Child Support under the Divorce Act (married parents)

Law

Divorcing parents can use Canada’s Divorce Act to deal with child support matters. See the sections below to learn about:

  • The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines
  • Who can get child support
  • Calculating child support
  • Tax issues about child support
  • The rights and responsibilities of non-biological parents
  • Changing child support (including retroactive child support)
  • Enforcing child support agreements and orders (including arrears)
  • Solving child support matters out of court
  • Going to court to deal with child support issues

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

Be Aware

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. 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: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the law of child support for parents whose relationship is breaking down.

It is important to understand that child support is directly linked to the issues of custody and access (also called “parenting time”), so you will need to know about that as well. See the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page for more information.

This Information Page is for parents who were in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing and resolving their child and support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act.

However, if you were married and your relationship is breaking down, you do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. For parenting and support issues (including child support), married parents have a choice which law they use when they separate—they can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act:

  • If you want to deal with child support using the federal Divorce Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • If you want to deal with child support using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the wrong Information Page—you will need this Information Page instead: Child Support under the Family Law Act.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

If you are parents who were in a non-married relationship, you are on the wrong Information Page. You must deal with your issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act. The federal Divorce Act does not apply to you. See this Information Page instead: Child Support under the Family Law Act.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is about children who live in Alberta. Although the Divorce Act is federal legislation, most issues will be heard in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. 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 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 Family Breakdown 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 about child support under the Divorce Act. 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.

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.

child support

Money paid by a parent or someone who “stood in the place of a parent” to help pay for the living expenses of a child after a separation or divorce. Child support is sometimes called “child maintenance.”

Federal Child Support Guidelines (also called the “Federal Guidelines” or “FCSG”)

The Federal Child Support Guidelines, along with the Federal Child Support Tables, are a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward his or her children after separation or divorce. The Federal Child Support Guidelines are part of the Divorce Act. As a result, they only apply to parents who were married and are solving their child support issues using the Divorce Act.

However, many provinces have adopted some parts of the Federal Guidelines into their own child support laws, including Alberta. Alberta has its own Alberta Child Support Guidelines (also called the “Alberta Guidelines” or “ACSG”), which are based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

The Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines are very similar but have some significant differences. For more information, see the section below called “The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines.”

Alberta Child Support Guidelines (also called the “Alberta Guidelines” or “ACSG”)

The Alberta Child Support Guidelines are a set of rules for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward his or her children after separation or divorce. The Alberta Guidelines use the Federal Child Support Tables for calculating this amount.

The Alberta Guidelines were created to help children whose parents were not married. This is because the Federal Child Support Guidelines only apply to parents who were married and are solving their separation issues using the Divorce Act. The Alberta Guidelines were created as part of the Family Law Act to be used in all cases where the Divorce Act does not apply. In other words, the Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply to:

  • all non-married parents; and
  • married parents who choose to resolve their child support issues using the Family Law Act instead of the Divorce Act.

The Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines are very similar but have some significant differences. For more information, see the section below called “The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines.”

financial disclosure

The process of giving your financial information to someone else. This information usually includes such things as:

  • tax returns
  • income information (such as pay stubs)
  • a list of property you own (including the current value)
  • statements about investments you have (including the current value)

Depending on the situation, it may include much more information.

When separating or divorcing, parties give each other this information so that fair solutions can be reached. If you are going to court about child support, spousal/partner support, or division of property, this information will be required by the court.

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 both the federal Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act, this concept is called “in the place of a parent.” However, you may still hear it called in loco parentis, as that is a term commonly used by courts.

“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).

payor

The person paying child support to another person.

recipient

The person getting child support from another person.

party

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

application

A court process where one party (the “applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives the Court evidence about why he or she should get it. As part of the process, the “other side” (the “respondent”) can show the Court evidence about why the applicant should not get what he or she is requesting. The respondent may even ask for something different. The applicant could then respond to that request.

Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, but they are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several applications. Court hearings (when the parties appear before a judge) are part of the application process, but not all applications involve going to court hearings: it is possible for the parties to come to an agreement before the hearing.

Applications can deal with:

  • preliminary matters (for example: whether the Alberta courts have the authority to hear a case);
  • temporary matters (for example: how much child support will be paid for now, while one parent looks for a job);
  • procedural matters (for example: what a person should do if they cannot find the other party to give them a copy of all the paperwork);
  • “pre-trial” matters (for example: where the children will live for now, until there is a trial on the bigger of issue of whether one parent can move away with the children); and
  • things that come up after the trial that are still related to the case.

