Ending a Non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship

Law

Adult Interdependent Partners living together in a non-romantic (platonic) relationship may want to end their legal relationship. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Determining if you were in an Adult Interdependent Relationship
  • Ways to legally end your Adult Interdependent Relationship
  • Living “separate and apart” (including when it starts and how to prove it)
  • 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: August 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for people who lived together in a non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship, and who wish to bring a formal end to that relationship. In other words, the relationship was platonic (not conjugal or sexual), and met the definition of an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

An Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR) is 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 the “What the words mean” section below for more about this); 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 be an AIR.

The law that applies to people who are or were in an AIR is the Alberta Family Law Act. This Information Page is all about the Family Law Act and the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.

This Information Page is not intended for people who were in a romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship or married:

There are many legal issues to consider when ending a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship. 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.

Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, the law about on-reserve family property (the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act) does not apply to you. This is because it only applies to couples who have been living in a conjugal (that is, sexual) relationship for at least one year.

Although it is rare for people in a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship to have the care and control of children together, it’s possible. If that was the case, the partners may have “stood in the place of a parent” to each other’s children. For more information about rights and responsibilities that arise in such situations, see the following Information Pages.

In general, the law on this Information Page is for families who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the partners affected should live in Alberta. If a court in any other province, territory, or country has already made an order in your case, or if a move has occurred or is planned, 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.

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 or adopt a child together.

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”). On this Information Page, we will only deal with the breakdown of non-romantic relationships. For information about the breakdown of romantic relationships, see the Ending a Non-married Romantic 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

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.

platonic

A word used to describe a relationship—a “platonic relationship” is a relationship of love or friendship, which may be intimate and affectionate, but is not sexual (conjugal).

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

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
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

Most people think of family violence and abuse happening only in romantic relationships. But abuse can also happen in non-romantic relationships.

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 you are the victim of domestic violence, there are a few places to start.

  • 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.
  • Know that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. For more information, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages.
  • 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.

How to use this website

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general family law information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon:

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.

More information

For more information on how domestic violence can affect your family law issues, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Family Violence: 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 are apart, 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.

Take steps to financially protect yourself

It is quite common for partners to try to hurt one another financially after separating. As a result, you may want to 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: Legal Considerations 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 “Out of court resolution options” section below.

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.

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. Although much of the information in these resources was intended for married or romantic partners, it can still apply to you.

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

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. Although much of the information on that Information Page was intended for married or romantic partners, it can still apply to you.

For more information about general things to consider when leaving a relationship, see the following resources. Although much of the information in these resources was intended for married or romantic partners, it can still apply to you.

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.

Web Getting separated or divorced
Government of Canada
English

Web Se séparer ou divorcer
Government of Canada
French

For more detailed information on financial issues in particular, see the following resources. Again, although much of the information in these resources was intended for married or romantic partners, it can still apply to you.

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

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
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 partners can address many issues. For example, it can include roles and responsibilities while they live together, and support and property rights of both partners 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, if you and your partner agreed to something that was illegal.

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.

Be certain you were 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 (AIR).

Be Aware

It is very important to make sure that you meet the legal definition of being in a platonic AIR. If you were not in an AIR, none of the requirements for ending an AIR will apply to you.

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.
Be Aware

You cannot become the Adult Interdependent Partner of someone if you are related by blood or adoption, unless you sign an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement with him or her.

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.

Be Aware

If you were not in an AIR, partner support is not available to you.

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. Although much of the information in these resources was intended for married or romantic partners, it can still apply to you.

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”

The word “separation” can get confusing. Lawyers, courts, and legal information materials all sometimes use this term to refer to both:

  • the first stage of separation (living “separate and apart”), and
  • the “official” separation (when Adult Interdependent Partners are legally considered “former Adult Interdependent Partners”).

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

In order to become formally “separated,” and have your AIR legally over, you and your AIP must be separated for a year. Also, at least one of the partners must have intended that year to be a separation. After that one year of separation, you become “former” Adult Interdependent Partners.

Be Aware

Living “separate and apart” is not the only way to reach the status of “former Adult Interdependent Partners.” The other (often faster) ways are described in the “Ending an Adult Interdependent Relationship” section below.

