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Can a child have more than 2 guardians?

Yes. There is no limit to the number of guardians a child can have. However, it is not common to have a large number of guardians, as that can get complicated.

The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. This is called being a “guardian by statute.” When a child’s biological or adoptive parents live together, both parents have guardianship. If the parents separate, both parents continue to be guardians unless they agree to change this, or a court orders a change.

Someone who is not a guardian by statute may still be able to become a guardian. However, they must get a court order that appoints them as a guardian.

Last Reviewed: January 2017
What is the difference between “joint tenancy” and “tenancy in common”?

When two people own something in joint tenancy, they both own all of it, and they each have the right to deal with all of it.

For example, if you have a joint bank account with another person, you both own all of the money in that account. This means that either one of you can go to the bank and take out all of the money. As joint tenants, either of you are legally allowed to do this. If one of the joint tenants dies, the other joint tenant automatically becomes the sole owner of the account.

On the other hand, when an account is held by two people as “tenants in common,” it means that you each own half of it. If one of you dies, that person’s half does not automatically go to the other owner. Instead, that half goes through the Will of the deceased.

Last Reviewed: May 2016
I was reading an Act, but I couldn’t find any information about how much the fine for an offence would be. Why is that?

The practical details that allow laws to be enforced are generally included in “regulations.” So, a regulation is usually where you would find a detail such as what fines may be charged for an offence.

Not all laws have regulations, but all regulations are attached a particular law. The Act will state who has the authority to make regulations about that particular law. Regulations are easier to change than laws, as they do not have to be passed by the whole Legislative Assembly of Alberta or the Parliament of Canada.

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Last Reviewed: March 2016
I’ve heard that I can’t see my child for more than 2-3 hours at a time, because my child is still breastfeeding. Is this true?

Breastfeeding can be a challenge, as there is much evidence that breastfeeding should be encouraged. But it can be a problem when breastfeeding is used to deny or limit parenting time with the other parent.

Parents/guardians can always work together to decide where the child will live and when and how parenting time will occur. Where possible, and where safe, parents can work together to arrange parenting time (or “access”) that would otherwise be unusual, such as visiting at the mother’s home, or visiting with the mother close by. Parents can consider having the baby learn to drink from a bottle and use either pumped milk or formula (although that may not always be possible).

If the matter is considered in court, the judge will have to apply the “best interests of the child” test. There is much evidence that breastfeeding is in the best interests of the child. That said, the judge will consider breastfeeding as one factor among many, and courts have made clear that breastfeeding should not be used as an excuse to deny a child meaningful time with the father. As a result, courts have started to grant orders suggesting that the mother can pump breast milk, so that it can be frozen in order to make it easier for the father to have parenting time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the amount of breastfeeding changes over time. As the child ages, the arrangements can be updated to reflect changes in the breastfeeding schedule, and longer visits (including overnight visits) will become possible.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What if one of us wants to change our agreement in the future, and the other disagrees?

If the parties cannot agree about changing the agreement, they can try to reach a new agreement through dispute resolution processes (for example: mediation). If they still cannot agree, the parties may need to go to court to resolve the issue.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is a Personal Directive?

A Personal Directive is a document that gives another person the power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. A Personal Directive does not cover financial decisions. For that you need a Power of Attorney.

In other provinces and countries, this document might have a different name (such as “living will” or “Power of Attorney for Health”). In Alberta, however, the correct legal term is “Personal Directive.”

Last Reviewed: March 2016
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
What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives another person the power to make your financial decisions for you.

There are different kinds of Powers of Attorney:

  • An Immediate Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and ends at a specific date or after a certain decision has been made.
  • An Immediate and Enduring Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and continues if you become unable to make your own financial decisions.
  • An Enduring Power of Attorney (also called a “Springing Power of Attorney”) takes effect only when you become unable to make your own financial decisions.

A Power of Attorney does not cover personal or medical decisions. For that you need a Personal Directive.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
Do I need a lawyer to make a Will?

No. Alberta law does not require you to use a lawyer when completing a Will. However, when planning for death, it is always a good idea to get the advice of a lawyer. A lawyer’s advice is particularly helpful if your situation:

  • is complicated;
  • involves significant assets;
  • includes property in another province or country; or
  • could involve a lot of family strife.

Lawyers have tools that address complex and delicate situations. Also, they may be able to help you save money in taxes.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
Can I write a letter to a judge to tell him what my former partner is doing?

