Post # 1
I am a family law/divorce lawyer in Alberta. We have sweeping new changes coming to how we deal with property in commonlaw relationships, effective January 2020. I’d really like perspective from lay people (most of my friends are also family lawyers so we have a bias – I’ve started asking these questions to people who aren’t in the legal profession, but thought I would throw it out here for a wider net).
On the Weddingbee forums the most popular opinion (at least in my perspective) is that if someone wants to marry you they will. We see lots of “waiting bees” who are disappointed after having children, moving in, etc. One of the main reasons people cite wanting marriage are the legal protections.
Currently in Alberta we have laws surrounding becoming an Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP). You become AIPS if you either
a) live in relationship of interdependence for three years (yay, give lawyers something to fight over – are they a domestic and economic unit?);
b) live together in a relationship of some permanence and have a child; or
c) enter into an Adult Interdependent Partnership agreement.
These laws currently set out child support and partner support obligations (among other things), and they generally mirror the divorce act. Most separating common law partners in a long term relationship would have similar rights to spousal/partner support and child support (there are some slight differences).
There is currently no legislation surrounding division of property. We rely on judge made decisions based on equity/unjust enrichment. Starting January 2020 the Matrimonial Property Act is being amended to become the Family Property Act and will apply equally to married couples and AIPs. This was done because so much Court time is taken up with couples who are a family unit, but as we see all the time, put all the property in one party’s name.
My main question: If you had a partner who was against marriage in principle (i.e. the Church is bad/refuse to be involved with this institution) BUT they were willing to sign an AIP agreement that gave you all the same legal rights to show his/her commitment, would you stay?
Spin off question: What do you think of changes to the legislation? Do you think couples who have chosen not to get married should be treated differently than married couples when dividing property (especially in the example of a traditional nuclear family with two kids and a stay at home mom)?
Other thoughts also welcome.
Post # 2
So long as it was an official document filed with the local municipality (similar to a marriage certificate) that afforded all the same legal rights and protections as marriage I don’t really care what it’s called. Particularly for couples who don’t opt for a religious ceremony anyways I wouldn’t see any practical difference.
Post # 3
Marriage is important to my fiancé and me from a religious perspective, but as an attorney in the US, this is a fascinating idea. It will make it much easier for the courts to move matters along in terms of division of property if the rules apply more universally.
If the AIP were a thing where I lived, and my partner happened to be morally opposed to marriage, I would be okay knowing our rights would be established. I’d likely still insist on him signing a document to establish the time at which we began living in “a relationship of interdependence”. I wouldn’t want the added hassle of still needing to go to court to establish rights.
How will this apply to wills/estates/powers of attorney? If you’re designated as an AIP, would you have the rights of a spouse in that regard, too?
Post # 4
Currently under the Estate Administration Act, if a person dies intestate the priority for obtaining a grant of probate is a spouse/AIP first, then it goes on to list family etc. I’m not an estate lawyer, so I’m not sure about a Power of Attorney – I would assume it would be similar (I guess I could go read the Power of Attorney Act).
What I think is going to be really interesting from our persepctive is currently property acquired prior to marriage in one party’s name is exempt (unless the other person can show they contributed to it and the first person would be unjustly enriched by keeping it all). This new legislation now goes back to the date the relationship of interdependence began. So, if you live together for a year, and then get married, that year is now up for grabs in terms of property division.
The legislation was fairly rushed (political party knew they would lose the next election), so some of the wording is pretty bad/awkward. It will be really interesting seeing it get hashed out in Court. I actually had a client in last week and I told her if she could get through one more Christmas it would be significantly cheaper in legal fees/better outcome for her to separate in Janaury (10 year relationship, three kids, everything in his name).
Post # 5
I’ve always believed the US should have/issue domestic partnerships (with all the legal rights of marriage) and leave anything religious (including the term “marriage” itself) to other institutions. If that’s what this is (state defined and recognized “marriage “), then I’m all for it.
