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What is the difference between the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines?

The Alberta Child Support Guidelines are part of Alberta’s Family Law Act and can therefore apply to all non-married parents who are solving their issues using the Family Law Act. In addition, the Alberta Guidelines can also apply to married parents, if they choose to resolve their child support issues using the Family Law Act instead of the Divorce Act.

On the other hand, the Federal Guidelines are part of the Divorce Act and therefore only apply to parents who were married and are solving their separation issues using the Divorce Act.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines are similar, but have some significant differences. The four main areas of difference are:

  • when child support ends;
  • the details around deciding if someone “stood in the place of a parent”;
  • exactly what items qualify as “special expenses” and what is required to prove how much they cost; and
  • the exact rules around continued financial disclosure between the parents.


Last Reviewed: October 2015
My Adult Interdependent Partner and I now live in separate nursing homes, but only because we have not yet found a place that will take us both. If we are separate for a year in this way, does that mean we are no longer Adult Interdependent Partners?

No, it does not. Although the definition of Adult Interdependent Partners mentions that the partners must “live with” each other, that concept has to be looked at realistically, and the intent of the parties is important. If you were Adult Interdependent Partners and are still a couple, but have been unable to live together because of nursing home rules, that is not a reason to treat you as if you had ended the relationship.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
After living with my partner for three years, do we automatically become Adult Interdependent Partners?


Under Alberta law, a person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with another person in a “relationship of interdependence”:

  • for three years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

Therefore, if you are living in a relationship of interdependence (which most partners are, as that is the point), and if you are not already Adult Interdependent Partners (“AIPs”), you will become AIPs on the third anniversary of your living together.

Becoming AIPs means the partners each have certain legal rights and responsibilities. If you wish to “contract out” of these rights and responsibilities, you might be able to by signing a valid cohabitation agreement. Be aware, however, there are certain things that you cannot contract out of. For example: child support is the right of the child, not the parents. Therefore, you cannot contract out of child support. In other words, you cannot make an agreement that says neither party has to pay child support to the other.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I change my name after I get married, do I have to get new identification for everything (driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate, etc.)?

Since the purpose of your identification documents is to prove to others that you are who you say you are, it is logical for these documents to match the name that you use.

If you want to take on your spouse’s name or create a new surname, you can do so in 2 ways:

  1. You can “assume” (take on) your spouse’s name without legally changing it.
  2. You can legally change your name.

To assume a new surname, you simply have to start using it. You would update all of your identification (for example: your driver’s licence) to reflect this change. Often you will be asked to give “evidence” for the change of name by providing your marriage certificate. However, when you assume a new name, your name on your birth certificate will not be changed.

To legally change your name, you must complete an application process through a registry office. When you legally change your name, your name on your birth certificate will change. Once the name change is complete, you can get your other identification changed to match your new name. You will be able to use your new birth certificate as proof of your name change.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
Can I bring a pet bird back with me from the United States?

Just like people, animals cannot move freely across borders. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) controls the importing of animals and animal products. Their requirements depend on the type of animal. You will need to follow them whether the animal is:

  • coming to Canada for a short period of time;
  • being brought into Canada permanently; or
  • passing through Canada on the way to somewhere else.

It is possible to bring personally owned pet birds of certain species into Canada under specific conditions. These conditions are described on the CFIA website.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
My friend recently died. She did not write a Will but I know what she wanted because she told me. Can I go ahead and distribute her things?

No. When someone dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate.” If this happens, the estate will be divided as required by the Wills and Succession Act. It does not matter what the deceased may have said to anyone.

When there is an intestacy, someone with an interest in the estate will have to apply for a “grant of administration” from the Court to be given the job of managing the deceased’s estate. This job is called being a Personal Representative. If no one applies for a grant of administration, the job of managing the deceased’s affairs will go to the Public Trustee.

Who gets what will depend on many factors, including:

  • whether the deceased had a spouse;
  • whether the deceased had an Adult Interdependent Partner;
  • whether the deceased had children; and
  • if none of the above, which other relatives the deceased had, and whether they can be found.
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Last Reviewed: May 2016
What is co-decision-making?

Co-decision-making allows an adult to ask the Court to name one or more other people to help make personal decisions. Co-decision-making is intended for people who need more significant help when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity. In other words, they now have more “bad” days than “good” days. The parties must all agree to the application. They apply to court together. Once an order is granted, they make decisions together.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
I am in jail. Do I still have to pay child and partner support?

Yes. Many people in jail may think that because they are not earning much or any income, they do not have to worry about any child support or spousal/partner support orders against them. That is not true. Child support is based on income (and income can continue when a person is in jail).