The Court’s decision in an application is called an “order” and is generally not the final decision in the 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 Order(s) granted in applications as a permanent solution, without ever getting a final “judgment.”

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 child support and separation issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Divorce Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Canada
English

Web Federal Child Support Guidelines
Government of Canada
English

PDF 2011 Simplified Tables in PDF Format
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Child Support Table Look-up
Government of Canada
English


Web Alberta Rules of Court
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, including what they are and how they work, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to understand the concept of “common law” (also called “case law”). In general, these terms refer 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 common law and case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

The following resource lists some of the leading cases in family law.

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, where two courts deal with family law matters: the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. There is some overlap in the issues each court will deal with, so sometimes you might have the option to choose which court you would prefer to use for your situation.

Tip

You do not have to go to court to solve your separation issues. There are many ways to resolve legal issues out of court. These are often faster and less expensive than going to court. For more information, see the “Out of court resolution options” section below.

People who were married (not just living together without ever getting married) generally deal with their separation and child-related issues using the federal Divorce Act. If they need to go to court to resolve their issues, they go to the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). This is because most married couples who are separating wish to divorce, and the “divorce” part of the separation can only be handled by QB. Also, the division of property can also only be handled by QB (that is dealt with by an Alberta law called the Matrimonial Property Act). So if a couple has to go to QB for divorce and property issues anyway, they might as well handle all of their issues there.

However, strictly speaking, other separation issues (such as custody and access, child support, and spousal support) do not have to be dealt with under the Divorce Act or in QB. Maybe you aren’t planning to get divorced right now, or ever—you may just wish to permanently separate. Maybe you have also agreed on property division on your own and you do not need to go to court for that. You, as a married person, can choose to deal with your child-related issues under Alberta’s Family Law Act. If you do so, you will have to choose between QB and Provincial Court if you need to go to court to resolve your issues.

If you would like to deal with your child support issues under the Alberta Family Law Act, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page. Be aware that the language used on that Information Page is geared toward non-married partners, but the concepts will apply to you in the same way.

For more information on the differences between the two courts and the two laws available to you, see the following resource and the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 4-6.
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 there was violence against the child, it could even dictate how you must proceed. See the rest of this section for more information.

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

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • Know that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • A court can grant orders quickly if necessary. These are called “interim” orders. For information about these, see the Process tab of this Information Page.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. For more information, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages.
  • Do not just believe an abuser who has told you that “You can’t leave me” or “You’ll get nothing.” It is not up to the abuser; it is a question of law. Keep reading to find out more.

Parents’ rights and children’s rights

As a starting point, under law:

  • both parents generally have custody of their children;
  • the children have a right to see both parents; and
  • both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children.

Sometimes even violence against the children does not affect the basics of family law as much as you might expect. For example, some people believe that if one parent has been abusive to a child, that parent would not be allowed to have custody of the child, or get to see the child. That is not necessarily true. The Alberta court system always places a high value on contact with both parents. It is very rare that a parent will not be granted parenting time (even if the parent is in jail).

However, there are options available to help keep both you and the children safe, such as safe transfer and supervised access. For more information about these, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Parental abduction

A non-abusive parent may be tempted to just take the child, leave the area, and not allow any contact with the other parent. This can lead to legal problems. A parent who takes the child in this way may be criminally charged with abduction.

Or, an abusive parent may try to take the children as a way to further abuse and control you. If your children have been abducted by the other parent, call 911.

Be Aware

“Child abduction” refers to one parent taking a child to another jurisdiction without consent from the other parent. It is much more serious than simply not returning the child on time after a visit.

For more information about parental abduction, see the “Child abduction” sections of the Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page and the following resources.

Web What is child abduction and is it a crime?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

Web Custody, Child Abduction and the Hague Convention
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English

id='733'This is a private source. Learn more here.
id='597'This is a private source. Learn more here.
 

Child abuse and involving Child Protective Services

Child abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

For information about recognizing child abuse, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

Under Alberta law, anyone who believes that a child might be in need of protection must report it to Child Protective Services. This is required by Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Be Aware

A non-abusive parent may decide to call Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS has a duty to investigate any reports of abuse. However, once the parents have separated, Child Protective Services may view the matter as a “custody dispute” and prefer that it be dealt with through the family law court system.

If you think a child is in need of protection, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1‑800‑387‑5437 (KIDS) to speak with a caseworker.

When you report a child in need of protection, Child Protective Services will investigate the situation. For more information about what happens after a report is made, see the Child Protection Information Page.

For more information about your duty to report suspected child abuse, see the following resources.

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 1 of the Handbook.

