The Family Statutes Amendment Act (the “FSAA”) came into force in Alberta in December of last year. The passing of the FSAA means a number of changes to family law legislation in the province. Below, we provide an overview of the significant changes that either have already come into effect or will be soon.

Property Division for Common Law Couples

While many issues relating to family law deal with parties who were or are married, not every couple decides to formalize their relationship through marriage. In Alberta, those living in common-law relationships (referred to within the province as adult interdependent partners) have largely enjoyed the benefits that married couples do. However, one area that has been lacking is how their property would be divided when they split up. The province’s Matrimonial Property Act previously applied only to married couples, leaving common-law partners with little to guide them under Alberta law when it came to dividing property after a breakdown of the relationship. Thanks to the amendments under the FSAA, the Matrimonial Property Act will be renamed the Family Property Act, and its provisions will extend to common-law couples.

The Matrimonial Property Act, which governs what happens to the property of married people, did not provide similar guidance to common-law partners. Once the new legislation takes effect, common-law couples will be able to draft customized property division agreements. Additionally, the amendment also specifies that property division rules will apply to property acquired after a relationship begins, which could impact couples who make large purchases while living together, but before getting married. It also clarifies that partners can enter into a property ownership and division agreement that applies both during their time of cohabitation as well as after marriage.

The amendments also provide a two-year limitation period for each interdependent partner to make a claim for property division starting on the date they knew (or should have known) their relationship ended.

Changes to Child Support for Adult Children

Child support for unmarried parents, or married parents who are not divorced is governed by the provincial Family Law Act. Child support for divorced parents is governed by the federal Divorce Act. The amendments under the FSAA offer a critical tool for those couples who fall within the purview of the Family Law Act and have a need for child support for an adult child who is unable to become independent from their parents’ care, for a variety of reasons. Until now, child support claims for adult children were not available to unmarried couples.

This change came as a result of a Calgary mother’s challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when she claimed the Family Law Act violated her constitutional rights in its previous form.

The repealing of the Married Women’s Act

The last significant change brought in under the FSAA is the repealing of the Married Women’s Act. Originally enacted in 1922, the legislation gave women more freedom to handle money, property, and legal responsibilities without their husbands’ involvement. However, it stopped short of recognizing that married women have their own legal personalities or that they have capacities outside of those held by their husbands. This law was made redundant with the advent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the amendment recognized the shortfalls of the Married Women’s Act.

What happens next?

The FSAA has received royal assent, which means it is now law. The changes it makes to adult child support eligibility are now in effect. The Married Women’s Act is also repealed as of now. Finally, the property division rules for adult common-law couples are set to come into force on January 1, 2020.

The team at Mincher Koeman is dedicated to helping guide you through your family law issues no matter how complex they may be. Our exclusive focus on family law helps our clients navigate the emotional and financial challenges a family law matter can present. If you have a family law issue that you need assistance with, please contact us online or phone at (403) 901-3000 to talk with one of our lawyers today.

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