Becoming the Guardian of a Child

Law

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, certain people can apply to become the guardian of a child. People who can apply include:

  • parents who are not automatically a guardian of the child;
  • people who stood in the place of a parent; and
  • other relatives and friends who have been caring for the child.

See the sections below to learn how the law applies to you.

Choose the Process tab above for forms and detailed information about the court process.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: July 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about becoming the guardian of a child under the Alberta Family Law Act. It is for people who are not already guardians of a child and want to apply for guardianship.

Be Aware

This Information Page does not include information about getting a private guardianship order under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. For information about that, see the “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section of the Child Protection Information Page.

“Guardianship” is the word used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that adults have about a child.

You do not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians.

This Information Page describes:

  • what it means to be the guardian of a child, including the responsibilities of guardianship;
  • what the law requires before you can apply to be a guardian; and
  • how to apply to become a guardian under Alberta’s Family Law Act.

In Alberta, all children are subject to guardianship. The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. This is called being a “guardian by statute.” If you meet the definition, you are a guardian by statute, and you do not need to “apply” for guardianship.

Someone who is not a guardian by statute may still be able to become a guardian. Certain people can apply to become the guardian of a child under Alberta’s Family Law Act. People who can apply include:

  • parents who are not automatically a guardian of the child;
  • people who stood in the place of a parent; and
  • other relatives and friends who have been caring for the child.

If you do not want to be a guardian, you may instead:

In general, the law and processes described on this Information Page are about children and potential guardians who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the children and at least one of the guardians should live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

  • any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already);
  • any of the parties live in another province; or
  • any of the parties have been “ordinarily resident” outside of Alberta during the past year.

For more information about out-of-province issues, including how “ordinarily resident” is defined, see the New Relationships and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta. For information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to:

  • read the information below;
  • understand how it applies to your situation; and
  • know what actions you may need to take.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. This topic can be quite confusing because there have been many different words used over time. Also, different words are used in different laws across Canada and internationally. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians. A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

For more information about guardianship, see the “What is guardianship?” section below.

parenting time

This term describes the time a child spends with each guardian. For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times.

Be Aware

Some of the resources linked on this Information Page may use the term “access.” You may even see it used interchangeably with “parenting time.” The word “access” is used for married parents in Canada’s Divorce Act to describe particular time that is spent with a child. Although the terms parenting time and access are similar, they are different. Because you are using the Family Law Act, the correct term is “parenting time” (and that is the word you will be using in your paperwork).

residency

The term “residency” refers to where the child lives. In parenting arrangements, there are different kinds of residency:

  • “shared” residency means that a child lives (or spends their time) equally with more than one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a mother and a father have shared residency, the child will spend between 40-60% of their time with each of them. This can also be called a “shared parenting regime.”
  • “primary” residency means that a child lives (or spends their time) mostly with one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a child lives mostly with the father, but spends 2 days every week with the mother, then the father has primary residency. In these cases, the guardian who has the children for most of the time is sometimes called the residential guardian. And the guardian who has the children only occasionally may be called the non-residential guardian or the access guardian.
  • “split” residency refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one guardian (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other guardian (for example: the father).

contact

If a person who is not a guardian of a child wishes to spend time with the child, that is called “contact.” A contact agreement or contact order only gives that person the right to spend time with the child—not to make any decisions about the child. Only guardians can make decisions about a child.

See the Contact for Non-Guardians Information Page for more information.

in loco parentis / “in the place of a parent”

In loco parentis is a Latin term meaning “in the place of a parent.” This phrase describes a situation where someone who was not the parent of a child nevertheless acted as a parent to that child. As a result, this person may wish to (or be required to) take on legal rights and responsibilities as if he or she were a parent. In the Family Law Act, this concept is called “in the place of a parent” (but you may still hear it called “in loco parentis”).

best interests of the child

The factors that parents, guardians, and/or the Court must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • the child’s opinion (if the child is mature enough to form an opinion).

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

application

Smaller, individual parts of a court action, which are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several applications. Sometimes, an “application” is called a “motion.” Applications are heard in “docket court” or “chambers.”

Applications can take place at different times during the legal process, including:

  • before a trial;
  • during a trial; or
  • after a trial.

applicant

The person who starts a court application to ask the Court to do something. The applicant is one of the “parties” in a court application.

respondent

The person who has a court application brought against him or her. The respondent is one of the “parties” in a court application.

“swearing” or “affirming” something

When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

If you swear that something you wrote is true, it may be called a “sworn” statement.

enforcement

Forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your guardianship issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

Web Provincial Court Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”); and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta.

This Information Page discusses the Alberta Family Law Act. According to the Family Law Act, if you need to go to court, you have to choose between 2 courts: Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. Your choice can depend on what exactly you are asking for.

  • On the Law tab of this Information Page, if certain options regarding guardianship and parenting time are only available to you in one of the 2 courts, we will note it below with one of these icons: 
    Provincial Court

     

    Queen's Bench

     

  • On the Process tab of this Information Page, you will be asked to choose either Provincial Court or Court of Queen’s Bench, and the related processes will appear.

For detailed information on the differences between the 2 courts, see the following resources and the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

PDF The Canadian Legal System: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 6:10.

This Information Page deals mainly with guardianship. When you are addressing your guardianship and parenting issues, there may be other things to consider, such as child support. Which court you choose will affect all of your topics, and there may be parts of these topics that can only be dealt with in one of the 2 courts.

As a result, be sure to read about ALL of the topics that you need to address, before deciding which court is best for you. You can find this information by searching this website or on the Legal Topics page.

Be Aware

Wherever possible, the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one level of court.

If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, the children, or both? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe.

Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, there are a few places to start.

How to use this website

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general family law information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon: 

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.

More information

For more information on how domestic violence can affect your family law issues, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

What is guardianship of a child?

“Guardianship” is the word used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that adults have about a child.

If a child has only one guardian, that is called “sole guardianship.” When 2 or more parents/guardians share the decision-making power, that is called “joint guardianship.” See the “Guardianship arrangements” section below for more information.

In Alberta, all children are subject to guardianship. The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. When a child’s 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. This is also called being a “guardian by statute.” If you meet the definition, you are a guardian by statute, and you do not need to “apply” for guardianship.

Tip

See the “Are you already a guardian?” section below to help you find out if you are a guardian.

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.

You do not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians.

Be Aware

Guardianship does not affect child support. If you are the biological parent of a child, you will still have to pay child support, even if you are not a guardian. Similarly, a person who stood in the place of a parent may also have to pay child support, even if they are not a guardian. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Guardians’ rights and responsibilities

Guardians have specific rights and responsibilities related to the child. Unless these rights have been limited by law or a court order, they include the following.

Major decisions. Guardians have the right to be informed of and consulted about all major decisions affecting the child, including:

  • education;
  • cultural or religious upbringing; and
  • where the child will live.

Day-to-day decisions. Guardians have the right to make day-to-day decisions affecting the child, including:

  • daily care and supervision;
  • daily activities;
  • extracurricular activities;
  • who the child associates with;
  • if the child should work; and
  • medical, dental, and other health-related treatment for the child.

Giving care. Guardians are responsible for:

  • caring for the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional development; and
  • guiding the child toward independent adulthood.

Naming a guardian in a Will. When a guardian dies, they can name another person to be the child’s guardian in their Will. However, naming a guardian in a Will is not binding on a court. If there is another surviving guardian of the child, that person will still be a guardian. Or, someone else can still apply to be a guardian. If there is a dispute, only the Court has the final say about who will be a guardian. That decision will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.

For more information about the rights and responsibilities of a guardian, see the following resources.

Web What is a guardian?
Legal Aid Alberta
English


Audio/Web Guardianship rights to a child
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English
The difference between guardianship and informally “taking care” 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.

Sometimes, relatives or friends help take care of a child. For example: they may take care of the child every day after school until the parent gets home.

Or, relatives or friends may have full care of a child. For example: a grandparent may take care of their grandchild for months or years because the parent is suffering from drug addiction and cannot take care of the child themselves.

In such cases, the caregivers often have to make day-to-day decisions for the child. Despite this fact, the caregivers are not the guardians of the child. They are not legally responsible for taking care of the child.

This is an important difference, as not being a guardian means that the caregiver has no right to continue taking care of the child. At any time, the child’s legal guardian can refuse to continue letting the caregiver care for the child. Depending on the situation, this can be harmful for both the child and the caregiver.

As a result, a person who has been the caregiver for a child may want to explore whether they should become a guardian of that child.

Are you already a guardian?

If you want to be legally responsible for taking care of a child, you will first need to know if you are already a guardian under the law. There are various things that can affect whether or not you are a guardian.

Biological and adoptive parents

Under Alberta law, the starting point is that parents (biological or adoptive) have a legal right to guardianship of their children.

Biological parents

Being a biological parent is not always enough to be considered a guardian. The Family Law Act says that a parent of a child is a guardian of the child if the parent:

  • has acknowledged that they are a parent of the child; and
  • has shown an intention to be a guardian within one year of becoming aware of the pregnancy, or becoming aware of the birth of the child (whichever is earlier).

In other words, in addition to being a biological parent, you have to have shown that you want to be a guardian. For example, let’s say you are the biological parent of a six-year-old. However, you have had nothing to do with the child since before birth. Your claim to guardianship is not very strong.

Be Aware

If a child is born as a result of a sexual assault, the biological father is not a guardian.

For more information about how the law decides if you have shown enough intent to be a guardian, see the resources listed in the “Determining if you are a guardian” heading below.

Adoptive parents

To be an adoptive parent, you must have gone through a formal adoption process. It is not enough simply to live with the other parent.

If you don’t know if you are the biological father

Sometimes, a father may not be certain whether he is the biological parent. If you are unsure if you are the biological parent of the child, see the following resources to learn how parentage is determined.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 10.