Web Teachers: How to recognize and report child abuse
John Howard Society of Alberta
English

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

The following resources have general information about what you can do in situations of family violence. There is also more information on the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page [FLViolence002].

Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 10-11.

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See "Family Law Issues."

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 22.



PDF Live Safe — End Abuse: Parenting
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Making Appropriate Parenting Arrangements in Family Violence Cases: Applying the Literature to Identify Promising Practices
Government of Canada
English
This is a research paper. Although it has important general information, it is long and can be a challenge to read. Start on p. 31.

At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. Perhaps your partner has just told you that he or she is leaving. Maybe it is you who is ready to leave. If there is a child in the relationship, one of your first thoughts will likely be “What do we do about the child?” This can be scary and overwhelming. That is natural. For detailed information on things to consider when family breakdown has just occurred, see the following resource and the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

Video Divorce 101 in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
Start at 5:30.

The following resource is a good overview of things to consider when leaving a relationship. Although the title refers to women, this is good information for men as well. Be aware, this is a resource out of Prince Edward Island, so purely legal information about provincial laws do not apply to Albertans, but there is much other good information.

PDF Moving On: A Practical Guide for Women Leaving a Relationship
Government of Prince Edward Island
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Aller de l’avant: Guide pratique à l’intention des femmes qui décident de mettre fin à une relation
Government of Prince Edward Island
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
 

In terms of parenting and child support in particular, there are a few initial things to know. The rest of this section has information about:

  • Keeping the children in mind
  • The rights of both parents
  • The right of the child to support
  • Coming to an agreement
  • Making temporary arrangements
  • Moving away
  • Getting important documents
  • Slowing down
  • Learning

Keep the children in mind

Separation and divorce is often very difficult on the children. They see things differently than their parents, and their needs are different than those of their parents. At this time, more than ever, the children need help and support from their parents. This is especially challenging for parents since it is such a stressful time.

It is normal to be concerned about what the other parent may do. For example, you may worry that he or she may keep the children from you and not let you see them. Or that he or she may leave with the children. While these concerns are normal, they very rarely occur. Remember that if the other parent has been a good parent up to now, they will probably continue to be a good parent and consider the children’s needs.

For information on how to help your children successfully manage the situation, see the following resources.

Web Parent Guide
Justice Education Society
English

Web Guide de Parents
Justice Education Society
French




Web Co-Parenting Tip Sheets
Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese
See “Co-Parenting Tip Sheets” at the bottom of the page.

Video Your Children are Suffering
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Divorce et séparation : Considérations juridiques
Family Law NB
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Cette ressource a été créé pour les couples mariés, mais beaucoups de concepts s’appliquent aux couples non-mariés.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Both parents have rights

In most cases, unless ordered otherwise by a court, both parents have guardianship of a child and the child generally has the right to spend time with each of the parents. Similarly, unless ordered otherwise by a court, both parents have a say in decisions that affect the child. This means that neither parent, not even the parent who did most of the child care, is presumed to have a legal right to custody or parenting time over the other parent. The parenting arrangement you end up with will directly affect the child support.

Child support is the right of the child—not the parents

Just like both parents have rights, the children also have rights. When their parents separate, the children have a right to financial support from both parents, and both parents have a legal responsibility to provide this support. There are also rules about how much financial support must be provided.

Many parents do not realize that child support is the right of the child, and they may try to negotiate for too little child support, or no child support at all. For example: one parent may suggest that he or she will give up decision-making power over the children in order to avoid paying child support. Or, one parent may suggest that the other parent get all of the property, and in exchange, the parent without the property will pay less child support. This sort of arrangement is very difficult to make with child support. This is because child support is the right of the child. Parents cannot negotiate away the rights of the children.

You can agree

If possible, you can come to an agreement with your partner. Going to court is not a requirement. You can even agree on child support before you actually leave. For more information about how to do that, see the sections below called “How is child support calculated?” and “Out of court resolution options.”

Temporary arrangements are possible

Whether you come to an agreement on your own or have to involve a court, you can start with temporary solutions. You do not have to decide about the rest of the child’s life right now, or even in the next month. Temporary, or “interim,” arrangements can be made, and this includes child support. If the parents cannot agree on initial arrangements for the children, they can get an “interim” (temporary) order from the court that makes arrangements for the children in the first few weeks or months. This can be done quite quickly.

As the children age, there will need to be changes. So it is best to consider what needs to be done now and not worry about possible future changes until they occur.

For more information about going to court to get an interim child support order, see the “Resolving child support in court” section below, as well as on the Process tab of this Information Page.

