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My sister, brother, and I were adopted by different families. How do I find out what happened to them?

If you were adopted as a child in Alberta and are now over 18 years old, the Post-Adoption Registry may be able to help you connect with your biological parents or siblings. You can submit a Voluntary Contact application with the Post-Adoption Registry.

If members of your biological family have also asked for voluntary contact, the Registry can help connect you.

If your siblings have not registered for voluntary contact, it may be more complicated to find out about them. The Post-Adoption Registry may be able to advise you about things you can do.

Be Aware

Each province keeps its own adoption records. If the adoptions happened in another province, you will have to contact the Post-Adoption Registry from that province to learn about their procedures.

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Last Reviewed: November 2016
Is a marriage licence the same thing as a marriage certificate?

No. Marriage licences and marriage certificates are different things.

A marriage licence is a document that shows that the couple has met all the requirements to get married in Alberta. Every couple needs to get a marriage licence before they can get married.

After you get married and your marriage is registered, you can order a marriage certificate. A marriage certificate shows that you were legally married. It is useful any time you are asked to provide proof that you are married.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
My former Adult Interdependent Partner has an illness that won’t allow him/her to return to work. Does that mean I have to pay partner support forever?

Not necessarily.

The law recognizes several reasons for providing partner support, and these reasons form the basis of “entitlement” to partner support. Your former partner must first show an entitlement to partner support. Once an entitlement is shown, there are many factors that go into deciding how much support should be given and for how long.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is the difference between “access” and “parenting time”?

The word “access” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe time spent with a child. Access only gives a person the right to spend time with the child, and to ask for and receive information about the child. Access does not give a person the right to make any decisions about the child. Under the Divorce Act, decision-making is done by people with “custody.” 

The word “access” is used to refer to the time that the child spends with a parent who does not have “primary residency.” For example: a child spends most of his or her time with the mother, and only every second weekend with the father. The time the father spends with the child is called “access.” The Divorce Act does not have a term for the time that the child spends with a parent who does have “primary residency.”

In Alberta, the separation of non-married parents is governed the provincial Family Law Act (and that law can also apply to parents who were married but choose not to divorce). The Family Law Act uses the term "parenting time" to describe the time a child spends with each parent: it does not use the term “access” at all. In the above example, both the time with the mother and the time with the father is called “parenting time” under the Family Law Act.

Recently, lawyers, courts, and legal information materials have started to use the word “parenting” to describe situations under the Divorce Act, even though “parenting time” is a term used in Alberta’s Family Law Act (not the Divorce Act). Also, “parenting time” may be used to refer to all of the time spent with the child, regardless of which parent it is and who the child lives with. This is especially true in cases where the time is split more equally between the parents: when this is the case, neither parent can really be considered to have “access” as described above. 

Last Reviewed: January 2017
The other guardian passed away without a Will. Does that mean I have sole guardianship of the child?

If a guardian (who is often the other parent, but non-parents can also be guardians) passes away without appointing a guardian in his or her will, a surviving guardian may take on sole guardianship, unless otherwise specified by the parenting order. Remember, however, that despite what the Will does (or does not) say, other people can still apply for guardianship.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
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
Do I need a lawyer to take part in mediation?

To take part in mediation, you do not always have to have a lawyer. However, depending on what is in your agreement, you may need a lawyer. For example, if you want to turn any agreement that deals with matrimonial property into a court order, you will have to include a certificate that shows that you have each received legal advice.

In addition, you may want to hire a lawyer as a consultant to give advice during the mediation, and/or to review any agreement that you come to in order to make sure it is legally sound.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
I've been ordered to pay spousal/partner support to my ex. Will my ex be required to return to work?

There is no single answer to this question: it will depend on your unique circumstances and financial situation. Although one of the goals of granting spousal/partner support is to encourage the recipient to become able to support himself or herself, that is not always a fast process, or possible.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is the difference between “custody” and “guardianship”?

The word “guardianship” is the word used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the decision-making power that adults have about a child. In Alberta, all children are subject to guardianship. This means that the law (specifically the Family Law Act) sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child (this is also called being a “guardian by statute”). If you meet the definition, and you are a guardian by statute, you do not need to “apply” for guardianship.

The word “custody” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually parents) have about a child. It is the ability to make major decisions about the child. In many ways, it is very similar to guardianship (in that they both describe decision-making powers), but they are not the same thing.

Custody is a part of guardianship. All parents, married or not, have guardianship of their children (they both make decisions about the children). When two married parents live happily together with their children, they are both guardians of the children, but neither is considered to have, or not have, “custody”—that term only comes up when there is a breakdown of the marriage, when married parents are addressing their parenting issues using the Divorce Act. Custody is something they must apply for.

If you are a parent resolving your parenting issues using the Family Law Act, your paperwork will use the term "guardianship." If you are a parent resolving your parenting issues using the Divorce Act, your paperwork will use the term "custody."