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Who is a parent?”

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 5.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 11.

Audio/Web Paternity Rights
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Who Is a Parent?”

 

Queen's Bench

Sometimes people want or need a court order declaring parentage. For example, they may want to add or change information on a birth certificate. Getting a “Declaration of Parentage” is a specific application process that can only be done in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

If you are making an application about guardianship and there is an issue about parentage, you may need to apply for a Declaration of Parentage. For information about that, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

People who were appointed as guardians

If you were appointed as a guardian of a child in the past, and you have never asked to end that guardianship, you are still a guardian of that child.

Determining if you are a guardian

If you are unsure if you are a guardian, see the following resources to learn how the law determines guardianship.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 8.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13.

Web What is a guardian?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 6.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start at “Who Is a Guardian?”


Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Web Who is a Parent? Not a Simple Question!
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Ontario Child Custody: Who is Considered a Parent? – video
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video In Loco Parentis: The Law Surrounding Parenting and Child Support in Alberta
Balbi and Company Legal Centre
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

If you decide that you are a guardian, you will be able to have “parenting time” and take part in making parenting plan. For more information about that, see the sections below that start with “Being a guardian.”

Applying to be a guardian

If you are not already a guardian, you may still be able to become a guardian. To do so, you must apply in court to become a guardian.

Remember

This Information Page does not include information about getting a Private Guardianship Order under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. For information about that, see “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section of the Child Protection Information Page.

Court will be required

To become guardian, you must get a court order. In other words, you cannot simply agree with the other guardian(s) to be a guardian. You must convince a court to appoint you as a guardian. This will require a court hearing.

This does not mean that you and the other parties have to disagree, or that there must be a long hearing. You can all agree that having you appointed as a guardian is a good thing and you can all consent to the application. If this is the case, the matter will still go before a judge, and he or she will decide if the court order should be granted.

Who can apply?

People who can apply for guardianship include:

  • parents who are not automatically a guardian of the child;
  • people who stood in the place of a parent; and
  • other relatives and friends who have been caring for the child.

What will the Court consider when granting an order?

The Court does not automatically give a guardianship order.

In general, the applicant must have had “care and control” of the child for more than 6 months. However, the Court may decide that this requirement is not necessary.

Usually a judge will not grant a guardianship order without the consent of each guardian of the child. If the child is 12 years of age or older, the judge will also prefer to have the child’s consent. It is possible, however, to ask that these consents be waived.

Most importantly, if you apply for guardianship, the court must believe that appointing you as a guardian is in the “best interests” of the child. This means you must satisfy the court that you:

  • are suitable as a guardian; and
  • are willing and able to exercise the powers, responsibilities, and entitlements of guardianship (including being able to financially support the child).

For more information on the best interests of the child and how that test is applied in court, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 15.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 7:10.


Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Alberta custody: factors to determine a child’s best interest
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video In The Know - "Best interest of the children" and what that means for custody and access
Feldstein Family Law Group (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 40-41.

Web The Best Interests of the Aboriginal Child
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

Video Atelier juridique en français sur les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French

For more general information about applying for guardianship, see the following resources.

Web Becoming the Guardian of a Child
Government of Alberta
English

Web Private Guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Web How do I become a guardian?
Legal Aid Alberta
English




Web Do children get to pick their guardians?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

PDF Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Parent Support Services Society of BC
English

Applying for “parenting time” at the same time as applying for guardianship

“Parenting time” is the time a child spends with each guardian (even if they are not a “parent”). For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times. Unless ordered otherwise by a court, guardians have a right to parenting time with a child. However, when there is more than one guardian, the guardians are not necessarily entitled to equal time with the child. As always, the determining factor is the “best interests of the child.”

When you are applying for guardianship, you may only need to deal with guardianship. For example, perhaps there are no other guardians who you will need to deal with about parenting time. Or, if there are any other guardians, you may be able to agree about parenting time.

However, if you already know that you and the child’s current guardian(s) will disagree about parenting time, you may want to apply for parenting time at the same time as you apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if you are appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the parenting issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about parenting time would not go ahead.

For more information about parenting time and making a “parenting plan,” see the section below called “Being a guardian: ‘Parenting time’ and making a parenting plan.”

If you have been named a guardian in a Will

A guardian can use their Will to name another person (or more than one person) to be their child’s guardian. The new guardianship is meant to take effect immediately upon the guardian’s death.

However, the new guardianship does not take effect unless it is accepted by the person. This acceptance can be either:

  • clearly expressed in words; or
  • expressed by the person’s behaviour. For example, the child begins to live with the person.

For example: the new guardian can confirm their acceptance by writing to the other guardian(s). Or, the new guardian can accept guardianship by simply starting to take part in the decision-making that is required.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You do not have to accept the guardianship.
  • If you accept guardianship, you will only have the powers and responsibilities of guardianship that the deceased guardian had at the time of their death. See the “Guardianship arrangements” section below for information about how these powers may be shared.
  • If someone else was also appointed as a guardian in the Will, any of the people appointed can accept guardianship. It doesn’t matter if one or more of the other people appointed do not accepted the guardianship.
  • If someone else was appointed in the Will, you will have to work with them.
  • If there is another surviving guardian of the child, that person will still be a guardian, and you will have to work with them.
  • Someone else can still apply to be a guardian.

Also, naming a guardian in a Will is not binding on a court. If there is a dispute, only the Court has the final say about who will be a guardian. That decision will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.
 

Be Aware

If you do become a guardian of the child, you may need “proof” that you are a guardian. For example, the child’s school may ask for proof. Or border service guards may ask if you travel outside of Canada with the child. In such cases, a copy of the Will and a copy of the death certificate may be enough. Or, you may have to get a court order. For more information about how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Guardianship arrangements

There are different ways to describe how guardianship can be shared, or not shared. The most common are:

  • sole guardianship; and
  • joint guardianship.

Sole guardianship means that only one parent or guardian has all of the decision-making power about a child. It also means that no one else is a guardian of the child:

  • no one else makes decisions; and
  • no one else needs to be informed about decisions made about the child.

Joint guardianship means that more than one parent or guardian has decision-making power about a child. For example, both a mother and father may share decision-making power. They may:

  • share all of the decision-making powers; or
  • each have different kinds of powers.

In Alberta, it is quite rare for courts to grant sole guardianship. This is because the courts place a high value on both parents having a say about their children.

Also, under the Family Law Act, the courts can deal with issues about decision-making between the parties in another way. Instead of granting sole guardianship to one party, the details about guardianship can be laid out in a “parenting order.” In a parenting order, it is possible to:

  • give one guardian certain decision-making powers, and give the other guardian different decision-making powers; or
  • state that one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

Sometimes, however, a child does only have one guardian. If you are the only guardian of the child, you will be the person making all of the decisions. Many people and organizations are used to a child having at least 2 guardians. As a result, you may need “proof” that you are the sole guardian (especially if you travel outside of Canada). It is possible to get a court order saying that you are the only guardian (see the Process tab of this Information Page).

For more information on the types of guardianship arrangements, and how the decision-making powers can be divided, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 12.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 6.


Web Family Law (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Nepali, and Tagalog)
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Tagalog, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. This resource will automatically download: only look at this on a safe computer.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For Aboriginal families living off-reserve, all general provincial laws apply.

For Aboriginal families living on-reserve, provincial laws can apply, but the federal Indian Act will also apply. The Indian Act rules might even trump the provincial rules. Aboriginal families on reserve must also consider any band laws or requirements. For contact information for Alberta bands, see the following resource.

Web First Nations in Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Premières nations de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

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 stay connected to their heritage and culture. Naturally, if the matter goes to court, this can affect the guardianship that a court might give.

For more information on guardianship and parenting time in the Aboriginal context, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web The Best Interests of the Aboriginal Child
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Interactive Aboriginal Parenting After Separation
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Aboriginal people and family law issues
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Your family and the law
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Information for Aboriginal Families (available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway, and Oji-Cree)
Government of Ontario
English, French, Plains Cree, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more general information, see the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page.

Blended family considerations

In Alberta, the law around guardianship in blended families is no different than it is for any other families. Your guardianship and parenting issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Depending on your exact situation, you may need to know about “standing in the place of a parent” (sometimes called “in loco parentis”). This phrase describes a situation where someone who was not the parent of a child nevertheless acted as a parent to that child. As a result, this person may wish to (or be required to) take on legal responsibilities as if he or she were a parent. A step-parent might stand in the place of a parent. In that case, the step-parent may be given the same rights and responsibilities as a biological or adoptive parent.

For more information about standing in the place of a parent, see the section above called “Are you already a guardian?”

For more general information, see the following resource.

Web We Are Family: Legal Issues When There Are Children From Multiple Relationships
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
LGBTQ considerations

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, the law around guardianship is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your guardianship issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, there may be some difficulties if you have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning. Whenever you involve the law, you must identify yourself and you must always identify yourself in the same way. This can take some extra work.

For example, your relationship to the child may have developed while you were still using the name and/or gender assigned at birth. Now you are applying for guardianship using a different name and/or gender than that assigned at birth. You may have to take additional steps to show that you are the same person. You may need to prove that you qualify to make the application.

In addition, as with every guardianship application, the Applicant must show that their request is in the best interests of the child. As the law is only now getting caught up with gender transition and non-binary gender, you can expect difficulties. For example, someone may argue that your presence would be confusing for a child.

This is a very complex area: consider consulting a lawyer. For more information about working with a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Polyamorous relationships

A polyamorous relationship where one or more partners has children can be complicated. If you are involved with the children, you may want to clarify your legal rights and responsibilities. You could do this by applying to become a guardian.

In such a case, you would have to meet all of the conditions that are required by law, as described above. Specifically, you would have to show that your request is in the best interests of the child.