You can’t just move away and take the kids

You might think that you don’t need, or want, child support and that you can just move away with the children. That is not the case. Remember: child support is the right of the child—you cannot simply decide that the child should not have it.

A parent cannot simply leave, or move away, and the take the child without letting the other parent know. If they do, they may be criminally charged. If a parent removes and hides a child under the age of 14 from the other parent, without that parent’s consent, it is a crime. Even if the child is over 14, this could create legal issues for the parent. This could lead to many more problems later on.

This does not mean that you cannot leave with the children. It just means that if you do so, you must make arrangements right away for the other parent to have parenting time with the child. See the following resources for more information.

Web Unilateral Relocations – Don’t Do It!
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Can I take my child with me when I leave my abusive partner?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information on the possibility of getting charged with abduction, see the following resources.

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web Abducted Children & the Hague Convention
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

For more information about moving while dealing with child support and other family law issues, see the information about making parenting plans on the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

You also might not want to just move out and leave the children

Some parents simply move out (or away) and leave the child with the other parent without making any arrangements to see the child. Some parents do this because they think they can “get out of” paying child support. That is not true.

Also, moving out at this stage could make it look like you thought leaving the child with your spouse was in the best interests of the child. This could make it harder for you in the future to get an order for your child to live primarily with you. These living arrangements will also affect the issue of child support.

See the following resource for more information.

Get any important documents you need

Once you leave, it may be difficult to get any important documents that you may need. Take a moment to get copies of items such as:

  • your last 3 years’ tax returns,
  • financial documents,
  • your marriage certificate,
  • birth certificates,
  • health care cards, and
  • personal identification.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Living Together or Living Apart
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee p. 10.
 

Slow down if you can

If at all possible, try not to make rash decisions. Taking time to think and plan can save you trouble later on. For example: not letting the other parent see their children for several weeks could lead to resentment that takes months to die down.

However, if safety is an issue for either you or the children, see the family violence-related information above.

For general tips on transition challenges and how to make the separation process easier on everyone involved, see the following resource.

PDF Tips for Separated Parents
Government of Alberta
English
 

Learn

Take the time to learn about the law that applies. It is important. Consider talking to a lawyer (or legal advocate) about your options and how best to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about your legal options.

See the following resource for more detailed information. This resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Surviving Your Divorce. Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library. See Chapter 7.
If there was a domestic contract (pre-nuptial or marriage agreement)

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between two people who are planning on getting married in the near future. In this agreement, the parties can address many issues. For example, it can include roles and responsibilities while they live together, and what will happen if they later separate. If the parties are already married when they enter into the contract, then it is called a marriage agreement.

In general, if you and your spouse have a pre-nuptial or marriage agreement and you separate, you must follow the terms of that contract to settle the legal issues that come up. In other words, usually you must obey the contract.

However, that is not always the case. For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • You or your spouse provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if you can prove that one of you did not understand the contract because of something that was going on when the agreement was made. Or, if one of you did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, you may have included an agreement that no child support would be paid. This is not allowed. It should not have been agreed to, and it will not be honoured. This is because child support is the right of the child.

Also, you would still have to deal with any legal issues that were not covered in the agreement.

For more information about how pre-nuptial or marriage agreements are treated and the law around setting them aside, see the Relationship Breakdown if You Had a Domestic Contract Information Page.

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 about:

  • the separation process;
  • the effects of separation on children;
  • techniques for communication;
  • legal information that affects parents 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.

Family Violence

If you attend PAS in person, you do not have to attend with your spouse, and there are safety precautions in place for families experiencing domestic violence. You may also attend PAS online.

If you go to court for child-related issues under the Divorce Act, the PAS course will be mandatory. This means you must take it. You will have to prove that you have taken the course before you can make your application (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

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 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 separations, 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.

 
What exactly is child support and why do we have it?

Child support is money paid by a parent toward the living expenses (also called the “necessaries of life”) of his or her child. People other than parents can also be required to pay child support, including guardians and step-parents.

Child support is a requirement in both:

  • the federal Divorce Act (which deals with divorce issues all across Canada); and
  • the Alberta Family Law Act (which deals with family breakdown in Alberta, and was intended specifically to deal with family breakdown for non-married persons, as the Divorce Act does not apply to them).

The concept of “necessaries of life” is also included in the Criminal Code of Canada, where the failure to provide the “necessaries of life” can be a crime.

For more basic information about child support, see the following resources.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 1:00.

Web Child Support
Justice Education Society
English

Web Pension alimentaire pour enfants
Justice Education Society
French

Web Fact Sheet - Child Support
Government of Canada
English

The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines: What are they and what are the differences?