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My ex-spouse is living in our matrimonial home. Can I buy a new house before the final property settlement is reached?

In general, it is wise to avoid making any major purchases during the divorce process. This is because, until the Divorce Judgment is granted, any property purchased is subject to a matrimonial property claim by your spouse, even if you bought it with only your own money and put it in your name only. 

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
I’ve been taking care of my sister’s children for a few months. Am I eligible for any financial help?

You may be eligible for financial help from the Alberta government if:

  • you are providing care for a child who is not your own; and
  • you are not a kinship caregiver or foster parent.

You will need the parent’s consent to use this program. For more information, see the Child & Youth Support Program webpage.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
What’s the difference between a cohabitation agreement and a pre-nuptial or marriage agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a domestic contract created by two or more people who live together, or are about to live together, but are not married (and not planning on getting married in the near future). In this agreement, the parties involved can set out the terms that will govern important issues during their relationship and what will happen if they later separate. A cohabitation agreement is often made between romantic partners, but people in non-romantic relationships can have one as well.

A pre-nuptial or marriage agreement, on the other hand, is similar to a cohabitation agreement in terms of the issues it addresses, but it is made either when a couple is planning to be married (this is called a “pre-nuptial agreement”), or between two people who are already married (then it is called a “marriage agreement”). Because both pre-nuptial and marriage agreements are intended to govern married relationships, they can only be made between two parties.

Pre-nuptial or marriage agreements also have additional legal requirements beyond the requirements of a cohabitation agreement. These requirements are listed in the Matrimonial Property Act. If a pre-nuptial or marriage agreement deals with property division, then the agreement must be in writing and the parties must have received independent legal advice.

Be Aware

Although there is no law requiring it, it is also good to get Independent legal advice if you are signing a cohabitation agreement, This is because not having gotten independent legal advice before signing the agreement can result in a court finding that the parties did not truly understand the contract when they signed it.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What’s the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce?

A divorce is considered “uncontested” when the spouses agree on all of the divorce-related issues—the grounds for divorce, child-related issues, spousal support, and the division of property. In a contested divorce, the spouses disagree on at least one of these issues.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What should I take with me if I decide to leave my abusive relationship?

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to take all of your possessions with you. Therefore, you should identify only important and essential documents and belongings that you will be able to carry around.

Some of the most important things you should take with you if you leave your abuser are listed below.

  • Personal identification such as birth certificates and passports for you and your children, and your driver’s licence.
  • Money such as cash or debit/credit cards. If you are using a debit or credit card, make sure it is an account that your abusive partner does not have access to. You don’t want them to be able to track where you go and what you buy.
  • Important documents such as your marriage certificate, divorce papers, immigration papers, and spousal or child support agreements. Also, any documents you need to make spousal or child support applications (such as banking information and your tax forms for the past 3 years).
  • Medication (if you or your children need it).
  • Transportation needs such as access to the car, car keys, a bike, bus tickets, or bus pass.
  • Communication needs such as your cell phone or a phone card.
  • Toys to help calm your children.
  • Assistive devices such as your cane, hearing aids, contact lenses, glasses, dentures, or a walker.

If possible, it is a good idea to put all of these items and documents together in advance. This way, they will all be ready to go if you have to leave in a hurry. You could leave a bag containing these important items with someone you trust nearby so that your abuser does not find it. It might also be a good idea to make photocopies of the documents and put them together so that they are ready to go. If you can’t put these items together ahead of time, make sure you know where you can find each item. Then you can quickly grab them in case of an emergency. Or, if necessary, you could tell someone else where they can find them for you.

Each person’s situation is unique. Therefore what you need to take might be different than what someone else might take.

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Last Reviewed: May 2017
My relative recently died. Do we have to use a funeral home to deal with the remains and have a final ceremony?

You do not have to use a funeral home to arrange cremation, burial, or a ceremony to remember your loved one.

However, when dealing with a death there are many steps that must be taken to follow the law. Funeral home staff can guide you through these steps. It is up to you to decide if you want that extra help or not. The following steps are required.

  • You will need a Medical Certificate of Death. You can ask for it from the doctor who signed it.
  • You will also need to register the death.
  • You will then to take these forms to a Vital Statistics Office so that a burial permit can be issued.
  • If you want to cremate your loved one, other forms will be needed.
  • If you want to bury your loved one, you will need to make arrangements with a registered cemetery.

Also, you will need to arrange for the transportation of your loved one’s body. If the deceased is to be transported in a private vehicle within Alberta, there are no regulations as to the type of vehicle that must be used and no permits are needed. However, if your loved one had a communicable disease, Alberta’s Bodies of Deceased Persons Regulation does have requirements for handling the body.

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Last Reviewed: May 2016