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

A person who is thinking about becoming the guardian of a child may not be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. For example, they could be:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

It is possible for a person in one of these situations to ask for guardianship. This is because the applicant does not have to provide information about their immigration status. What is important is that the applicant or the child live in Alberta. Also, the court’s main concern is the best interests of the child. Sometimes that might mean giving guardianship to a loved one or friend who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

Be Aware

A guardianship order will not help with immigration applications for either the guardian or the child. As a result, the potential guardian may want to consider and plan for what will happen to the child in case the guardian or child is later no longer allowed to stay in Canada.

If one or more of the parties are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or more of the parties are involved in criminal law issues, the situation is much more complex. This is even more true if there is also domestic violence involved. Although all the general family law rules and processes still apply, the involvement of criminal issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • whether and when to involve a lawyer;
  • visitation and support issues; and
  • when and how to schedule court hearings.

If one or more of the guardians or potential guardians is involved in criminal proceedings, see the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law Information Page.

Lawyers for children

In most disputes about a child, the child does not have their own lawyer. However, it is possible.

Be Aware

The lawyer for the child does not handle any legal issues for either of the parents. The child’s lawyer may bring court applications on behalf of the child, or may respond to court applications made by one of the parents. The main role of a child’s lawyer is to speak for the child’s best interests, and let the Court know about the child’s wishes.

When can it happen?

A child could have their own lawyer if:

  • parents decide to hire a lawyer to represent the child;
  • the child requests their own lawyer (and the parents agree); or
  • the Court orders that a lawyer be hired for the child. The Court can do this on its own or at the request of the parties.

How does a court appoint a lawyer for a child?

A court can appoint a lawyer for a child if one of the parties asks it to do so. Also, it can appoint a lawyer without anyone asking. Although this is not common, it does happen.

What does the Court consider?

When deciding if it should appoint a lawyer for a child, the Court must determine that:

  • the child is able to make reasonable choices without being influenced by others;
  • the child is mature enough to instruct their lawyer;
  • there is a lawyer who can do the job, and that lawyer does not appear to side with any of the other parties involved; and
  • appointing a lawyer is in the child’s best interests.

Some of the things that the Court will look at when making this decision include:

  • how much conflict there is between the parties (the more conflict, the more the child may need a lawyer);
  • if there has been abuse;
  • if the child seems to be alienated from one or both parents (for a definition of “parental alienation," and see the Glossary);
  • if there are cultural or religious differences that are seriously affecting the child;
  • if the behaviour of any of the parties, or of some other person who has significant contact with the child, may be harmful to the child;
  • if any of the parties have significant medical or psychological illnesses;
  • if none of the parties seems suitable for taking care of the child;
  • if a mature child is expressing strong views, and doing what the child wishes would significantly change a long-standing custody or guardianship arrangement;
  • if one of the parties is trying to remove the child from the jurisdiction and this would affect other parties’ time with the child;
  • if it is being proposed that siblings be separated;
  • if it is a custody or guardianship case where none of the parties have a lawyer; and
  • if the child needs specific medical treatment and none of the parties are able to meet this need.

Who pays for a court-ordered child’s lawyer?

When a judge orders that a child has their own lawyer, the Order will usually include details about who will pay for the lawyer. Typically, the costs are shared between the parents.

Sometimes, the cost of a lawyer might be covered by Legal Aid (but that is the decision of Legal Aid). For information about what is required, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Where to get legal help for children

The Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) can give children legal information and legal advice. For cases being in heard in Calgary, where the children also live in Calgary, CLERC may be able to represent the child. See the following resource for information.

Web Contact Us
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Parents can also hire a lawyer for their children. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for information about your legal options.

More information


Web Amicus Curiae—the Child’s Lawyer
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The voice of the child in divorce, custody and access proceedings
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.


Video Children's Lawyers
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Note that there is no Office of the Children’s Lawyer in Alberta.
Using “out of court” options

You must apply to a court to become a guardian, but that does not mean your matter will have be “fought” in court. It is possible to agree about the application for guardianship.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate. For more information, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

More information

See the following resources for a good overview of all of the above non-court options.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 12.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 17:30.



PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start on p. 48.
Before you go to court: Is an Alberta court the right court?

Sometimes it is very clear that an Alberta court is the correct court to be in. Below are 2 examples.

  1. The guardians/potential guardians and the children currently live in Alberta and have never lived anywhere else.
  2. The guardians/potential guardians and the children moved to Alberta from another province. They still live here. No court action has been started in any other province or country.

Sometimes the situation becomes more complicated. Below are 2 examples.

  1. A court action was started in another province or country, and then the guardians/potential guardians moved to Alberta.
  2. The guardians/potential guardians were living in Alberta, but have now left the province, or are planning to move away.

In these situations, the Alberta courts may not have the right to hear the matter. Or, the Court may want to hear some of the details to decide if they can hear the matter.

If any of these situations apply to you, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see what your next steps should be.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
What to expect from the court process

Choosing a court

As described in the “Alberta’s two-court system” section above, you will have to choose between 2 courts: Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench.

For detailed information on the differences between the 2 courts, see the following resources and the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

PDF The Canadian Legal System: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 6:10.


Be Aware

When you file court documents, there is often a fee that must be paid. Fees are usually higher in the Court of Queen’s Bench than in Provincial Court. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Court Fees & Waivers in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Understanding the court system

Before going to court, you will want to learn more about how the court system works and what you can expect, such as:

  • procedures;
  • different kinds of hearings;
  • which documents you will need to provide; and
  • what to wear.

Educating yourself will be even more important if you are planning on representing yourself in court.

For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page. If you are representing yourself, make sure you also see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

The “test” applied in court: Best interests of the child

If you are going to court, there is only one “test” that will be applied to the issue of parenting time: the “best interests of the child” test.

For more information on the best interests of the child and how that test is applied in court, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 15.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 7:10.


Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Alberta custody: factors to determine a child’s best interest
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video In The Know - "Best interest of the children" and what that means for custody and access
Feldstein Family Law Group (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 40-41.

Web The Best Interests of the Aboriginal Child
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

Video Atelier juridique en français sur les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French

Representation in court

Once you get to court, you can:

  • represent yourself; or
  • be represented by a lawyer.

See the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about these options.

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

If you and any other guardians or potential guardians disagree about guardianship matters, the Court may be able to help you resolve those issues outside of the courtroom.

Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) offers a 10-hour program called Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI). You can ask for BCI on your own, or have it recommended by your lawyer, mediator, or another professional. It may also be ordered by a judge.

To use the BCI program:

  • there must be children involved;
  • one of the parties must earn less than $40,000 per year;
  • there must be an application already filed in one of the courts;
  • you must have already tried mediation without success; and
  • you must both agree to use the program.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Support when parenting apart
Government of Alberta
English
This program is available across Alberta. However, you will register through the Calgary office listed in this resource.
Going to trial

When you want to become the guardian of a child and there is disagreement, the issue could end up in trial. Similarly, if you are appointed guardian, a dispute with another guardian could result in trial. Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive.

For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing an order

It is possible to appeal a court decision. To appeal a court order, you have to appeal to the next highest court:

  • If the court order was granted by the Provincial Court, you would appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
  • If the court order was granted by the Court of Queen’s Bench, you would appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error in the facts. Also, an appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order.

For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Being a guardian: “Parenting time” and making a parenting plan

What is “parenting time”?

“Parenting time” is the time a child spends with each guardian. For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times.

Unless ordered otherwise by a court, guardians have a right to parenting time with a child. However, when there is more than one guardian, the guardians are not necessarily entitled to equal time with the child. As always, the determining factor is the “best interests of the child.” For information on how the law applies the “best interests of the child” test, see the “Applying to be a guardian” section above.

There are different ways to describe parenting time arrangements:

  • Primary means one guardian has the majority of the parenting time.
  • Shared means the parenting time is split more equally with each guardian (usually at least 40% with each).
  • Split refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one guardian (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other guardian (for example: the father).

What is a “parenting plan”?

A parenting plan is an agreement between guardians that describes how guardians will:

  • make decisions about the children;
  • make a schedule for where the children will live and when (the parenting time);
  • provide for the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual care of the children;
  • adapt to the changing needs of the children;
  • clarify what they expect of each other (especially about what they will each do to care for the children);
  • handle disagreements; and
  • communicate with each other about the children.

How and when are these issues decided?

Parenting time and a parenting plan cannot be decided until after an applicant is appointed as a guardian. This is because only guardians can have parenting time. If the guardians cannot agree on a parenting plan, they can take the matter to court.

However, this is an issue you will want to start considering before you apply for guardianship.

When you are applying for guardianship, you may only need to deal with guardianship. For example, perhaps there are no other guardians who you will need to deal with about parenting time. Or, if there are any other guardians, you may be able to agree about parenting time.

However, if you already know that you and the child’s current guardian(s) will disagree about parenting time, you may want to apply for parenting time at the same time as you apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if you are appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the parenting issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about parenting time would not go ahead.

If parenting matters go to court, the judge will make decisions about parenting time using the “best interests of the child” test.

Parenting time and the Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

Parenting After Separation (PAS) is a free course that is offered through Alberta Courts both in-person and online. PAS teaches parents/guardians about:

  • the effects of separation on children;
  • techniques for communication;
  • legal information that affects parents/guardians and children; and
  • how to work together to meet children’s health, social, educational, and emotional needs.

PAS is offered online throughout Alberta and in-person in some areas of Alberta.

You do not have to take PAS to get guardianship, but you may have to take it if you go to court about parenting time. It depends on which court you going to.