When resolving issues of child support, you will have to use either the Federal Child Support Guidelines or the Alberta Child Support Guidelines.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines (also called the Federal Guidelines or the FCSGs), along with the Federal Child Support Tables, are a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward his or her children after separation or divorce. The Federal Child Support Guidelines are part of the Divorce Act. As a result, they only apply to parents who were married and are solving their child support issues using the Divorce Act.

The Alberta Child Support Guidelines (also called the Alberta Guidelines or the ACSGs) are also a set of rules for calculating the amount of child support. They were created as part of the Family Law Act, to help children who need support and whose parents were not married. They are used in cases where the Divorce Act does not apply. In other words, the Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply to:

  • all non-married parents; and
  • married parents who choose to resolve their child support issues using the Family Law Act instead of the Divorce Act.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines are very similar, but have some significant differences related to:

  • when child support ends;
  • people who “stood in the place of a parent” (such as step-parents);
  • special expenses; and
  • the requirements for financial disclosure between the parents.

These differences are described in more detail just below.

Be Aware

Some of the resources on this Information Page might talk about the 2 different Guidelines as if they are the same. When learning about child support, you must keep in mind which set of Guidelines applies to you.

Difference #1: When child support ends

Federal Child Support Guidelines

  • Child support must be paid for as long as the child is under the age of majority (in Alberta that is 18).
  • Child support can continue past the age of majority if the child is dependent on his or her parents because of illness, disability, or “other cause.”
  • “Other cause” generally means that child support is payable up until a child has finished their first post-secondary degree or diploma.
  • There is no age limit mentioned for when child support must end.

Alberta Child Support Guidelines

  • Child support must be paid for as long as the child is under the age of majority (in Alberta that is 18).
  • Child support can continue for a child between the ages of 18 and 22 if that child is a full-time student and therefore is dependent on his or her parents (this is also called “being in the parents’ charge”).
  • The ACSGs say nothing about disability or illness.
  • Child support ends completely once the child turns 22.

Difference #2: “Standing in the place of a parent” (also called in loco parentis)

Federal Child Support Guidelines

A judge can decide that a spouse, who is not a parent, has “stood in the place of parent” and can order that person to pay child support. However, exactly how and when a spouse is “standing in place of a parent” is not very clearly defined. It has mostly been up to the individual judges hearing the cases.

Alberta Child Support Guidelines

There are clear rules about when a person stands in the place of a parent and becomes responsible for paying child support. The Family Law Act defines in detail the factors that should be considered when deciding if a person has treated a child as their own child—see the “Who is responsible for paying child support?” section below for more information.

Difference #3: “Special expenses”

Federal Child Support Guidelines

  • Only parents (or those who have “stood in the place of a parent”) are responsible for a child's "special expenses" (also called "Section 7 expenses"). This means that only these people can ask a court to require the other parent(s) to pay toward the child's special expenses. For more information on what special expenses are, see the “How is child support calculated?” section below.
  • The types of expenses considered “special expenses” are more limited than the ACSGs.
  • To apply for “special expenses,” you must know the exact amount of money you will need.

Alberta Child Support Guidelines

  • Anyone who has a child in their care and is eligible to apply for child support can also apply to have other parents (or those who have “stood in the place of a parent”) contribute to a child’s special expenses. For example, a grandmother who is caring for a child can ask for the child's parents to help her pay for the day care she uses when she has to go to work.
  • More types of expenses are considered “special expenses” than those listed in the FCSGs.
  • The amount needed for “special expenses” can be estimated—you do not need to know the exact cost of the expenses to apply for them.

Difference #4: Continued disclosure of financial information

Federal Child Support Guidelines

A spouse (or former spouse) may make a written request to the other spouse (or former spouse) for financial disclosure once per year.

Alberta Child Support Guidelines

Anyone who is named on a child support order can ask someone else named on the child support order for his or her income information once per year.

How these differences affect you

If you are married, these differences may be a factor in deciding whether you want to use the Divorce Act to resolve your child support issues, or whether you want to use the Alberta Family Law Act. The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page, which explains what to consider when choosing.

In almost all cases, it is mandatory to use one of the sets of child support guidelines. There are very few times when a court can depart from the guidelines—for more information, see the “How is child support calculated?” section below.

Who is responsible for paying child support?

Under the Federal Guidelines (which are part of Canada’s Divorce Act), there are various people who can be considered “parents” for child support purposes, and may therefore have to pay child support.

These include:

  • biological parents,
  • adoptive parents, and
  • step-parents who have acted like a parent (“stood in the place of a parent”).