Family court orders for support (both child support and spousal/partner support) remain valid until they are changed. As a result, if you are in jail and you do nothing about your support order while you are in jail, you are still responsible for the payments that the Order says you are supposed to be making. When you are released, you will have debts and penalties because you are now “in arrears.” Dealing with arrears will be time-consuming and expensive, and there is no guarantee that your arrears will be forgiven (in other words, you may end up having to pay all the arrears even though you were in jail and had little or no income).

Therefore, if you are in jail, be sure to ask at family court for a change (or “variation”) in the support payments. Dealing with the issue early will help you avoid having to deal with an even bigger problem later.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What does it mean to serve documents to someone?

“Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. The parties must serve documents to each other as part of the court process. This makes sure that everyone involved in a court case knows:

  • what needs to be decided;
  • what evidence is being used; and
  • when things are happening.

Because serving documents is so important, there are many rules about service and the exact rules can change depending on the circumstances. So, if you are involved in a court action, you will need to learn the rules about serving documents.

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Last Reviewed: March 2017
Are child support orders enforceable on reserves?

It depends on the circumstances. The Indian Act affects the enforcement of child support orders when the payor is a status Indian who lives on reserve. If the recipient (in this case, the recipient is the child) is not a status Indian, then the Indian Act limits the ability to enforce a support award, and the property or income on reserve cannot be used to pay the support.

On the other hand, if both the payor and the recipient (the child) are status Indians, then the Indian Act does not limit the ability to enforce a support order, and on-reserve property or income can be used to pay the support. 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Can I do anything to protect myself so that I don’t become a victim of elder abuse in the future?

Yes. As you age, there are some steps you can take to make yourself less vulnerable to abuse. The most important thing is to make plans for the future while you are still healthy and independent.

You can take some general steps, such as:

  • staying connected to other supportive people,
  • being cautious about your living arrangements,
  • keeping control of your finances for as long as possible,
  • developing strong professional supports, and
  • practicing good personal safety.

To prepare for future incapacity, you can make a Personal Directive and an Enduring Power of Attorney to name who you would want to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf. Be aware that there are safeguards you can put in place to make it less likely that the person you name will be able to abuse you.

Last Reviewed: June 2017
Do I have to wait a certain amount of time after getting my marriage licence before I can get married?

No. You can use your marriage licence to get married as soon as you get it—there is no wait period. However, the marriage licence only lasts 3 months. Therefore, you will need to get married within 3 months of getting your marriage licence, or it will expire and you will have to buy another one.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
I am thinking of moving into a supportive living setting. Are there laws that govern how these kinds of homes are managed? How can I find out if those laws are being followed?

Under Alberta’s Supportive Living Accommodation Licensing Act, a supportive living facility must be licenced if it provides:

  • permanent accommodation for 4 or more adults,
  • services related to the safety and security of the residents, and
  • at least one meal a day or housekeeping services.

The Alberta government also sets standards for all Alberta supportive living facilities and the care that is given in them. The government makes sure those standards are followed through annual inspections of the facilities, and makes their reports available to the public. To access these reports, visit the Alberta Health website.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
We were never married. Will our family debts be divided equally if we separate?

Not necessarily.

In Alberta, for unmarried couples, there is no specific law about dividing property. And the rules for married couples (from Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act) do not apply to unmarried couples. This means that you cannot assume that property you got while you were living together will be shared equally when you break up.

Instead, the only rules about dividing your property are:

  • from the “common law,” and
  • from the general laws about property ownership.

In general, the debt of unmarried partners is to be divided in this way:

  • when a debt is in only one of the partner’s names, that partner must pay all of the debt; and
  • when a debt is in both partners’ names, each partner must pay half of the debt.

However, it is possible to apply to a court for a different division of debt based on a claim of “unjust enrichment.”

In addition, if you come to an agreement about how to divide your debt, you can choose to divide your debt equally, if you wish. However, legally, the person whose name is on the debt is responsible for paying that debt. Therefore, if the debt is divided, you will likely need an agreement or a court order to make sure that both parties pay their share of the debt.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is the difference between kinship care, foster care, and guardianship of a child?

“Guardianship” describes the legal decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that adults have about a child. In other words, a “guardian” of a child is an adult who is legally responsible for taking care of the child.

Kinship Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have already come into the care of Child and Family Services are placed with extended family members. For example: children may be placed with grandparents, or a family member that the child already knows.

Foster Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have come into the care of Child and Family Services are placed in temporary homes with people they do not know. Children may stay in a foster home for only a few days, or many years.

Last Reviewed: November 2016