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, 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 “interdependence” part of the relationship ended. Interdependence includes:

  • sharing space,
  • 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 resource. Although much of the information in this resource was intended for married or romantic partners, the non-conjugal information can still apply to you.

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.

“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.

As 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 Adult Interdependent Relationship” 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 Adult Interdependent Relationship: 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.

Be Aware

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 obligations are, see the Lliving 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
Be Aware

Declarations of Irreconcilability were intended for ending romantic relationships, and it is very rare for them to be used in non-romantic situations. However, if no other option is suitable, it may be possible to use them to end a non-romantic AIR, as long as the situation is clearly explained in the documents.

Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

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

However, if you are applying to the Court for partner support and/or child support, living on-reserve can affect you. For more detailed information, see the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page.

Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, the law about on-reserve family property (the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act) does not apply to you. This is because it only applies to couples who have been living in a conjugal (that is, sexual) relationship for at least one year.

Updating your Will and other legal documents

When you entered into your platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR), 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. A few examples are listed below.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney 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 Power of Attorney giving decision-making power to your former Adult Interdependent Partner, you may want to sign a new one (your separation does not make the Power of Attorney invalid). For more detailed information, see the Planning for Illness Information Page.

Personal Directive

A Personal Directive 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 Personal Directive giving decision-making power to your former Adult Interdependent Partner, you will now want to sign a new one (your separation does not make the Personal Directive 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” after you die. 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 (the “beneficiary”) because that person is named on something called 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 Adult Interdependent 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, 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

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;
  • 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 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 the breakdown of the Adult Interdependent Relationship, 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 the breakdown of the Adult Interdependent Relationship and one or both 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?

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.

For more information about resolving your separation-related issues in court, see the Information Pages below.

Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, the law about on-reserve family property (the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act) does not apply to you. This is because it only applies to couples who have been living in a conjugal (that is, sexual) relationship for at least one year.

Although it is rare for people in a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship to have the care and control of children together, it’s possible. If that was the case, the partners may have “stood in the place of a parent” to each other’s children. For more information about rights and responsibilities that arise in such situations, see the following Information Pages.

 

Process

Learn more about how to end your non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship, including:

  • 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: August 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is about:

  • “separation” in a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship; and
  • actually “ending” a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship.
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.

There are many legal issues to consider when ending a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship. 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.

Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, the law about on-reserve family property (the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act) does not apply to you. This is because it only applies to couples who have been living in a conjugal (that is, sexual) relationship for at least one year.

Although it is rare for people in a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship to have the care and control of children together, it’s possible. If that was the case, the partners may have “stood in the place of a parent” to each other’s children. For more information about rights and responsibilities that arise in such situations, see the following Information Pages.

In general, the processes described 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 of this Information Page. For information on the law about ending a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

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.

Reaching your own separation agreement

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 and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages.

Representing yourself

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about resolving your separation-related issues in court, see the Information Pages below.

Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, the law about on-reserve family property (the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act) does not apply to you. This is because it only applies to couples who have been living in a conjugal (that is, sexual) relationship for at least one year.

Although it is rare for people in a platonic Adult Interdependent Relationship to have the care and control of children together, it’s possible. If that was the case, the partners may have “stood in the place of a parent” to each other’s children. For more information about rights and responsibilities that arise in such situations, see the following Information Pages.

What to expect in court

For some separating Adult Interdependent Partners, 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 partner support). However, some issues can only be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench (for example: property 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” 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.” 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: Becoming “former” Adult Interdependent Partners

As described on the Law tab of this Information Page, there are 5 ways to end your AIR, 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 on the Law tab of this Information Page. There is nothing you need to do, no process to follow, and at the end of 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 Partnership are not over. For this reason, you may wish to consider ending the AIR 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 Living Together 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.

Option 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.

You do not need this document to end your Adult Interdependent Relationship. There are 4 other ways described just above. 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.

Remember

Declarations of Irreconcilability were intended for ending romantic relationships, and it is very rare for them to be used in non-romantic situations. However, if no other option is suitable, it may be possible to use them to end a non-romantic AIR, as long as the situation is clearly explained in the documents.

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 & 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 a court date, and what to expect in court, see the Understanding the Court System & Processes Information Page.

Property division

The law and process about property division for unmarried couples also applies to people who have lived together in a non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship. For more information about this process, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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