Post # 6
Lots of points of view on this one.
im in the UK and recent law changes means that both marriage and civil partnerships are open to both hetero and homosexual couples.
i personally don’t think cohabiting couples should have the same legal rights as married / civil partnered couples for a few reasons.
1) if you want those rights you can chose to get them, they are not denied you
2) how do you date these relationship? Is it from move in date? What about years beforehand? What if your relationship started prior to you being 18?
3) what happens if you don’t want those rights. They were talking here about giving cohabiting couples the right to opt out but as I said to my husband (he was boyfriend at the time) that required us to legally register our relationship before we were ready to legally register our relationship.
As for your other question. If my partner was opposed to marriage but was willing to enter into a civil partnership that would be ok by me as it gives the same legal protections, it’s just semantics really. I personally don’t understand why you’d be opposed to marriage but ok with a civil partnership but that’s me.
Post # 7
As someone with no legal knowledge, so unable to speak to that side of it (and also in Alberta!), I would be okay with a legal partnership. My husband and I have been married for 5+ years, but we had a non-religious ceremony (just met the legal requirements for the province, didn’t add any extra readings etc), and basically considered it a legal joining with a big party. I like being married for the ‘solidness’ it gives the relationship, if something else provided those benefits I would be fine with it. However, it would be interesting to see how the rest of society thought about it. How would you refer to each other to indicate your legal status? Would you need to come up with a ‘more official’ term than partner? Would people take it seriously if you had signed legal documents but weren’t ‘married’? I sort of picture it ending up like a ‘non religious’ marriage in the end really…
Post # 8
So AIP relationships are interesting because you can either enter them contractually, or you become one through sheer force of time. When they surveyed Albertans, more than 50% believed that commonlaw couples had the same rights as married couples. Now they will have them.
You can always opt out through a cohab (no registration required).
In addition to when the relationship of interdependence began (for most people it will be date of cohabitation, but we’re lawyers so we will argue all sorts of things), there are going to be issues surrounding couples who don’t live together, but are likely to be found in a relationship of interdependence. I just did a cohab a few months ago for a couple who had been together 10 years (both late 60s), did not want to share assets, had their own homes, but he paid all her mortgage payments (had significantly more money than her and is generous). They were aware of the legislation and came in to my office to opt out.
Post # 9
We always call them AIPs! They could call themselves that (like a gorilla).
Most people will not be entering into contractual AIP relationships (the only people I have seen do that needed some health insurance benefits, but were getting married the next year), they will be the people who have lived together for 3, 5, more years and just haven’t really thought about it.
Post # 10
Personally I’m sick of seeing people constantly trying to reinvent the wheel simply to make people feel better about their choices. I strongly feel that this desire to re-define marriage or even redefine what being single means comes from insecurity and embarrassment.
marriage as it stands is as religious or nonreligious as you want. You control the ceremony and can even do a courthouse wedding with zero religion at all. It already does everything legally that is needed. So why do people spin their wheels trying to avoid such a simplified process for a more complex one? So they can say they aren’t technically married? So stupid.
Someone says they don’t believe in marriage? I honestly have never ever heard a person who believes that, explain it so it made sense. Because it doesn’t make sense. Especially if your going around putting legal documents in place to do the exact same thing that marriage does while avoiding the title “married”? What is the point of that at all?
– you don’t believe in marriage because you aren’t religious. Ok so do it at the courthouse or don’t have a religious ceremony.
– you don’t believe in marriage because you don’t like the government involvement. So then you wouldn’t go get legal documents to cover anything anyways because that’s also the government being involved.
– you don’t believe in being married. The people who truly believe that wouldn’t ever get legally married or get legal documents signed because they don’t believe in tying yourself to another person in anyway shape or form.