Whether you will have to pay child support, as well as how much you must pay, will depend on your exact circumstances.

More detailed information is in the following resource. This resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Surviving Your Divorce. Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library. See Chapter 7.

Biological and adoptive parents

Canadian law generally assumes that both parents (biological or adoptive) have a legal responsibility to provide for their children.

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

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?”

See the Process tab of this Information Page for information about dealing with parentage in court.

Sometimes, when couples are separating, there are religious issues that they wish to take into consideration. Religious rules and laws, like all foreign law, are not recognized or applied in Canadian law. The following resource points out key differences between Canadian family law and traditional Muslim approaches to child custody and child support.

PDF Custody and Child Support: Muslim & Canadian Family Laws
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Be Aware

Parents sometimes believe that if they do not see the child, they do not have to pay child support. This is not so. Child support and parenting time are separate issues: they are not linked. Courts have made it very clear that it is wrong for a parent/guardian to refuse to pay child support just because he or she is not able to see the child.

Standing in the place of parent (also called “in loco parentis”)

“Standing in the place of a parent” describes a situation where someone who was not the parent of a child nevertheless acted as a parent to that child. A step-parent might stand in the place of a parent.

Under the Divorce Act, if you stood in the place of parent, you will find yourself with the same rights and responsibilities as a biological or adoptive parent. This is made clear in the Divorce Act’s definition of “child of the marriage.”

There are several reasons why the law has taken this approach:

  • the law wants to ensure that a divorce will affect the children as little as possible;
  • people are entitled to divorce each other, but not the children who were part of the marriage; and
  • this is what serves children best. When people act as parents toward them, children should be able to count on that parent-like relationship continuing. It should not end simply because of a divorce.

As a result, if someone “stood in the place of a parent” during the marriage, they cannot just turn away from that relationship because they do not want the responsibilities that come with it. If there was a “parent-like” relationship during the marriage, the law believes that the parent-like relationship generally should continue after the marriage.

This means that many separating couples have to figure out whether or not one of them “stood in the place of a parent.” Spouses can agree that one of them “stood in the place of parent.” Because they agree, they can set up their parenting arrangements on their own. However, spouses sometimes don’t agree. As a result, a person may end up in court trying to prove that their spouse did (or did not) stand in the place of a parent.

It may be shown that an adult did stand in the place of a parent. If so, the child is considered to be a “child of the marriage.” This means that the adult is a parent just as if the child was born of the marriage. And the adult will have all the rights (such as custody and access) and responsibilities (such as child support) of a parent.

For more information about what the Court considers when deciding if someone stood in the place of a parent, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 12-13.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 2:30.

Web Child Support – Different Parenting Situations FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 20.

Web A Brief Primer on Child Support: Part One
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See "Who has to pay support."

Web In loco parentis - Step parents, unwed parents, non-biological parents and child support
RCMV Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

Webinar Child Support: Dealing with a Difficult Ex-partner
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 9:20.

PDF Step-parents and support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 29.

Video Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
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.

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

Web If a Biological Parent is Paying Child Support, Does a Step-Parent Still Have to Pay?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Child Support and Step Parents
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you a preview of each article, and you can find the full articles at libraries across Alberta. Please note that these articles are sections in whole books. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.


If you would like to read the court case that first introduced these factors, see the following resource.


Which children are eligible for child support?

Under the Federal Guidelines, children who are under 18 are eligible for child support from anyone found to be their “parent” (see the “Who is responsible for paying child support?” section above).

If a child is over 18, he or she is still eligible for child support if he or she is still under the care of his or her parents because of illness, disability, or “other cause.” “Other cause” generally means that child support is payable up until a child has finished their first post-secondary degree or diploma.

Unlike with the Alberta Guidelines, there is no age limit mentioned for when child support must end. As a result, a child who must stay under the care of his or her parent(s) because of illness or disability can be eligible for support for a very long time.

For more detailed information, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 7.

Audio/Web Child and Spousal Support
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

Web Divorce and Retirement
Moe Hannah LLP
English
This is a private resource. Learn more here.

Video Definition of Child
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Who can apply for child support?

Under the Divorce Act, only a spouse (this includes an ex-spouse) can ask another spouse (this includes an ex-spouse) to pay support.

For more detailed information, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 5.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 2:10.

Web A Brief Primer on Child Support: Part One
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See "Who can ask for support."

Audio/Web Child and Spousal Support
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Video When Can A Parent Apply For Child Support‬ – video
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Sometimes, when couples are separating, there are religious issues that they wish to take into consideration. Religious rules and laws, like all foreign law, are not recognized or applied in Canadian law. The following resource points out key differences between Canadian family law and traditional Muslim approaches to child custody (guardianship) and child support.

