New Family Property Act Legislation Benefits Unmarried Couples, OSUJI & SMITH FAMILY LAWYERS Report

New Family Property Act Legislation Benefits Unmarried Couples, OSUJI & SMITH FAMILY LAWYERS Report

Charles Osuji

Charles Osuji

August 25, 2021 04:50 PM

As of January 1st, 2020, the Family Property Act applies to both married (now divorced) and unmarried (now separated) couples, reports Osuji & Smith Lawyers, an award-winning law firm in Calgary, Alberta.

The updated legislation is good news for Alberta families who face complex issues like the division of property after divorce or separation.

At the end of a relationship, couples (both married and unmarried) rely on family law to come to agreements regarding child support, child custody and parenting, spousal support, and division of property. These agreements reduce stress and save money.

The lawyers at Osuji & Smith have over 41 years of experience in finding the best possible solutions for Alberta families.


In a separation or divorce situation involving children of two working parents, Canadian legislation is in place to ensure the financial support is there to provide a safe and supportive environment for the family.

For divorced couples, the Federal Support Guidelines (part of the Divorce Act) apply. For unmarried parents, the Family Law Act addresses child support under the Alberta Child Support Guidelines.

The intention of these laws is to establish fairness and reduce conflict between family members, but things can become complicated. That’s why the family law attorneys of Osuji & Smith are available to help.


In addition to financial support, issues of child custody and parenting add stress and complexity in situations of divorce or separation.

Please note that the Divorce Act removes the terms “custody” and “access” and replaces them with “parenting orders,” “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibility” aimed at reinforcing both parents’ responsibilities for their children and ensuring that the focus is on the child.

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, the term “parenting” refers to how divorced or separated parents will make decisions regarding their children and how the time with their children will be shared between parents. The intention of this legislation is to ensure the best outcome for the children involved.

Child custody in Alberta involves 4 scenarios:

  1. Joint Custody
  2. Sole Custody
  3. Shared Custody
  4. Split Custody

In situations where a mutual decision cannot be made about the custody of the children, the family law attorneys at Osuji & Smith can help parents represent their case to the court so an agreement can be reached with the best interests of the children in mind.


The Supreme Court of Canada defines spousal support entitlements in 3 ways:

  1. Contractual – When there is already a signed document in place, such as a prenuptial agreement
  2. Compensatory – When one partner gave up their career or earning opportunities to live with their partner
  3. Non-compensatory – When one partner faces economic hardships following separation or divorce

Spousal support payments are determined by several factors, including the length of the marriage or partnership, and whether children are involved.

Spousal support is a complicated topic. A dedicated family lawyer can help you avoid costly litigation and additional stress.


Prior to January 1, 2020, the Matrimonial Property Act governed the division of property and assets between married couples who were divorcing. Now, that legislation has been renamed the Family Property Act and applies to unmarried couples in an interdependent relationship, as well.

The 2 primary criteria Alberta uses to determine interdependent relationships include:

  1. Cohabitation of 3 years or more
  2. Having a child together, by birth or adoption

For unmarried couples facing separation, their rights and entitlements are typically the same as the legal principles governing traditional divorce.

Former Adult Interdependent Partners (AIPs) are required to meet the following criteria to formally execute a division of property agreement:

  • The agreement must be in writing
  • The agreement must be signed by both parties without compulsion
  • The agreement must have certificates attached which are signed by separate lawyers

Note that the Family Property Act requires each partner to engage a lawyer to provide independent legal advice and assist in this process.

The Act defines family property as any property (including debt) that is acquired by either partner or jointly during the interdependent relationship or after separation. The value of the property is based on the date of trial, not the date of separation.

The division of property can be a complex process. For example, there are exemptions of property that are subject to division, like insurance proceeds or inheritances. The advice of property division lawyers like those at Osuji & Smith is essential to achieve a fair resolution.


Dee M. believes she “made the best decision” when she reached out to Osuji & Smith to assist with her divorce. “After the first phone call… their confidence and knowledge put me at ease… I knew then I was in good hands.”

Another Osuji & Smith client reports, “Right from Day 1 of my separation and eventual divorce, Charles Osuji responded to all elements of this process with kindness, respect and legal intellect. He guided the process thoughtfully and we came to fair and intelligent conclusions together during times of extreme stress…” Jolene S. concludes, “Charles… does it all with an approachable personality, good intentions for all involved, and a smile… Osuji & Smith is top shelf in all categories…”

Osuji & Smith Lawyers in Calgary, Alberta

As the recipient of the 2021 Top Choice Awards in Calgary and a 2019 Hope Awards recipient, Osuji & Smith Lawyers have been recognized for their significant contributions in the lives of children, youth and families, and in our communities.

For more information about family law in Alberta, or for help in matters related to child support, child custody and parenting, spousal support, or division of property, contact the dedicated family lawyers at Osuji & Smith.

If you have more questions about FAMILY LAW please read our FAMILY LAW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS page

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