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How much does alternative dispute resolution (ADR) cost?

The cost of ADR varies depending on the type of ADR process you choose, how many sessions you need, and your particular situation. However, if mediation is the ADR process that is best for your situation, it is a good idea to check if you qualify for the free Family Mediation Services offered by Family Justice Services. To qualify for free mediation, one of the parents must make less than $40,000 a year and there must be at least one dependent child under 18 years old. This service is offered across the province. Whether or not you have a court action started, you may use this free program to help you reach an agreement with your ex-partner about parenting and other separation issues.

If you do not qualify for government-sponsored mediation through Family Justice Services, you can check with your local family services organizations to see if they offer any mediation at a reduced cost.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
We already have an application in Provincial Court about child support. Can I start a new application in the Court of Queen’s Bench about property division?

Yes. The Court of Queen’s Bench is the only court that can deal with property issues, so you must go to this court for property division.

Last Reviewed: October 2016
My ex-spouse and I were separated for several months, then got back together for a month before separating again. Does that mean that our year of living “separate and apart” has to start over from our second breakup?

No. You and your spouse can get back together for up to 90 days without having to start counting the one-year separation period again.

If you get back together for longer than 90 days, you would have to start counting the one-year separation period over again, and you would have to wait another 12 months from the start date of the last separation before being granted a divorce.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
How do I know if a federal or provincial law is “in force” yet?

There is a long process involved with making a new law, or making changes to an existing law.

A proposal for a new law, or changes to a existing law, is formally “introduced” by an elected representative. This is called a “bill.” Before becoming a law, a bill goes through a series of steps in the House of Commons and the Senate (for federal bills), or the Legislative Assembly (for provincial bills). Throughout these steps, the contents of the bill are debated, and changes may be made. In the end, it must pass a vote. Once the bill has passed, it is given to the Governor General (for federal bills) or Lieutenant General (for provincial bills) for final approval before becoming a law. This is called Royal Assent.

In many cases, the law (also called a “statute” or an “act”) is in force as soon as it gets Royal Assent. But in some cases, the law may state a different day that it is in force. Or, different parts of the law may come into force at different times. There are various reasons for this. For example, the government may decide that the law will not come into force until it has properly informed Canadians of changes to laws that would affect them. Or, the government may need time to set up a system to administer the law. As a result, it may come into force weeks or months later.

To find out if a law is in force, you will need to look at the text of the law itself. There will be a section called “Commencement” or “Coming into force” that will describe when the law, or parts of the law, will be in effect.

Last Reviewed: October 2016
Child Protective Services has taken my child. What are my rights?

When Child Protective Services gets involved with your family, their next steps will depend on how serious they believe the situation to be.

For example:

  • If they think the child is probably not at risk, they may call the claim “unsubstantiated.” However, they still may have some concerns about the well-being of the child in the future. In this case, they might suggest “Early Intervention Services.” Many complaints are handled in this way.
  • If they are a little more concerned, they might choose to try a “Family Enhancement Agreement.” This is also a common solution.
  • If CPS has even more serious concerns, they can intervene in more intrusive ways. For example: taking the child into government custody.

Child Protective Services is required to make sure that children are safe. They are doing their job.

Your “rights” at the time depend on the seriousness of the situation. However, you always have the right to a lawyer. Things can happen quickly in these situations. You may want to consider getting legal help immediately. You can contact:

  • Legal Aid Alberta
  • Your local community legal clinic
  • Resolution and Court Administration Services
  • A private lawyer
Last Reviewed: April 2017
My friend said adopting a child is too expensive. Are people allowed to charge you money to adopt a child?

It is illegal for anyone to give or receive money to get a child for adoption. The offence may be punished by a fine of up to $10,000.

However, fees are allowed for some steps in the adoption process. This may include fees for:

  • agency services, such as doing a home study or providing counselling;
  • travel expenses;
  • legal services, such as lawyers or court applications; and
  • medical services, such as doctor’s examinations or immunizations.
Related Information Pages:
Last Reviewed: November 2016
What is “brain death”?

Brain death occurs when a person’s heart is still beating but there is no brain activity anymore. Machines and medications keep the heart beating and blood flowing to the organs. This is called “life support.” The person may be kept on the machines until organs can be removed for donation, if that is to happen.

Brain death is a clinical, measurable condition. Medical staff conduct many different kinds of tests to make sure that there is no longer any brain activity. The decision about brain death is not based on someone’s opinion or personal feelings. Nor is it random. It is based on facts.

Brain death can be very confusing for families, especially if it is sudden. This is because people who are brain-dead and on life support will still feel warm to the touch. They will also seem like they are breathing, as a ventilator may be pushing air into the lungs, making the chest rise and fall. In other words, they still look “alive.” When this happens, families sometimes expect that their loved one can be kept on the ventilator in hopes that their condition will improve. But to be brain-dead is to be dead: no improvement or recovery is possible.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
I am a step-parent who never adopted my former partner’s child. Do I have to pay child support?

Maybe. If you were married to the child’s parent, or lived in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence with the child’s parent, and if you treated the child as if the child was your own (this is also called “standing in the place of a parent”), you may have to pay child support.

There are many factors that a judge will look at to decide if you stood in the place of a parent. Some of these are:

  • the child’s age and how long you have had a relationship with the child;
  • whether you treated the child as you would your own (including how involved you were in the child’s care, activities, education, and discipline);
  • whether the child thinks of you as a parent;
  • if you are now living apart, whether there has been continued contact, or attempts at contact; and
  • whether you provided any sort of financial support for the child.