PDF Custody and Child Support: Muslim & Canadian Family Laws
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
 

Anyone else who has care and control of the children and would like to have custody and child support under the Divorce Act can only ask for these things by first applying for “leave of the court”. This means first asking the Court for permission to apply. This is quite complicated, and Alberta’s Family Law Act provides a different and easier way of doing the same thing. For an introduction to the topic, see the “Determining custody” section of the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

How is child support calculated?

Starting point: The Guidelines are almost always mandatory

If you are going to court for child support under the Divorce Act, both you and the judge must use the Federal Child Support Guidelines. This is to make sure that reasonable arrangements have been made for the financial support of the children. See the following resources for more information.

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 12.

Video When do the child support guidelines apply?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Presentation Pension alimentaire pour enfants
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

There are only 2 very rare situations when a court can depart from the Guidelines:

  1. Special provision: unusual circumstances. For example: in a case where there are multiple parents and step-parents all providing some support or if a judge thinks that following the guidelines in a particular situation would lead to the children receiving less support than they need. Some of the resources below give further examples. In addition, you can find examples in case law—for more information on researching case law, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.
  2. Consent: everyone who is required to pay child support must agree on the amount of support each person should pay, and the judge must be satisfied that reasonable support will be paid. To do that, the judge will still consider what the Guidelines suggest. In other words, parents cannot simply “consent” to not pay child support. If the judge is not satisfied that a child will receive proper support, he or she can ignore the consent and still apply the Guidelines.

Calculation

As required by the Guidelines, the calculation of child support has 3 steps:

  1. figure out the “basic amount” using the tables
  2. figure out any “additional expenses” (these are also called “section 7 expenses”)
  3. look at whether there is a claim for “undue hardship

Step 1: The “Basic Amount”

This part of the calculation is completed by looking at various factors, including:

  • How many children are eligible for support?
  • What is the parenting arrangement for these children? The amount of time that each child spends with each parent is the key factor. For example: if all of the children spend 50% of their time with each parent, the parents may technically pay child support to each other. For more information about such situations, see the section called “Shared parenting” below.
  • Where does the payor and the recipient live? Within the FCSG, each province has its own provincial child support chart (also called guidelines)—you must use the chart for the province where the payor lives at the time the child support application is made. If the payor lives outside Canada, and the recipient is in Alberta, you would use the chart for Alberta.
  • What is the income of the payor and the income of the recipient? For the purposes of child support, “income” is calculated differently than it is for other purposes, such as income tax. To clear up confusion, the correct term for calculating child support income is “guideline income.” For more information on how to figure out “guideline income,” see the section called “Guideline income” below.
  • Are any adjustments necessary? See the section called “Adjustments” below for more information.

Shared parenting and the myth of the “40% rule”

“Shared parenting” is where the child spends at least 40% of his or her time with a parent who pays child support. This living arrangement may result in each parent paying support to the other. For example: Dad owes Mom $600 per month for child support, while Mom owes Dad $400 per month. In practice, Dad writes Mom a cheque for $200 every month. This is often called a “set-off calculation.”

This has led to a myth that if a parent has the child for at least 40% of the time, he or she will pay less child support, or no child support. Sometimes, you may see this myth called the “40% rule.”

To be clear:

  • there is no set “rule”;
  • a payor having “care and control” of a child for at least 40% of the child’s time only means that child support may be calculated differently than in other circumstances: it does not automatically mean that the more time that is spent with the child, the less support will be paid;
  • a set-off calculation is only one way of dealing with child support and it is not automatic; and
  • in all cases, a court will make a decision based on what it thinks is in the best interests of the child.

For more information about child support in shared parenting, see the following resources.

Web Child Support – Different Parenting Situations FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 12-13.

Webinar Child Support: Dealing with a Difficult Ex-partner
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 53:30.

Web If we have shared custody, does anyone have to pay child support?
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Child Support and Shared Residency of the Child
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Guideline income

In many cases, figuring out the guideline income begins with Line 150 of a parent’s tax return. Line 150 is the parent’s gross income for the year. See the following resource for a full list of what can be deducted from the gross income.

