The property rights that you have at the end of a relationship depend on what kind of relationship you had in the first place. Are you married? Living together? If you are married, then the property rights that you have come from Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act. If you are living together but are not married, then there is no law that sets out how to divide the property.
The Matrimonial Property Act divides property into three different categories: property that will be divided equally, property that will not be divided, and property that will be divided based on what is fair. All of the property from the relationship will fall into one of these three categories. This chart sets out some examples of the different kinds of property.
For unmarried couples, property division is not as clear because there is no law that sets out how to divide the property. Property that you own with your partner is usually divided equally, while you get to keep the assets that are in your own name, and the other person gets to keep the assets that are in their name. If it would not be fair for you to keep all of the assets that are in your name, then your ex can make an application to divide the property based on a claim for unjust enrichment. For example, if you owned the house in your name, and your ex lived with you for ten years and helped you with major renovations, yard work, and other maintenance, then it might not be fair for you to be able to walk away with the entire value of the house when your ex contributed to the value of that asset.
Here is a chart that sets out the process of property division for unmarried people.
The charts in this article are from a new series of booklets, Families and the Law, which was developed by the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta, in partnership with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. Each of the five booklets in the series addresses a different area of family law.
- Property Division for Married and Unmarried Couples
- Child Custody and Parenting
- Financial Support
- Representing Yourself in Family Court
- Young Parents