If you are found to have “stood in the place of a parent,” you will pay some support. However, biological or adoptive parents may have greater obligations to pay child support. Therefore, you may pay less child support than would normally be required by the Child Support Guidelines.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What’s legal aid? How can I find out if I qualify for legal aid?

If you have a low income, you may qualify for financial help to cover the cost of a lawyer and court fees through Legal Aid Alberta. Legal Aid Alberta offers many forms of help for low-income Albertans, including legal advice, help with preparing documents, and assistance from a lawyer for part or all of your legal issues.

Legal aid is not free. If you qualify for a Legal Aid lawyer, you will get discounted rates and will be able to pay your bill over time without interest.

Legal Aid Alberta follows guidelines to decide if someone is eligible for legal aid. You will have to go through an intake process with Legal Aid staff to find out if you are eligible. If you are not eligible for legal aid, the staff there will refer you to other community resources that may be able to help you.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Does our agreement have to be in English to be valid in Alberta?

No, it does not have to be in English to be valid. However, keep in mind that you may need to get your agreement formally translated (in other words, translated by a certified legal translator) if you are asking for legal advice, if the agreement goes before a court for any reason, or if it needs to be read or interpreted in any way by any organization that does not read the language (for example: a bank or a pension administrator).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My lawyer takes so long to return my phone calls. Is this a problem?

Your lawyer must keep you informed about your case. However, it doesn’t mean he or she can be reached at any time. If you feel like your lawyer is taking too long to return your calls, speak to him or her about it. It could simply be a difference in your communication styles. Some lawyers may not contact their clients until there are updates on their cases.

Lawyers have the ethical duty to keep their client informed. If your lawyer is failing to keep you updated on your case, or if he or she is unreasonably delaying your case, you can make a complaint to the Law Society of Alberta.

Related Information Pages:
Last Reviewed: October 2015
My ex didn’t pay child support for the first year we were separated. Can I get him/her to pay it now?

Maybe. This is called “retroactive child support.” Sometimes a judge will order it if there is a need to make up for a time when no child support was paid (but should have been) or there was too little child support paid. The judge will make his or her decision based on the facts in your specific situation. Even if an order is made, the judge will often not go back more than 3 years from the date that the payor was notified that he or she was not paying enough child support. However, the judge may consider a longer period of time if the payor behaved badly by trying to get out of paying child support (this is often called “blameworthy conduct”).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is Child Protective Services?

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a branch of the Alberta government investigates reports that a parent is not able or not willing to ensure the well-being of their children. CPS will look for signs of child abuse or neglect.

If a child needs protection, CPS can provide “intervention” services. This is when the government gets involved in the care of a child. Intervention services are focused on the well-being of children and youth. They are meant to:

  • support families to be healthy; and
  • ensure children grow up in safe and nurturing homes.

Child intervention services are provided throughout Alberta by 10 Child and Family Services Authorities and 18 Delegated First Nation Agencies.

When a child is in need of intervention, CPS will do everything they can to support the family to allow the child to remain in the home. However, sometimes it may be best for the child to be taken out of the custody of the parent or guardian. This can be temporary or permanent. Even in permanent situations, CPS tries to keep the healthiest possible family relationships. All of these decisions are based on the best interests of the child.

Be Aware

Child Protective Services only deals with cases where abuse is caused or allowed by a child’s parent or guardian. If you suspect a child is being abused by someone other than a parent or guardian, please call your local police.

Last Reviewed: April 2017
What’s the difference between a cohabitation agreement and an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement?

An Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIPA) is an agreement that, when signed by both parties, will result in both parties becoming each other’s Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP). This is a status that gives you rights and responsibilities under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA). A cohabitation agreement is different. A cohabitation agreement allows the parties to set their own “rules” about how they want to live together as well as what rights and responsibilities each will have if they later separate.

Signing an AIPA immediately changes your relationship status under the law: it means that you accept the rights and responsibilities of Adult Interdependent Partners laid out in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. On the other hand, signing a cohabitation agreement doesn’t change your relationship status under the law—you are just making your own “rules” about your relationship.

Whether or not you sign a cohabitation agreement, you and your partner will become AIPs if you meet the requirements of an Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)—even if you do not sign an AIPA. By signing a cohabitation agreement, you may successfully “contract out” of some or all of the rights and responsibilities of an AIR.

However, once you and your partner become AIPs, if there is a topic that was not dealt with in the cohabitation agreement, and if you are not able to resolve an issue about that topic, a court will treat you as AIPs in order to resolve that issue. Similarly, if your cohabitation agreement—or part of it—is set aside, a court will treat you as AIPs in order to resolve any outstanding issues.

Basically, a cohabitation agreement is a contract you create with another party that sets out your legal rights and responsibilities on your own terms, while signing an AIPA gives you the legal rights and responsibilities that are listed in the AIRA. You can try to change the legal rights and responsibilities the AIRA gives you through a cohabitation agreement, but if you have truly been living in a “relationship of interdependence” you will still be considered AIPs under Alberta law and, depending on the circumstances, that law (or portions of it) may still apply. 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If my partner is abusive, can I just take my child with me and leave to protect us?

As a result of family violence, a non-abusive parent may be tempted to just take the child, leave the area, and not allow any contact with the other parent. This can lead to legal problems. A parent who takes the child without making arrangements for some future contact may be criminally charged. If a parent removes and hides a child under the age of 14 from the other parent, without that parent’s consent, it is a crime. This is called “parental abduction.” Even if the child is over 14, the parent could get into legal trouble. This could lead to many more problems later on. There are other options available to help keep both you and the child(ren) safe.

Last Reviewed: June 2017