Queen's Bench

If you apply for parenting time through the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the PAS course will be mandatory. This means you must take it, even if you are a non-parent. You will have to prove that you have taken the course before you can make your application (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

Provincial Court

If you apply for guardianship through the Alberta Provincial Court, the PAS course will not be mandatory. You do not have to take it. However, a Provincial Court judge can order you to take the course if he or she believes it is in the best interests of the child.

Given that you may be required to take the course, and the course provides very helpful information, you may wish to take the course as soon as you can. It cannot hurt to take it.

Family Violence

If you attend PAS in person, there are safety precautions in place for families experiencing domestic violence. You may also attend PAS online.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Parenting After Separation (PAS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Web Children and Divorce FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See the first 2 questions.


PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Le rôle des parents après la dissolution/séparation de la famille (PAS)
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

For high-conflict situations, there is also the option of taking an additional 3-hour course, Parenting After Separation for High-Conflict Families. It is also free. However, this course is only offered in Edmonton and Calgary, and is not available online. For more information, see the following resources.


More information about parenting time

For more information about the various kinds of parenting time arrangements, see the resources listed below.

Although many of these resources refer to “parents,” much of the information applies to guardians who are not parents. Similarly, although many of these resources deal with guardianship when there is a separation or divorce, much of the information can apply to situations when the person asking for guardianship is not doing so as a result of separation or divorce issues.


Web Parenting after Separation
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at “2.2 Parenting schedules.”


Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “What is parenting time?”

Web Parenting Time For Children Under The Family Law Act
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “Parenting time.”

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 14-15.

Web What are the different kinds of child custody arrangements in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Interactive Aboriginal Parenting After Separation
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

French resources:


PDF Les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

Video Atelier juridique en français sur les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French


Other situations may complicate parenting time arrangements, including breastfeeding and children with special needs. For more information, see the following resources. Note that these resources are from private sources outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Does Mom’s Breastfeeding Impact Dad’s Access Rights to Baby?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

Web Should Mother’s Prolonged Breastfeeding Affect Father’s Access to Child?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

Video When Your Family is Not Neurotypical
Feldstein Family Law Group
English

Web What Any Divorce Lawyer Should Tell You About Custody and Special Needs Children
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English


Web Attending Kids' Events: Whose Turn is It?
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English

Web Getting Kids to Comply with Court Orders: Parents Must Take Active Steps
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

More information about making a parenting plan

For general information about making a parenting plan, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 61.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 11.

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 7.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start at “Settling Custody or Parenting.”

Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English

Web Liste de vérification pour les plans parentaux
Government of Canada
French

Web Parenting after Separation
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Separation and Divorce: Child Custody, Access, and Parenting Plans
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

When guardians create a parenting plan, there are many complicated topics that can come up. For example:

  • communication issues;
  • safety issues (if there is high conflict);
  • whether to include the views of the children;
  • how to get the help of experts, if it is needed;
  • issues related to travel;
  • moving; and
  • tax issues (such as tax deductions, benefits, and credits).

More information about all of these topics is on the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian. See the following sections.

  • “Creating a parenting plan: Including views of the children, travel concerns, and tax issues”
  • “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan: Moving, communication issues, and high-conflict situations”
Being a guardian: Enforcing a parenting plan

Once guardianship and a parenting plan are in place, most guardians obey the arrangements, because they recognize how important it is to the children. However, some guardians don’t obey them, even when they are in a court order. In such cases, the parties may need to look at issues of “enforcement.”

For information about that, see the “Enforcing a parenting plan” section of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian.

Being a guardian: When guardians disagree

Sometimes, guardians disagree about significant decisions, such as:

  • decisions involving a serious risk to the health or safety of a child; or
  • any decision that is likely to have serious long-term consequences for the child.

If this happens, any of the guardians can apply to the Court for “advice and direction.” Or, they can apply for a review of the decision to have the court provide direction. It may even be possible to ask the Court to end someone else’s guardianship.

For information about applications that can be made when guardian disagree, see the “When guardians disagree or don’t know what to do” section of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian.

For more general information about working with other guardians, see the following resources.


Being a guardian: Changing the parenting plan (including moving)

Parenting plans, including those that are put into court orders, are never considered permanent. Things change all the time. This is especially true with growing children.

For more information about changing the parenting plan, see the “Changing the parenting plan” section of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian.

When does guardianship end?

Guardianship ends when any of these things happen:

  • the guardian dies;
  • the child reaches the age of 18;
  • the child becomes someone’s spouse or Adult Interdependent Partner; or
  • a Guardianship Order is terminated by the Court.

Process

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice.  Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: July 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about the legal process of applying for guardianship and parenting time under the Family Law Act. It is for people who are not already guardians of a child and want to apply for guardianship.

This Information Page does not include information about getting a Private Guardianship Order under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. For information about that, see the “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section of the Child Protection Information Page.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

In general, the law and processes described on this Information Page are about children and potential guardians who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the children and at least one of the guardians should live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

  • any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already);
  • any of the parties live in another province; or
  • any of the parties have been “ordinarily resident” outside of Alberta during the past year.

For more information about out-of-province issues, including how “ordinarily resident” is defined, see the New Relationships and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on the process that people can follow to apply for guardianship and resolve issues related to that guardianship (including parenting time). For information on the law that governs your situation, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to:

  • read the information below;
  • understand how it applies to your situation; and
  • know what actions you may need to take.
Alberta’s two-court system

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, if you need to go to court, you have a choice between 2 courts: Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench.

Each of the courts has different requirements, rules, forms, and services. There are also certain things you can only request in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on your situation, the choice of court can be a critical factor. For example: if you need a “Declaration of Parentage,” that can only be asked for in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

As a result, be sure to read about ALL of the topics that you need to address, before deciding which court is best for you. You can find this information by searching this website or on the Legal Topics page.

Be Aware

Wherever possible, the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one level of court.

For detailed information on the differences between the 2 courts, see the following resources and the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

PDF The Canadian Legal System: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 6:10.

You will now be asked to make a choice.

  • If you choose Provincial Court, the PC processes will appear on this page for you to read.
  • If you choose the Court of Queen’s Bench, the QB processes will appear.

You can always go back and choose the other if you change your mind.

Go to the top of the Process tab and select Queen’s Bench or Provincial Court.

Provincial Court

Learn more about going to Provincial Court to deal with your guardianship matters under the Family Law Act. See the sections below for information about:

  • Options for staying out of court
  • Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself
  • The paperwork you need to file with the Provincial Court
  • The basics about the court process and what to expect

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Using out of court options

You must apply to a court to become a guardian, but that does not mean your matter will have be “fought” in court. It is possible to agree about the application for guardianship.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate. For more information, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Government programs to help avoid court battles (but they may be mandatory, if you do go to court)

To become a guardian, you will need a court order appointing you as guardian. But that does not mean that you also need a court order for the things related to your guardianship or any disputes that come up after you have been appointed. You can reach an agreement about these issues outside of court.

Although the programs listed below are provided by the Alberta Courts, you do not necessarily have to be involved in a court action to use them. Part of the intent of these programs is to help keep people out of court, if possible.

However, if you do end up taking your matters to Provincial Court, it is important to know that some of these programs will be MANDATORY (you will have to take them). Others are always voluntary (it is your choice). The descriptions below will state whether the program is mandatory or voluntary.

Parenting After Separation (PAS)

Parenting After Separation (PAS) is a free course that is offered through Alberta Courts both in-person and online. PAS teaches parents/guardians about:

  • the effects of separation on children;
  • techniques for communication;
  • legal information that affects parents/guardians and children; and
  • how to work together to meet children’s health, social, educational, and emotional needs.

You may attend PAS either online or in-person in some locations.

Different locations may have different rules about whether or not you can register for the same session as the other party. If you do not want to register in the same session, that is always possible, or you may attend online.

For current contact information and PAS registration, see the following resource.

Web Parenting After Separation (PAS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families (PASHC)

This program is for guardians who:

  • have already completed the PAS workshop; and
  • are still struggling to communicate with each other.

It is a voluntary program. This program is currently only offered in Edmonton and Calgary. See the following resources for more information.


Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

FOCIS is a free, voluntary, 6-hour, skill-based communication course for guardians who are living apart. Again, you do not have to be involved in a court process to take this course. See the FOCIS manual in the following resource.

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English

Guardians are not allowed to take the course together. Registration information is available in the following resource.

Web Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Caseflow conferencing

This is a program that is available to parties without a lawyer who have filed their first court application, but have not yet gone before a judge. It is meant to help parties reach an agreement out of court, or to be better prepared when going to court.

Caseflow conferencing is only available in some areas. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see if it is required in your judicial centre.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in those cities. If you have a lawyer but would still like to use the program, you can request an appointment when filing your application. For more information on the program, see the following resources.

PDF Caseflow Conference Program
Government of Alberta
English
This resource refers to “Family Justice Services.” The name of this program has changed to Resolution and Court Administration Services. 

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

If you live in other areas of Alberta, other help may be available in your area. See the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below.

Free family mediation

Whether or not you have a court action started, you may use the Family Mediation Program offered by Resolution and Court Administration Services. Mediation aims to help you reach an agreement out of court about your separation issues. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parties 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. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

For contact information and to register, see the following resource.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

This program is for guardians who already have an application in court. It provides up to 10 hours of solution-focused intervention, resulting in a report. This report does not contain recommendations, but it is available to the judge that hears your application. This service is available across Alberta.

To use the BCI program:

  • one of the parties must earn less than $40,000 a year;
  • you have already tried mediation without success; and
  • you both agree to take part in the program.

You can request Brief Conflict Intervention for yourself, or a professional helping you can refer you. Also, a judge can order you to attend.

See the following resource for more information.

Web Support when parenting apart
Government of Alberta
English
This program is available across Alberta. However, you will register through the Calgary office listed in this resource.
Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

If you go to court, you can choose to either be represented by a lawyer, or to represent yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you will be called a “self-represented litigant.”

