Following the breakdown of a marriage or a common-law relationship (a “relationship of interdependence”), one of the major issues to resolve is how property is to be divided following a separation.

With the introduction of the Family Property Act, which replaced the Matrimonial Property Act, the rules for dividing property were established for both married couples and common-law partners.

The Family Property Act applies to spouses or common-law partners who separated on or after January 1, 2020. If you were married and separated before January 1, 2020, the old Matrimonial Property Act will apply. If you were in a common-law relationship and separated before January 1, 2020, then the law of unjust enrichment may apply.

How Does Property Division Work in Alberta?

In Alberta, under the Family Property Act and the Matrimonial Property Act, there is a legal starting point that all property acquired during a marriage (or common-law relationship) is divided equally. This is the case unless it appears to the Court that it would not be “just and equitable” to do so.

The Family Property Act also excludes certain property from being divided including property acquired as a gift from a third party, by inheritance, by a spouse before the marriage, for an award of damages in a civil lawsuit, or as proceeds of an insurance policy. These are exempt from division. However, if any exempt property increases in value, or if the exempt property is used to acquire other property between the date of marriage or acquisition and the time of trial, the Court will distribute the proceeds or increase in value in a manner that is “just and equitable”.

What is “just and equitable” will depend on the circumstances of the case. A Court will be deciding whether division should be equal or unequal. Under section 8 of the Family Property Act, the factors a Court would look at include:

  • Contributions made by each partner to the marriage or relationship, including contributions as a homemaker or parent;
  • Contributions made by each partner to the acquisition, conservation, or improvement of either businesses or property;
  • The financial positions of the parties;
  • Whether property was acquired before or after separation;
  • Whether the parties had any agreements; and
  • The duration of the marriage.

What Does Property Division Look like Practically?

Family property or matrimonial property includes the division of both assets and debts. In Alberta, a debt is generally considered to be “matrimonial debt if it was related to the acquisition of matrimonial assets, or to the maintenance of the lifestyle of the parties.”

For property division to work effectively, whether it’s through Court, by Agreement, or Mediation/Arbitration, the parties need to exchange “disclosure”. In the context of property division, “disclosure” includes information on all assets and debts, within and outside Alberta.

When dividing property, assets would include:

  • Real Estate (the matrimonial home, farmland, etc.)
  • Businesses
  • Vehicles
  • Bank Accounts; Investments; and Cash
  • RRSPs; Pensions; Life Insurance
  • Household Furniture

When dividing property, debts would include:

  • Mortgages and Life of Credits
  • Vehicle Loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Family Debts
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How Can Shory Law Assist with Your Property Division?

It is important to speak to a property division lawyer before starting a claim in Court or signing an agreement. Dividing assets and debts following a relationship breakdown is not an easy task. At Shory Law, we have experienced family lawyers that can meet with you and explain your rights and obligations regarding property division.
Call us today at: +1 (403) 216-1199 or click the button below to fill out an online form and our office will reach out to you directly!

FAQs

What is divisible property?

All property acquired during a marriage is considered divisible property. There are some exemptions like for example receiving an inheritance in your name or receiving a court settlement in your name. Please let us know if you have specific property in mind and are wondering whether it would be divisible or not.

How is matrimonial property divided?

Property for both married and common-law partners (Adult interdependent partners) is split equally between the separating parties. This also applied to all accumulated debt, meaning that all assets and debts of the family will be added up and divided equally between the parties.

How are family assets divided?

Property for both married and common-law partners (Adult interdependent partners) is split equally between the separating parties. This also applied to all accumulated debt, meaning that all assets and debts of the family will be added up and divided equally between the parties.

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