This all reminds me of when a celebrity makes a big deal of trying to explain their relationship status. Like Emma Watson most recently saying she was “self-partnered”. Ughh like why? If your happy being single and loving it why do you need to go reinvent what you call it? Because you feel embarrassed and are trying to spin it to make yourself feel better. Someone happy being single says just that. I’m happy being single. I don’t want a relationship right now I am content as is.
or when Ansel Elgort said he wanted an open relationship with his girlfriend, so he could go “make friendships with other women, but not be sexual with them, but be in love with them”. WHAT? So he basically found the stupidest way possible to say he wanted to have more female friends in his life? Or is trying to make cheating sound somehow ok?
I’ve just had enough of this type of garbage. And for me? I just got married because I want to build a family with someone who chose me and I chose him, openly and to the world. To me that shows that two people are proud to be with each other, are deciding to build something together. For me it isn’t so religious, it’s more about feeling loved and chosen, and being a unit. A man who didn’t want to marry me for whatever reason he came up with would translate to me as he wasn’t sure I was worth it, didn’t really love me, wasn’t proud to have the world know I was his chosen person, and wanted to keep his options open. No thank you to that.
Post # 11
So- I was “anti marriage” until everyone can “get married” (in the US). My (now) husband was respecful of that, and we lived (with our first child) unmarried for a while until the marriage equality act was affirmed by the supreme court. At that time, I agreed I would get married (without religious affiliation…I was kind of anti that too), and we did (and read an excerpt from the decision by Justice Kennedy at our wedding).
I guess to my point- I was unwilling to enter into anything until the federal law was changed. Unfortunately, in the US, the state laws (which are of course overruled much of the time by federal laws) still lag with marriage and divorce situations, but I felt like at least there was a better chance of equality- and that was more important to me than the legal partnership with my husband.
Post # 12
If you don’t believe in the religious aspect of marriage then get married at the courthouse or have a judge do the ceremony (that’s what we did).
Like pp said this seems like a lot of extra steps when you could just sign a document and be married, and have all those same rights anyway. What’s the point? To say “well actuuuuuuuuuuually we aren’t married.” I don’t get it.
Post # 13
I don’t really see a difference between going to the courthouse and signing a marriage certificate vs. an AIP. Is the AIP federally recognized? Or is it similar to civil unions prior to same sex marriage act where it was only recognized on a state by state basis?
Obviously there are tax benefits in the US when you are married and your spouse automatically becomes your next of kin. In essence, you could decide not to get married and then just make sure to name your SO as your POA, Medical POA, add him in the will, etc. At least in the US the laws have already changed regarding healthcare and you don’t need to be married.
I have been married and I’ve been divorced and I’m currently engaged and beginning to plan a wedding. I do want to be married to him, but I can see how it would be tempting to sign and AIP instead, mostly if you don’t care about the religious aspect of marriage.
Post # 14
The AIP is not recognized by the federal government. The federal government has control over marriage (and the Divorce Act). Each province treats property differently.
If you live together for one year you have to file your tax returns as “commonlaw” at the federal level. AIP legislation does not kick on for three years, or until you have had a child together.
I know the option of becoming an AIP can be contractual, but I really think the province was trying to come up with some property laws to deal with the fact that more and more adults are choosing to live together without getting married. When they separate it gets very messy. I just a ran a 3-day trial for a couple, lived together seven years. She closed all her bank accounts down the week they moved in together and began putting her paycheque into his account. She earned about 35% he earned 65%. Property was purchased, EVERYTHING solely in his name. They split up. He didn’t want to pay her because it was in his name, and her decision to give her paycheque to him. I don’t have the decision yet. I think the idea is to deal with cases like this. Make 50/50 the presumption, but provide exceptions (which is currently what the law is for married people).
Post # 15
@sharpshooter *sometimes* there are tax benefits. Our system is designed for a 1950s family arrangement with one breadwinner. My husband and I ended up paying more total federal income tax once we were married than we did as two singles. Bit of a bummer but not enough to pursuade us from getting married!