Hiring a lawyer

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will explain to you what is happening with your case and why. A lawyer can help you reach an out-of-court agreement, or represent you in court.

For more information about your options for legal representation and other legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page, as well as the following resource.

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services. See the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below for information about help available in your area.

Also, you may be required to go through certain processes before your case can move forward. This depends on your judicial centre. For example:

  • You may have to go through the triage process (see the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below).
  • You may need to have a formal intake appointment before you are allowed to file any court documents (see the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below).
  • You may have to take part in caseflow conferencing (see the “Government programs to help avoid court” section above).

For more information about the help and required programs in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) is a group of programs and services offered by the Alberta government to help people resolve their legal matters. RCAS staff:

  • help you stay out of court when possible;
  • help with the court process and forms if you go to court; and
  • offer free or low-cost programs to help families with the legal system.

For more information about how RCAS can help you, see the following resource.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

These services used to be called Family Justice Services, Family Law Information Centres, and Law Information Centres. They are now together as a single point of contact to help Albertans with legal matters. However, you might still see some resources that call those services by their old names.

If you go to court, some RCAS services might be mandatory. This means that you must use those services. This can depend on where you live and what kinds of issues you are taking to court.

In some locations, all self-represented litigants must first go through triage before doing anything else. At triage, you will:

  • meet with RCAS staff for about 10 minutes to see what your next steps should be;
  • be referred to different services based on your needs;
  • be told what steps you can take next; and
  • schedule an intake appointment if needed (see below).

In many locations, self-represented litigants will have the option to go through an intake process. In some locations it is mandatory. At intake, RCAS staff will discuss your options with you. This may include a referral to court-supported family mediation when appropriate. See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

RCAS staff also:

  • provide caseflow conferencing (see the “Government programs to help avoid court” section above);
  • help you review your documents before you file; and
  • provide family court counsellors (FCCs) who help you learn about the court process and present the facts to the judge.

For more information about how RCAS can help you, see the following resource.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Before you go to court: Get to know the court system

Before filing any documents, you will need to learn about the court process. It is not simple and there are many rules. If you represent yourself, you will need to follow the required processes and the rules.

Paying fees

When you start or respond to a court action, there is often a filing fee that must be paid. There can also be fees for additional applications related to your case. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Court Fees & Waivers in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Docket court

Family court matters are not like you see on television. They do not usually go straight to trial. Instead, many matters are resolved in “docket court.” Docket court is where Provincial Court “pre-trial” hearings take place. These hearings are in courtrooms that are open to the public, where the judge hears a list of different cases by different people.

Judges in docket court can give various kinds of orders. For example, they can:

  • Make orders that deal with procedures and rules. For example, if you request an exception to a particular court rule. This means you are asking for permission to not follow that rule.
  • Make “interim orders.” Interim orders are “temporary” orders, meant to provide short-term solutions while the parties work out longer-term plans. Interim orders can be for a set period of time. Or they may have no set ending time.
  • Make “orders” about family law matters (such as issues about parenting time). These orders are generally not the final decision in a matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead they just accept the orders granted in applications as a permanent solution. They never go to trial and get a final “judgment.”

Some guardians/potential guardians can resolve their issues in docket court. They move forward without ever needing to go to trial. Other parties need to go to trial to resolve their issues (sometimes all of their issues, sometimes only some of them).

For more information on the court process, including docket court, interim orders, and going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

The sections below will explain all of the paperwork that needs to be completed for docket court hearings. You will learn that there are rules about:

  • how to schedule hearing dates; and
  • when you have to let the other party know about the application. This is called “giving notice.”

The court has these rules to make sure that everyone has enough time to prepare for court and no one is taken by surprise. This leads to fairer results.

Because of this, courts are quite strict about the rules. However, sometimes there are good reasons to not follow the rules. In such cases, you may want to ask for an “exception” to the rules. This means you are asking for permission to not follow the rules.

For example, it may be possible to:

  • get time limits shortened for giving notice to the other party (this is also called “abridging” the time); and
  • get court dates moved up to an earlier date.

Be Aware

These changes in the rules are for special situations. There must be a very good reason to request an exception. Also, if you ask for an exception, there are very specific steps that you must follow.

Also, in some cases it is possible to make an application without giving any notice to the other party. This is called making an “ex parte” application. For example, this can happen:

  • if you cannot find the other party, or
  • when your safety (or your children’s safety) may be at risk if you give the other party notice ahead of time.

For information about whether you can ask for any of these exceptions, contact the Provincial Court in your judicial centre, or ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Non-Guardians: Asking for guardianship

If you are not a guardian of the child, but you wish to be, you can file a guardianship application under the Family Law Act.

Tip

If you are not sure if you are a guardian, please see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Remember

This Information Page does not include information about getting a Private Guardianship Order under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. For information about that, see the “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section of the Child Protection Information Page.

Before you go to court: Is this the right court to file in?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

Is Alberta the right province in which to go to court?

Or, should you be applying in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If Alberta is the correct province, is this the right level of court?

Remember, there are certain things that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Do you think you might need any of those things? For example, are you also asking for a Declaration of Parentage? For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”).

The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live. However, under the Family Law Act, when a person files a claim involving a child, the general rule is that the matter should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives.

For example:

  • The child lives in Grande Prairie. The documents should be filed in Grande Prairie, and any court hearing should take place in Grande Prairie.
  • You live and work in Edmonton. You can hand in the documents at the Edmonton courthouse, but the documents will be sent up to Grande Prairie. The physical file will stay there, and the matter will be heard there.

If the child lives an equal amount of time in 2 different judicial centres, it can be more difficult to determine the correct judicial centre for the court application. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are making certain requests.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Completing the Claim

Under the Family Law Act, when you first ask for a court hearing, you have to complete a Claim form. This is a general form that sets out some basic information. It will also include the date and time of the hearing.

Remember

In some judicial centres, before filing your Claim you must first have an intake appointment at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Contact RCAS for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

 

To file a Claim, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Claim - Family Law Act (Form FL-10 / CTS3459)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

 

When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. In this case, you will need one or more Statements about guardianship (see below).

Be Aware

In Provincial Court, you can only have one Claim at a time. Be sure to include everything you want the court to decide about in your Claim form. If you do not, you will have to file an Amended Claim. To do that you would need to complete the Claim form again. On this form you would repeat the original information, and add all of the new information. If you do this, your court hearing may be moved to a later date to give the other party enough time to respond to the changes.

Completing the Guardianship Statement

An adult who applies for the guardianship of a child must complete the following form. The form includes a section where the applicant can indicate if a child over the age of 12 consents to the appointment.

It is also possible for a child to ask the Court to appoint someone in particular as their guardian. A child would do that if:

  • they have no current guardian; or
  • they feel that their current guardian is not able or willing to be a guardian.

For a child to ask the Court to appoint someone in particular as their guardian, the child must complete the following form.

Completing the other Statements

Generally, before making any other applications about the child, you will need to be a guardian. However, you can make some applications at the same time as you apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if you are appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the other issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about the other issues would not go ahead.

When you are applying for guardianship, you may want to ask the Court about the following issues.

Decision-making issues. For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions. Such issues are laid out in a parenting order.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children. Such issues are also laid out in a parenting order.

For more information about these issues, see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section of the Process tab (Provincial Court option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are involved in the case. You file the documents at the Provincial Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. In some judicial centres, your first court date will include the Caseflow Coordinator. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the amount of notice that you need to give the Respondent (see “Serving the paperwork” just below). You also need to give the other party enough time to respond to your application.

After you have picked a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your Claim. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party or parties (all of the other guardians). “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter. For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

However, there are certain very limited situations in which the other party does not need to be notified of the hearing. This is called an “ex parte” hearing. For more information on these situations, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

There are time limits in which you must complete the service:

  • If the service takes place in Alberta, the service must be completed 20 days or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing).
  • If the service takes place outside of Alberta (but still in Canada), the service must be completed one month or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing). However, before serving outside of Alberta, you will need to get permission from the Court. This is called an “Order for Service Ex Juris.” For more information about how to get this, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.
  • If the service takes place outside of Canada, the service must be completed 2 months or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing). However, before serving outside of Canada you will need to get permission from the Court. This is called an “Order for Service Ex Juris.” For more information about how to get this, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

PDF Affidavit of Service - Applicant (CTS3513)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the other party will be serving you with his or her Response. There are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

When you filed your Claim and Statements, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. For information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in docket court” section below.

Do you need to respond to the other party’s Response?

Sometimes, between the time you first file your paperwork and the date of the court hearing, there will be an important change to deal with. You may need to:

  • update some facts about you, such as contact details;
  • respond to some updated facts given by the other party; or
  • add something that is related to the relief that you are asking for.

If this occurs, you can let the Court know by filing an “Update Statement.” The form you will need is available below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case.

If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. If you have any questions, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

The use of Update Statements should be rare. The Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately.

Be Aware

The other party may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Responding to a non-guardian’s application for guardianship

When someone applies for guardianship, any other guardians will be given notice of the application. If you are a guardian who has received this notice, and you do not want the applicant to get guardianship, you can complete a Response.

Before you go to court: Is this in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

Is Alberta the right province in which to go to court?

Perhaps the Applicant made a mistake? Should you be going to court in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If Alberta is the correct province, is it in the right level of court?

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Perhaps they made a mistake when they chose Provincial Court. Or perhaps you wish to add something that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live. However, under the Family Law Act, when a person files a claim involving a child, the general rule is that the matter should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives. If the Applicant made an error, or if the child has moved, you can simply respond in the judicial centre where the child now lives.

