Spouses or partners can enter into agreements about how property will be divided should their relationship end. Such agreements can be made at any time during the relationship, including after separation. This article contains information on the types of property agreements.
In Alberta, the Matrimonial Property Act governs how property will be divided if a marriage breaks down. It applies only to those who have been legally married, and it gives couples the option of determining their own property settlement rather that going to court: if you and your spouse or partner cannot reach a property division agreement, you can apply to the courts as a last resort. A judge will decide how property will be divided.
Although the Matrimonial Property Act applies only to couples who were legally married, unmarried couples should also follow the same rules: this ensures that any agreement they enter is enforceable.
To learn about division of property as it relates to those who were legally married, as well as to who lived together in a common-law relationship, see our companion articles.
Regardless of the type of agreement you choose, it must be enforceable. This means that you and your partner must each meet with a separate lawyer and acknowledge that
- you are aware of the nature and the effect of the agreement
- you are willing to give up possible future claims to the other partner’s property
- you are executing the agreement freely and voluntarily, and not being pressured into signing
You and your spouse or partner can enter into an agreement yourselves about division of property. Each of you must independently see a lawyer to ensure that you understand the rights you are giving up through the agreement. Determining your own agreement can save you time and expense, and you will also have control over the terms of the agreement.
A mediator can help spouses or partners draw up a property division agreement in situations where communication between them is strained. The mediator is a neutral third party and won’t take sides. The mediator’s role is not to force an agreement on either of you, but, rather, to help you both devise an agreement yourselves that will work for each of you.
Although you and your spouse or partner each have your own lawyer, you agree to work together, share financial information and avoid going to court. Most communication takes place in four-way meetings, in which the lawyers and the other spouse or partner are present.
Property division is complicated. Consult with the Lift Legal team of family lawyers. We’ll work to protect your rights, help you understand what rights you may or may not be giving up, and ensure that your agreement is legally binding.
The information on this blog and website is provided by Lift Legal for educational purposes only. It is intended to give readers a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. Information contained in these pages should not be used in place of competent legal advice from a licensed, practising lawyer in Alberta. Furthermore, by using this blog and website, you understand that no lawyer-client relationship exists between you and Lift Legal.