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Can I apply for a portion of my spouse’s work pension when we separate?

Probably. Under the Matrimonial Property Act, a pension is considered property that is subject to division. However, this does not mean that all of the pension is necessarily divisible—like any other piece of matrimonial property, it is related to how long you were married. 

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
My ex-spouse and I agree on everything. Can we get a divorce without involving the courts?

No. In Canada, you cannot get the actual “divorce” itself without a court order. Although you can agree to everything, and simply hand in the paperwork, a judge still has to see the paperwork and the process has to be finalized through the courts. This is called a “desk divorce.”

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What is the difference between Guardianship and Trusteeship?

Guardianship is a court order that gives someone the power to make personal decisions for a person who is unable to make those decisions for himself or herself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions.

Trusteeship is a court order that gives someone the power to make financial decisions for a person who is unable to make those decisions for himself or herself.

Although they are different things, Guardianship and Trusteeship can be applied for at the same time.

Last Reviewed: April 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
If I give my cousin a gift of money, can I control what he spends it on?

No. You cannot control how your cousin spends the money that you have given them. Once you give someone money, they can do whatever they want with it. This means that they don’t have to spend it the way you want them to, or the way they said they would.

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Last Reviewed: November 2016
My ex-girlfriend is pregnant with my child. Do I have to start paying child support before the child is born?

You don’t have to, but showing an “intention” to take financial care of the child can help to ensure that you will be a guardian of the child after the child is born.

You should also know that, under the Family Law Act (which is the law that would apply to your situation), the child’s mother can apply for child support before the child is born.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What’s the difference between legal information and legal advice?

Legal information is general statements about the law that do not apply to any specific person’s situation. Legal information helps people understand the law, the nature of their legal issues, and how to solve legal problems (both in court and out of court). Legal information is available to the public on websites, in print, and in person, and it is different from legal advice.

Legal advice is guidance that is provided by lawyers (or law students supervised by lawyers) after learning about a person’s legal issues. The lawyer or law student uses his or her legal knowledge and expertise to come up with the “best option(s)” for a particular client, based on what the client hopes to achieve. Legal advice tells people how the law applies to their specific situations, or what they should do about their legal problem (including what exactly to write on court forms and what to say in court).

In other words, legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.” 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
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
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
Can an adopted child be taken back from the adoptive parents?

Any person who consents to an adoption has up to 10 days after signing it to change their mind and withdraw consent.

Also, even after an adoption is completed, an application to set aside an Adoption Order can be made:

  • up to one year after the order was made; or
  • at any time if it can be shown that the adoption was obtained by fraud. For example, if someone lied to get the consent of a guardian to the adoption.

However, Adoption Orders will only be set aside if it is in the best interests of the child to do so. This is true even if there was fraud. This is a very difficult case to make. If you want to go to court about setting aside an Adoption Order, consider getting legal advice.

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Last Reviewed: November 2016
Can protective orders be extended?

Most protective orders can be extended if the victim feels that she or he still needs protection. The victim (or, in criminal issues, the Crown prosecutor) will need to go back to court to apply for an extension on the protective order. This should be done well before the current order ends to make sure the protection remains in place.

In the case of peace bonds, a completely new application will need to be made, with new evidence to support it. Therefore, “extending” a peace bond is actually just replacing the expired peace bond with a new one.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Am I responsible for my ex-spouse’s debts?

Possibly. When people think of “property” they often think of the “stuff” they own—their assets. But property is not just assets. Property, including the property that is to be divided between separating spouses, also includes debts. In some cases, even debts created after separation may also be considered “matrimonial property.”

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
My spouse and I just separated. Can we start the divorce proceedings right away, or do we need to wait until our year of separation is up?

You can begin court proceedings for divorce at any time after you have separated. However, you can only do so if you have been “ordinarily resident” in Alberta for at least one year.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Does Aboriginal heritage matter when a court decides what is in the “best interests of the child”?

It can. Under federal and Alberta law, the only thing to be considered when deciding where and with whom a child lives, as well as who should have access to that child, is the “best interests” of the child. This “best interests of the child” test is applied under both the federal Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act.

Regardless of whether Aboriginal children live on-reserve or off-reserve, heritage and cultural considerations are very important in determining the best interests of the child. This means that Aboriginal children have the right to keep a connection to their heritage and culture. Naturally, if the matter goes to court, this can have an effect on the parenting time that court might give. It may even result in the court giving “contact” to a third party, such as an elder or another family member, specifically because that person will keep the child in touch with his or her heritage and culture.

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