For example:

  • The Applicant filed in Red Deer and the court file is in Red Deer.
  • You and the child have moved to Calgary.
  • You can file your response in Calgary, but the documents will be sent to Red Deer and the hearing will start in Red Deer.
  • When you go to Red Deer for the start of the hearing, you can ask that the application and future matters be heard in Calgary. This would mean having the court file transferred to Calgary.

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

  • Option 1: If the judge feels it is appropriate, he or she can choose to not deal with the matters in the application. Instead the judge would only order that the file and the hearing be transferred to Calgary.
  • Option 2: The judge can deal with the matters in the application. At the same time, the judge can also order that the file be transferred to Calgary so that any further applications can be heard there.
  • Option 3: The judge can deal with the application and refuse to move the entire file. The file would remain in Red Deer and all future applications would also be heard in Red Deer.

The judge's decision would be based on which location is the most convenient for the parties. However, where the children are living is given a lot of weight in that decision.

If the child lives an equal amount of time in 2 different judicial centres, it can be more difficult to determine the correct judicial centre for the court application. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

Once you have been served with documents, you have to respond within a certain amount of time. You must file your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim. Anything less than 10 days’ notice will be presumed to be “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. In other words: it is best to serve the other party 10 days (or more) before the date of the hearing.

If for any reason you cannot serve within that time limit, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are opposing the guardianship application.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Completing the “Response”

When the person applied for guardianship of the child, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

To file a Response, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Response - Family Law Act (Form FL-11 / CTS3460)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Fill in the information at the top of the Response form, then pay careful attention to the choices you are given.

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

In this case, check the box on the Response form that says you agree and fill out the rest of the form.

If you agree, but you also have other things that you want to ask for

In this case, start by checking off on the Response form that you agree in Part 1.

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim.

For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

If you do not agree AND you have other things that you want to ask for

In this case, you will start by checking off in Part 1 of the Response form that you do not agree.

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. These are described in more detail just below. For example: if they included a “Statement - Parenting” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Parenting.”

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim.

For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Guardianship Reply Statement(s)

To respond to an adult who has applied for the guardianship of a child, complete the following form. If the child disagrees with the appointment of the guardian, the child can also complete one of these forms.

To respond to a child who has applied to have a guardian appointed, complete the following form. This form can be completed by a current guardian or the person been suggested as a guardian.

Completing other Reply Statements

Generally, before making any other applications about the child, the applicant will need to be a guardian. However, the applicant can make some applications at the same time as they apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if the applicant is appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the other issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about the other issues would not go ahead.

For example: the applicant may have asked the Court about any of the following issues.

Decision-making issues. For example: asking that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, asking that both guardians share all of the decision-making powers. Or, asking that one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children.

For more information about responding these issues, see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section of the Process tab (Provincial Court option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

You may be asking for other topics to be addressed in addition to guardianship. If this is the case, you will have additional forms to fill out.

If you are asking for something else that was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.” For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are involved in the case. You file the documents at the Provincial Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is the same as you were served with their paperwork to begin with. You have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Remember

It is best to serve the other party 10 days (or more) before the date of the hearing. If you do not, you risk your matter being adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give the other party enough time to review your documents.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

PDF Affidavit of Service - Respondent (Form CTS3514)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Watch for Update Statements

Sometimes, between the time the initial application is filed and the date of the court hearing, there will be an important change in some facts about the other party (such as a change of contact details). If this occurs, he or she will let the court know by filing something called an “Update Statement,” and you would be served with a copy.

Or, some facts about you may change. Then you will need to let the court know by filling out an Update Statement of your own. The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. If you have any questions, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

The use of Update Statements should be rare. The Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately.

Plan to go to the docket court hearing

The Claim tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process, including what can happen if you do not respond in time.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Going to and being in docket court

Plan to go to the court hearing

The Claim form tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the Court may make an order without you there.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for docket court

The Family Court division of the Provincial Court will hear your family matter. It will be in the form of “docket court.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. For more information on docket court, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information.

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Family Court Counsellors

Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Other resources to help

Other organizations may also provide family court workers/counsellors, depending on the area of the province. These include: Native Counselling Services, the John Howard Society, and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic / Women’s Outreach Court Preparation Program. For more information about these programs, as well as other organizations that might provide similar services, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Asking for an adjournment

Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control, one or both of the parties will not be able to attend court, or will not be prepared for court. It is possible to ask for a court hearing date to be moved. This is called an “adjournment.”

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. For help with that, you can contact your Provincial Court Clerks’ office.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

It is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused.

To ask for the adjournment, arrive well before the scheduled start time. Tell the Clerk of the Court your name, what your matter is, and that you want to ask for an adjournment. The Clerk will then confirm when your request for an adjournment will he heard.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.

After the docket court hearing is over

In most cases, when your court hearing is over, the Order granted by the judge will be typed up by the court clerk. It may be ready shortly after the hearing. If it is not, it will be mailed to you. It will also be mailed to any other parties. If one of the parties is represented by a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to type it up.

Once you have the Order, you may need to serve it on the other party—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other party, you will also need to complete and file an Affidavit of Service.

Asking for “costs” in docket court

The party who was most “successful” at the court hearing may ask that the other party pay the costs involved with going to court. Although the Court can grant costs, this is not a very common thing.

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”).
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount.
  • Even if you are awarded costs, you still have the problem of actually getting that money paid to you. This may not be easy to get from someone who was unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


Web How much can be payable for court costs in Alberta?
Bayda Disability Law Firm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Costs in Family Law Cases
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.


If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork.

Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

Lawyers for children

In most disputes about a child, the child does not have their own lawyer. However, it is possible. A child could have their own lawyer if:

  • parents decide to hire a lawyer to represent the child;
  • the child requests their own lawyer (and the parents agree); or
  • the Court orders that a lawyer be hired for the child. The Court can do this on its own or at the request of the parties.

When a judge orders that a child has their own lawyer, the Order will usually include details about who will pay for the lawyer. Typically, the costs are shared between the parents. Sometimes, the cost of a lawyer might be covered by Legal Aid (but that is the decision of Legal Aid). For information about what is required, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

The Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) can give children legal information and legal advice. For cases being in heard in Calgary, where the children also live in Calgary, CLERC may be able to represent the child. See the following resource for information.

Web Contact Us
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Parents can also hire a lawyer for their children. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for information about your legal options.

Going to trial

Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing a court order

It is possible to appeal a court decision granted in the Provincial Court. This is true of both docket court and trial orders. You would have to appeal to the next highest court: the Court of Queen’s Bench.

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error on the facts. An appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order.

For more information, see the following resource and the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Queen's Bench
Government of Alberta
English
Once a guardianship order is in place: Other court applications that can be made

Once you are a guardian, you can apply to the Court for various things related to the guardianship, including the following.

Decision-making issues. For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions. Such issues are laid out in a parenting order.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children. Such issues are also laid out in a parenting order.

Advice and direction. This is asking the Court what to do about an important matter.

Reconsideration. This is asking the Court to reconsider a major decision made by another guardian.

Changing guardianship. For example, asking that another person’s guardianship be revoked, or asking for sole guardianship

Changes to a parenting order. As circumstances change, and the children age, you may need or want to change the terms of a previous parenting court order.

Enforcement. Sometimes guardians need to ask a court to help make sure that the other guardian(s) follow a previous court order.

For more information about how to apply for, or respond to, all of these issues, see the Process tab (Provincial Court option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Specifically:

  • For information about changes to a parenting order see the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section and the “Responding to a request for changes to a court order” section.
  • For information about enforcement, see the “Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time” section.
  • For information about all of the other possible applications listed above, see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section and the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section.

Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian.

Queen's Bench

Learn more about going to the Court of Queen’s Bench to deal with your guardianship matters under the Family Law Act. See the sections below for information about:

  • Options for staying out of court
  • Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself
  • The paperwork you need to file with the Court of Queen’s Bench
  • The basics about the court process and what to expect


LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Using out of court options

You must apply to a court to become a guardian, but that does not mean your matter will have be “fought” in court. It is possible to agree about the application for guardianship.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate. For more information, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Government programs to help avoid court battles (but they may be mandatory, if you do go to court)

To become a guardian, you will need a court order appointing you as guardian. But that does not mean that you also need a court order for the things related to your guardianship or any disputes that come up after you have been appointed. You can reach an agreement about these issues outside of court.

Although the programs listed below are provided by the Alberta Courts, you do not necessarily have to be involved in a court action to use them. Part of the intent of these programs is to help keep people out of court, if possible.

However, if you do end up taking your matters to court, it is important to know that some of these programs will be MANDATORY (you will have to take them). Others are always voluntary (it is your choice). The descriptions below will state whether the program is mandatory or voluntary.

Parenting After Separation (PAS)

The Parenting After Separation course is mandatory in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Parenting After Separation (PAS) is a free course that is offered through Alberta Courts both in-person and online. PAS teaches parents/guardians about:

  • the effects of separation on children;
  • techniques for communication;
  • legal information that affects parents/guardians and children; and
  • how to work together to meet children’s health, social, educational, and emotional needs.

You may attend PAS either online or in-person in some locations.

Different locations may have different rules about whether or not you can register for the same session as the other party. If you do not want to register in the same session, that is always possible, or you may attend online.

For current contact information and PAS registration, see the following resource.

Web Parenting After Separation (PAS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families (PASHC)

This program is for guardians who:

  • have already completed the PAS workshop; and
  • are still struggling to communicate with each other.

It is a voluntary program. This program is currently only offered in Edmonton and Calgary. See the following resources for more information.


Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

FOCIS is a free, voluntary, 6-hour, skill-based communication course for guardians who are living apart. Again, you do not have to be involved in a court process to take this course. See the FOCIS manual in the following resource.

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English

Guardians are not allowed to take the course together. Registration information is available in the following resource.

