In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for couples to live together without being legally married. Couples who live together in a marriage-like relationship without being legally married are often said to be living in a common-law relationship.

In Alberta, there are no legislated rules for property division upon the breakdown of a common-law relationship. The Matrimonial Property Act applies only to married spouses. Property division for common-law partners is based on legal ownership and the law of unjust enrichment, which is judge-made law. When common-law partners separate, there are no presumptions or formulas about how they should divide property. If they cannot agree, they face litigation which can be time-consuming, expensive, and risky.

In this Report for Discussion, ALRI proposes legislated rules for division of property upon the breakdown of a relationship between common-law partners. These proposals are intended to make the law clearer and more predictable, promote settlement, and improve access to justice.