No. It is very improper to write a letter to the judge. Concerns about how the other party is acting should only be brought before a judge in a formal court application.

If the other party is not following the terms of a judgment or order, or if they are not following the court process properly, you can raise these concerns in a court application.

If you believe that the terms of your court order need to be changed, then you should make a formal court application.

If you have concerns about what the other party is doing, but you do not want to change your court order, then there is nothing that a judge can do. You may want to think about mediation as a way of discussing those issues with the other party.

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Last Reviewed: March 2017
My spouse is selling off our assets without my consent. Is there anything I can do?

There are several things that can be done, including:

  • making a court application to help protect assets;
  • for certain kinds of property, filing documents that can help to protect your interest in the property (such as filing a Certificate of Lis Pendens); and
  • in the final division of property, asking the Court to consider the value of what has been sold.
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Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is a “capacity assessment”?

A “capacity assessment” is a process where someone tests another person to see if that person is able to make his or her own decisions. In other words, they are testing to see if the person still has “capacity.” Capacity refers to a person’s ability to:

  • understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  • understand the consequences of making a decision. This means understanding what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Generally, capacity does not have to be tested when a person is signing documents to prepare for illness or death. However, if a person completes planning documents (such as Personal Directives, Enduring Powers of Attorney, and Wills) with the help of a lawyer, the process includes a look at capacity. Specifically, whenever a person goes to a lawyer’s office to sign documents, the lawyer conducts a test to ensure that the person understands what he or she is signing at that moment. The lawyer also conducts a test to help ensure that the person is not being forced to sign the documents.

However, capacity does have to be tested when Personal Directives and Enduring Powers of Attorney are brought into effect. To do this, someone must sign a special form that confirms that the person has lost capacity. This is called a “Declaration of Incapacity.” Such declarations are usually completed by doctors.

Also, capacity must be formally tested when someone applies to the Court to make personal and financial decisions with or for another person. This formal test is called the “Capacity Assessment Process” (CAP), and it is governed by Alberta's Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.

The CAP determines an adult’s ability to think and function. It focuses on the kinds of decisions that the adult needs to make, and evaluates the level of assistance required. This process must be used when applying for or reviewing any of the following:

  • Co-Decision-Making Orders;
  • Guardianship Orders; and
  • Trusteeship Orders.
Last Reviewed: April 2016
What is the difference between “special” expenses and “extraordinary” expenses?

“Special expenses” (sometimes called “ordinary expenses”) and “extraordinary expenses” are both part of “Section 7” expenses under the Child Support Guidelines (Federal and Alberta). Section 7 expenses are for things not included in the “basic amount” amount of child support. The basic amount is meant to cover things that every child needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Ordinary section 7 expenses (or “special expenses”) are the more “usual” kind of expenses. In other words, they happen in many (but not all) cases. Examples include: day care costs, health insurance premiums, prescription medications, and glasses.

Extraordinary section 7 expenses are educational and extracurricular expenses. Examples include: tuition at a special school for talented hockey players, and expenses related to the child’s special needs. Up to a certain value, these expenses are included in the base table amount (for example: standard school “fees”). The expense becomes “extraordinary” if the cost is necessary for the child’s best interests and reasonable given the total amount of the parents’ income, but otherwise outside of the ability of the requesting parent to pay for on his or her own (with his or her own income plus the base amount of child support).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Who can be a witness for the marriage ceremony?

Witnesses for a marriage ceremony must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • have capacity;
  • be fluent in the language being used at the wedding ceremony; and
  • understand the documents to be signed.


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Last Reviewed: August 2016
What is the difference between a Personal Directive and a Guardianship Order?

Both Personal Directives and Guardianship Orders give a person the legal power to make personal decisions for someone who is unable to make those decisions for himself or herself.

However, they are different:

  • Personal Directives require planning in advance. A person must complete a Personal Directive while he or she still has capacity. Then, when the person loses capacity, the Personal Directive can come into effect. Once this happens, the person named as the substitute decision-maker (the “Agent”) can begin to make personal decisions.
  • A Guardianship Order is used when there has been no advance planning. It is for people who have lost capacity but did not complete a Personal Directive while they still had capacity. This means they did not name a substitute decision-maker for themselves. Instead, a loved one must apply to the Court to get an order of Guardianship.
Last Reviewed: April 2016