Web Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Caseflow conferencing

This is a program that is available to parties without a lawyer who have filed their first court application, but have not yet gone before a judge. It is meant to help parties reach an agreement out of court, or to be better prepared when going to court.

Caseflow conferencing is only available in some areas. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see if it is required in your judicial centre.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

In some locations, the program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact. If you have a lawyer but would still like to use the program, you can request an appointment when filing your application. For more information on the program, see the following resources.

PDF Caseflow Conference Program
Government of Alberta
English
This resource refers to “Family Justice Services.” The name of this program has changed to Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

If you live in other areas of Alberta, other help may be available in your area. See the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below.

Free family mediation

Whether or not you have a court action started, you may use the Family Mediation Program offered by Resolution and Court Administration Services. Mediation aims to help you reach an agreement out of court about your separation issues. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parties 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. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

For contact information and to register, see the following resource.

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

This program is for guardians who already have an application in court. It provides up to 10 hours of solution-focused intervention, resulting in a report. This report does not contain recommendations, but it is available to the judge that hears your application. This service is available across Alberta.

To use the BCI program:

  • one of the parties must earn less than $40,000 a year;
  • you have already tried mediation without success; and
  • you both agree to take part in the program.

You can request Brief Conflict Intervention for yourself, or a professional helping you can refer you. Also, a judge can order you to attend.

See the following resource for more information.

Web Support when parenting apart
Government of Alberta
English
This program is available across Alberta. However, you will register through the Calgary office listed in this resource.
Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

If you go to court, you can choose to either be represented by a lawyer, or to represent yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you will be called a “self-represented litigant.

Hiring a lawyer

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will explain to you what is happening with your case and why. A lawyer can help you reach an out-of-court agreement, or represent you in court.

For more information about your options for legal representation and other legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). But there is generally less help available in the Court of Queen’s Bench than there is in the Provincial Court. You can contact RCAS to see what help they recommend.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Also, you may be required to go through certain processes before your case can move forward. This depends on your judicial centre. For example:

  • You may have to go through the triage process (see the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below).
  • You may need to have a formal intake appointment before you are allowed to file any court documents (see the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below).
  • You may have to take part in caseflow conferencing (see the “Government programs to help avoid court” section above).

For more information about the help and required programs in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) is a group of programs and services offered by the Alberta government to help people resolve their legal matters. RCAS staff:

  • help you stay out of court when possible;
  • help with the court process and forms if you go to court; and
  • offer free or low-cost programs to help families with the legal system.

For more information about how RCAS can help you, see the following resource.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

These services used to be called Family Justice Services, Family Law Information Centres, and Law Information Centres. They are now together as a single point of contact to help Albertans with legal matters. However, you might still see some resources that call those services by their old names.

If you choose to go to court, some RCAS services might be mandatory. This means that you must use those services. This can depend on where you live and what kinds of issues you are taking to court.

In some locations, all self-represented litigants must first go through “triage services” before doing anything else. At triage, you will:

  • meet with RCAS staff for about 10 minutes to see what your next steps should be;
  • be referred to different services based on your needs;
  • be told what steps you can take next; and
  • schedule an intake appointment if needed (see below).

In many locations, self-represented litigants will have the option to go through an intake process. In some locations it is mandatory. At intake, RCAS staff will discuss your options with you. This may include a referral to court-supported family mediation when appropriate. See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

In some locations, RCAS staff also:

  • provide caseflow conferencing (see the “Government programs to help avoid court” section above);
  • help you review your documents before you file; and
  • provide family court counsellors (FCCs) who help you learn about the court process and present the facts to the judge.

For more information about how RCAS can help you, see the following resource.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Before you go to court: Get to know the court system

Before filing any documents, you will need to learn about the court process. It is not simple and there are many rules. If you represent yourself, you will need to follow the required processes and the rules.

Paying fees

When you start or respond to a court action, there is often a filing fee that must be paid. There can also be fees for additional applications related to your case. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Court Fees & Waivers in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Chambers

Family court matters are not like you see on television. They do not usually go straight to trial. Instead, many matters are resolved in “chambers.” Chambers is where Queen’s Bench “pre-trial” hearings take place. These hearings are in courtrooms that are open to the public, where the judge hears a list of different cases by different people. Yours is one case on the list.

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

  • regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”); and
  • special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”).

Regular chambers is meant for simpler matters that can be heard in 20 minutes (10 minutes for each party to present his or her case). Special chambers is for more complex matters that need more time. For more information about chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter.” Also, there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

Judges in chambers can give various kinds of orders. For example, they can:

  • Make orders that deal with procedures and rules. For example, if you request an exception to a particular court rule. This means you are asking for permission to not follow that rule.
  • Make “interim orders.” Interim orders are “temporary” orders, meant to provide short-term solutions while the parties work out longer-term plans. Interim orders can be for a set period of time. Or they may have no set ending time.
  • Make “orders” about family law matters (such as issues about parenting time). These orders are generally not the final decision in a matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead they just accept the orders granted in applications as a permanent solution. They never go to trial and get a final “judgment.”

Some parties can resolve their issues in chambers. They move forward without ever needing to go to trial. Other people need to go to trial to resolve their issues (sometimes all of their issues, sometimes only some of them).

For more information on the court process, including chambers, interim orders, and going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

“Practice Notes” are additional rules issued by the Court, often about court procedures. These rules apply only in the Court of Queen’s Bench (not in Provincial Court). These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For a list of the Practice Notes about family law, see the following resource.

Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
Government of Alberta
English
Click on the “Family” tab.

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

The sections below will explain all of the paperwork that needs to be completed for chambers hearings. You will learn that there are rules about:

  • how to schedule hearing dates; and
  • when you have to let the other party know about the application. This is called “giving notice.”

The court has these rules to make sure that everyone has enough time to prepare for court and no one is taken by surprise. This leads to fairer results.

Because of this, courts are quite strict about the rules. However, sometimes there are good reasons to not follow the rules. In such cases, you may want to ask for an “exception” to the rules. This means you are asking for permission to not follow the rules.

For example, it may be possible to:

  • get time limits shortened for giving notice to the other party (this is also called “abridging” the time); and
  • get court dates moved up to an earlier date.

Be Aware

These changes in the rules are for special situations. There must be a very good reason to request an exception. Also, if you ask for an exception, there are very specific steps that you must follow.

Also, in some cases it is possible to make an application without giving any notice to the other party. This is called making an “ex parte” application. For example, this can happen:

  • if you cannot find the other party, or
  • when your safety (or your children’s safety) may be at risk if you give the other party notice ahead of time.

Be Aware

The scheduling requirements for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers, and the Court is very strict about them. These requirements are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

For information about whether you can ask for any of these exceptions, contact the Court of Queen’s Bench in your judicial centre, or call Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Non-Guardians: Asking for guardianship

If you are not a guardian of the child, but you wish to be, you can file a guardianship application. You would need to do that before you can make an application for parenting time.

Tip

If you are not sure if you are a guardian, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Before you go to court: Is this the right court to file in?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

Is Alberta the right province in which to go to court?

Or should you be making your application in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If Alberta is the correct province, is this the right level of court?

Remember, there are certain things that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Do you think you might need any of those things? For example, are you also asking for a Declaration of Parentage? If not, have you considered whether there might be a reason to file in Provincial Court instead? For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.

However, if there is already a related application, you may have to file it in the judicial centre where that other application was made. The rule in Queen’s Bench is that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

If you have questions about where you should apply, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
 

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are making certain requests.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Completing the Claim

Under the Family Law Act, every time you ask for a new court hearing, you have to complete a Claim form. This is a general form that sets out some basic information. It will also include the date and time of the hearing.

Remember

In some judicial centres, before filing your Claim you must first have an intake appointment at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Contact RCAS for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English


To file a Claim, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Claim - Family Law Act (Form FL-10 / CTS3459)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.


When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. In this case, you will need one or more Statements about Guardianship (see below).

It is important that you know the topics you want decided, because you cannot simply add another topic at the court hearing. Instead, you would have to file another Claim.

Completing the Guardianship Statement

An adult who applies for the guardianship of a child must complete the following form. The form includes a section where the applicant can indicate if a child over the age of 12 consents to the appointment.

It is also possible for a child to ask the Court to appoint someone in particular as their guardian. A child would do that if:

  • they have no current guardian; or
  • they feel that their current guardian is not able or willing to be a guardian.

For a child to ask the Court to appoint someone in particular as their guardian, the child must complete the following form.

If you think you need a Declaration of Parentage, see the instructions on the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Completing the other Statements

Generally, before making any other applications about the child, you will need to be a guardian. However, you can make some applications at the same time as you apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if you are appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the other issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about the other issues would not go ahead.

When you are applying for guardianship, you may want to ask the Court about the following issues.

Decision-making issues. For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions. Such issues are laid out in a parenting order.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children. Such issues are also laid out in a parenting order.

For more information about these issues, see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section of the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are involved in the case. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the time that you will need to “serve” the other party with the paperwork (next step). You will also need to give the other party enough time to respond to your application.

Your matter will be scheduled in “chambers.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is just one case on the list.

Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may have to appear in regular chambers (also called “morning” chambers) or in special chambers (also called “afternoon” chambers).

  • Regular chambers is for matters where each party can present their side in 10 minutes or less (for a total of 20 minutes).
  • Special chambers is for matters that require more than 20 minutes in total.

