indicates you are separated and not working on getting back together. Married couples can use this in the time before they get a divorce to prove that they are separated. For Adult Interdependent Partners, however, this document is one of the ways to bring the relationship to an end.

You do not need this document to end your Adult Interdependent Relationship. There are 4 other ways described in this section. Getting this document is a full court process, and can be complicated and time-consuming. Before you choose this option, be sure to look at whether any of the other, easier options could work for you.

Applying for a Declaration of Irreconcilability

To make an application for a Declaration of Irreconcilability you must apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench (not the Provincial Court) by filing a Claim and a Statement. To file the Claim, you will need to complete the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Claim - Family Law Act (Form FL-10 / CTS3459)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

You will also need to complete the Statement required for a Declaration of Irreconcilability. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

For information about all of the rules, processes and paperwork involved in making this kind of application, as well as information about the steps you will need to take, see the following resource.

For more detailed information, including getting your documents checked over, “swearing” the paperwork, filing the paperwork, serving the paperwork, choosing a court date, and what to expect in court, see the Understanding the Court System and Processes Information Page.

Responding to an Application for a Declaration of Irreconcilability

You do not have to contest (disagree with) a Declaration of Irreconcilability—you can agree. For information about how to file for a Declaration of Irreconcilability by consent, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

You can also suggest one of the other ways of ending the AIR explained above.

However, you may have been served with the paperwork that asks for a Declaration of Irreconcilability, and you do disagree. You may want to argue against the request. This is called “contesting.” To do that, you can complete a Response by using the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Response - Family Law Act (Form FL-11 / CTS3460)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

If you respond using the above form, you will also need to complete the Reply Statement required for a Declaration of Irreconcilability. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Irreconcilability (Form FL-78 / CTS3509)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

For information about all of the rules, processes and paperwork involved in making this kind of application, as well as information about the steps you will need to take, see the following resource. This kit is intended for Applicants, but much of the general information about completing your paperwork and preparing for court also apply to you, the Respondent.

For more detailed information, including getting your documents checked over, “swearing” the paperwork, filing the paperwork, serving the paperwork, choosing an application date, and what to expect in court, see the Court Process Information Page.

You do not have to contest this -- you can agree. For information about how to file for a Declaration of Irreconcilability by consent, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Former AIPs: Registering your change in marital status with the federal government

When you are in an AIR under Alberta law, your “marital status” is generally “common-law” for federal purposes (such as filing income taxes). As a result, once you are “former” Adult Interdependent Partners, you may also have to change your marital status with the federal government. To register your new marital status with the federal government, see the following resource.


Remember

It is illegal to lie to the government about your marital status.

Changing your name

Often, when a person takes his or her partner’s last name, it is based on tradition—this is also called “assuming” your partner’s last name. It is not a formal “legal name change” unless the person applied to the government (through Vital Statistics) to legally change his or her name (which most people do not do). If you completed a legal name change, you will need to complete another legal name change.

If you did not complete a legal name change, you can go back to using the name on your birth certificate at any time. You do not need to apply to the government to do this, and you do not need to wait to no longer be common-law partners or “former” Adult Interdependent Partners.

If you need to provide “evidence” of a name change, you can show your court paperwork to the bank. To do so, you will include all of your names in the court paperwork. For example: your birth name was Mary Elizabeth Smith. You changed your name to Mary Elizabeth Jones. In your court paperwork, you could say: “Mary Elizabeth Jones, also known by her maiden name, Mary Elizabeth Smith.”

If you do not have any court paperwork, you can try to show the bank your separation agreement (if you have one), or the bank may have its own paperwork that you can use (but then that will only be usable at that bank).

Or, you may be able to use a “Statutory Declaration.” A Statutory Declaration is a written and sworn statement of fact. It is often used outside of courts to allow a person to declare something to be true. It is a way to satisfy some legal requirement when no other evidence is available. It is permitted by section 18 of the Alberta Evidence Act, which provides a sample of the wording:

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English
 

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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