The court clerk will help you figure out what time you are to appear. After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your claim. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter.” Also, there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter. For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

However, there are certain very limited situations in which the other party does not need to be notified of the hearing. This is called an “ex parte” hearing. For more information on these situations, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

There are time limits in which you must complete the service:

  • If the service takes place in Alberta, the service must be completed 20 days or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing).
  • If the service takes place outside of Alberta (but still in Canada), the service must be completed one month or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing). However, before serving outside of Alberta, you will need to get permission from the Court. This is called an “Order for Service Ex Juris.” For more information about how to get this, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.
  • If the service takes place outside of Canada, the service must be completed 2 months or more before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim (you do not count the date of the hearing). However, before serving outside of Canada you will need to get permission from the Court. This is called an “Order for Service Ex Juris.” For more information about how to get this, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

PDF Affidavit of Service - Applicant (CTS3513)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the other party will be serving you with his or her response. There are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

When you filed your Claim and Statements, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. For information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

Do you need to respond to the other party’s Response?

Sometimes, between the time you first file your paperwork and the date of the court hearing, there will be an important change to deal with. You may need to:

  • update some facts about you, such as a change of contact details;
  • respond to some updated facts given by the other party; or
  • add something that is related to the relief that you are asking for.

If this occurs, you can let the Court know by filing an “Update Statement.” The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of Update Statements you are allowed in chambers. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

PDF Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta: Family Law Practice Note 2 - Family Law Chambers
Government of Alberta
English
This refers to “Supplemental Affidavits” but the rules apply to “Update Statements” as well.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. If you have any questions, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

The use of Update Statements should be rare. The Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately.

Be Aware

The other party may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Questioning on Affidavit

Before a chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to formally “question” the other party about some of the facts set out in that party’s paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is not that common in general, but it is more common for special chambers than for regular chambers. For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, including why either you or the other party would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information.

For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Responding to a non-guardian’s application for guardianship

When someone applies for guardianship, any other guardians will be given notice of the application. If you are a guardian who has received this notice, and you do not want the applicant to get guardianship, you can complete a Response.

Before you go to court: Is this in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

Is Alberta the right province in which to go to court?

Perhaps the Applicant made a mistake? Should you be making your application in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If Alberta is the correct province, is it in the right level of court?

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Are either of you asking for something that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench? If not, have you considered whether there might be a reason to file in Provincial Court instead? For more information on the differences between Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.

If this is the first application related to guardianship of this child, the Applicant will have filed it in the judicial centre where they live.

However, there may already have been a related application. If that is the case, the Applicant will likely have filed the application in the judicial centre where that other application was made. This is because, the rule in Queen’s Bench is that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

For example:

  • There was a previous application in Fort McMurray.
  • The court file is in Fort McMurray.  
  • The Applicant lives in Grande Prairie.
  • However, the Applicant filed in Fort McMurray (where the court file is).
  • You are in Lethbridge.
  • You will have to respond in Fort McMurray.
  • If you want to transfer the file, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to ask to have the file transferred to Lethbridge. That hearing will be in Fort McMurray. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

If you want to apply to transfer the file, use the following kit.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you have questions about responding to the application, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

Once you have been served with documents, you have to respond within a certain amount of time. You must file your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing set out in the Claim. Anything less than 10 days’ notice will be presumed to be “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. In other words: it is best to serve the other party. 10 days (or more) before the date of the hearing.

If for any reason you cannot serve within that time limit, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party.will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about response times and deadlines. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are opposing the guardianship application.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Completing the “Response”

When the person applied for guardianship of the child, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

To file a Response, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Response - Family Law Act (Form FL-11 / CTS3460)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Fill in the information at the top of the Response form, then pay careful attention to the choices you are given.

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

In this case, check the box on the Response form that says you agree and fill out the rest of the form.

If you agree, but you also have other things that you want to ask for

In this case, start by checking off on the Response form that you agree in Part 1.

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim.

For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

If you do not agree AND you have other things that you want to ask for

In this case, you will start by checking off in Part 1 of the Response form that you do not agree.

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. These are described in more detail just below. For example: if they included a “Statement - Parenting” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Parenting.”

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim.

For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Guardianship Reply Statement(s)

To respond to an adult who has applied for the guardianship of a child, complete the following form. If the child disagrees with the appointment of the guardian, the child can also complete one of these forms.

To respond to a child who has applied to have a guardian appointed, complete the following form. This form can be completed by a current guardian or the person been suggested as a guardian.

If you need to respond to a request for a Declaration of Parentage, see the instructions on the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Completing other Reply Statements

Generally, before making any other applications about the child, the applicant will need to be a guardian. However, the applicant can make some applications at the same time as they apply for guardianship. In such cases, the Court will decide the guardianship issue first. Then, if the applicant is appointed guardian, the Court will go on to deal with the other issues immediately. If the guardianship is not granted, the application about the other issues would not go ahead.

For example: the applicant may have asked the Court about any of the following issues.

Decision-making issues. For example: asking that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, asking that both guardians share all of the decision-making powers. Or, asking that one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children.

For more information about responding these issues, see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section of the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

You may be asking for other topics to be addressed in addition to guardianship. If this is the case, you will have additional forms to fill out.

If you are asking for something else that was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.” For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are involved in the case. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is the same as you were served with their paperwork to begin with. You have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Remember

It is best to serve the other party 10 days (or more) before the date of the hearing. If you do not, you risk your matter being adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give the other party enough time to review your documents.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

PDF Affidavit of Service - Respondent (Form CTS3514)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Update Statements

Sometimes, between the time the initial application is filed and the date of the court hearing, there will be an important change in some facts about the other party (such as a change of income or contact details). If this occurs, he or she will let the court know by filing an “Update Statement,” and you would be served with a copy.

In the same way, some facts about you may change. Or you may need to make an additional request related to guardianship. Then you will need to let the court know by filling out an Update Statement of your own. The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of Update Statements you are allowed in chambers. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

PDF Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta: Family Law Practice Note 2 - Family Law Chambers
Government of Alberta
English
This refers to “Supplemental Affidavits” but the rules apply to “Update Statements” as well.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English


You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. If you have any questions, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

The use of Update Statements should be rare. The Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately.

Questioning on Affidavit

Before a chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to formally “question” the other party about some of the facts set out in that party’s paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is not that common in general, but it is more common for special chambers than for regular chambers. For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, including why either you or the other party would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information.

For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

The Claim tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process, including what can happen if you do not respond in time.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the court hearing

The Claim tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Family Court Counsellors

In some locations, Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) may be available to help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Other resources to help

Other organizations may also provide family court workers/counsellors, depending on the area of the province. These include: Native Counselling Services, the John Howard Society, and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic / Women’s Outreach Court Preparation Program. For more information about these programs, as well as other organizations that might provide similar services, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Asking for an adjournment

Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control, one or both of the parties will not be able to attend court, or will not be prepared for court. It is possible to ask for a court hearing date to be moved. This is called an “adjournment.”

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins. The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters—this is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.

After the chambers hearing is over

In most cases, when your court hearing is over, the Order granted by the judge will be typed up by the court clerk. It may be ready shortly after the hearing. If it is not, it will be mailed to you. It will also be mailed to any other parties. If one of the parties is represented by a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to type it up.

Once you have the Order, you may need to serve it on the other party—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other party, you will also need to complete and file an Affidavit of Service.

Asking for “costs” in chambers

The party who was most “successful” at the court hearing may ask that the other party pay the costs involved with going to court. Although the Court can grant costs, this is not a very common thing.

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”).
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount.
  • Even if you are awarded costs, you still have the problem of actually getting that money paid to you. This may not be easy to get from someone who was unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork.

Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


Web How much can be payable for court costs in Alberta?
Bayda Disability Law Firm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Costs in Family Law Cases
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Be Aware

Judges can grant costs if the parties do not follow the rules about hearings (for example: rules about the paperwork restrictions and the deadlines). For more information about these rules, see the following resource.

Lawyers for children

In most disputes about a child, the child does not have their own lawyer. However, it is possible. A child could have their own lawyer if:

  • parents decide to hire a lawyer to represent the child;
  • the child requests their own lawyer (and the parents agree); or
  • the Court orders that a lawyer be hired for the child. The Court can do this on its own or at the request of the parties.

When a judge orders that a child has their own lawyer, the Order will usually include details about who will pay for the lawyer. Typically, the costs are shared between the parents. Sometimes, the cost of a lawyer might be covered by Legal Aid (but that is the decision of Legal Aid). For information about what is required, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

The Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) can give children legal information and legal advice. For cases being in heard in Calgary, where the children also live in Calgary, CLERC may be able to represent the child. See the following resource for information.

Web Contact Us
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Parents can also hire a lawyer for their children. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for information about your legal options.

Going to trial

Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing a court order

It is possible to appeal a court decision granted in the Court of Queen’s Bench. This is true of both chambers and trial orders. You would have to appeal to the next highest court: the Alberta Court of Appeal.

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error on the facts. An appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order.

For more information, see the following resource and the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Appeal
Government of Alberta
English
Once a guardianship order is in place: Other court applications that can be made

Once you are a guardian, you can apply to the Court for various things related to the guardianship, including the following.

Decision-making issues. For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions. Such issues are laid out in a parenting order.

Parenting issues. For example: scheduling parenting time, travel issues, or who can have contact with the children. Such issues are also laid out in a parenting order.

Advice and direction. This is asking the Court what to do about an important matter.

Reconsideration. This is asking the Court to reconsider a major decision made by another guardian.

Changing guardianship. For example, asking that another person’s guardianship be revoked, or asking for sole guardianship.

Changes to a parenting order. As circumstances change, and the children age, you may need or want to change the terms of a previous parenting court order.

Enforcement. Sometimes guardians need to ask a court to help make sure that the other guardian(s) follow a previous court order.

For more information about how to apply for, or respond to, all of these issues, see the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Specifically:

  • For information about changes to a parenting order see the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section and the “Responding to a request for changes to a court order” section.
  • For information about enforcement, see the “Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time” section.
  • For information about all of the other possible applications listed above, see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section and the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section.

Although the information on that page is for parents who have separated, it applies to anyone who is a guardian.

Back to Top