Web Schedule III (Section 16): Adjustments to Income
Government of Canada
English

This works well if the parent’s income comes from regular employment. In other words, if they have a job where an employer pays them. However, this would not be fair in cases where the parent is self-employed. This is because people who are self-employed have all kinds of deductions that change the amount in Line 150, but do not accurately reflect the actual amount of money available for the children. For example: a person who is self-employed can deduct a portion of the utility bills, car payments, and household expenses. A parent who is “regularly employed” does not have this option. As a result, figuring out the guideline income of a parent who is self-employed is more complicated. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Financial Disclosure to the Ex: Do I Have to Report All Self-Employment Income?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Self-Reporting Your Income: How to Go Wrong
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video The Potential Child Support Pitfalls When Dealing with a Parent or Spouse who is Self-Employed or Operates a Corporation
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

There are also other situations in which using Line 150 of the last year’s tax return would not be a good way of figuring out guideline income. For example: if the parent recently lost his or her job, or if the parent had a large change in income that will continue into the future. In such cases, it might be better to estimate the coming year’s income based on recent pay stubs.

Another factor that can affect guideline income is any additional money given to salaried employees. Sometimes they are added in, sometimes they are not: in many cases it depends on the evidence given as to how they are used. Examples include: living allowances and danger pay.

This is also true of tax benefits: sometimes they are included in certain guideline calculations, sometimes they are not.

In all cases, a court has the power to determine what the correct guideline should be, in whatever way it sees fit.

A court can even “impute” income to a parent—this means that the court can assign an amount of income to a person. This most commonly happens when:

  • the payor parent is unemployed (or underemployed) on purpose, and the court thinks that he or she could earn more;
  • the payor parent is receiving income that is not properly documented—for example, receiving cash payment for work and not reporting it for taxes (this is often called “working under the table”);
  • the payor parent has not provided financial information;
  • the payor parent is not using a rental property as he or she should; or
  • the payor parent lives in a country with much lower tax rates.

A particular kind of imputing income is called “grossing up.” The Guidelines are based on the assumption that the payor pays income tax. However, not all kinds of income are taxed in the same way. As a result, the standard calculations would not be correct. If this is the case, the guideline income has to be recalculated so that it is comparable to a person's income who does pay taxes.

For example: an Aboriginal person earns $40,000 per year and pays no taxes. $40,000 is not the correct guideline income. To calculate the correct guideline income, you must figure out what a taxpaying payor would have to earn pre-taxes (“gross”), in order to have $40,000 left after taxes (“net”). Let’s assume that a taxpaying payor would have to earn $50,000 gross, in order to have $40,000 net—then the correct guideline amount would be $50,000.

Examples of situations when an income might have to be grossed up include: if a person’s income is from the Workers' Compensation Board or Social Assistance, or if the payor is a Status Indian working on reserve. This is a complicated calculation that must take into account many factors—you may want to ask for help from an accountant or someone who has legal training in this area.

For more information about imputing income, see the following resources.

Web What is imputing income?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Child Support: Dealing with a Difficult Ex-partner
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 1:04:20.

Web What is the imputation of income for support payments?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Imputation of Income When Parent or Spouse is Intentionally Unemployed or Underemployed
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Worried About Having Your Income Grossed-Up for Support Purposes? Here’s Some Court-Inspired Insight
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Adjustments

Sometimes adjustments might need to be made to the “basic amount.” This most commonly happens when:

  • there is “undue hardship” (see the “Undue hardship” section below for more information about that);
  • the children are over 18 (especially if they have some income of their own); or
  • the payor parent has an income of over $150,000 per year.

More information

For further information on calculating the base amount, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 3:30.



Web Child Support Guidelines FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The Calculation of Child Support: A Basic Guideline
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 5.

Webinar Child Support: Dealing with a Difficult Ex-partner
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 43:40.

Web Child Support Guidelines
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Video The Fundamentals of Child Support
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 20:10.

PDF 2011 Simplified Tables in PDF Format
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Child Support Table Look-up
Government of Canada
English

Video Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Back to School: Who Pays for What?
Connect Family Law
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What financial documents are needed to calculate support payments?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Finer Points on Court-Ordered Interim Support
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Note that this resource discusses interim (temporary) support orders.

Presentation Pension alimentaire pour enfants
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information for parents with high income, see the following resources.

Web High income earners - Child support and incomes over $150,000
RCMV Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

Video Child Support When Income Over $150k
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Support in high asset divorce based on all income sources
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you a preview of each article, and you can find the full articles at libraries across Alberta. Please note that these articles are sections in whole books. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Discretion: Friend or Foe? (article included in "42nd Annual Refresher, Family Law")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Book Determining Income (article included in "Child Support Fundamentals")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Step 2: Additional expenses (“Section 7 expenses”)

The amount of child support to be paid is the basic amount, plus a share of the “section 7 expenses.” Section 7 expenses are for things not included in the basic amount.

The basic amount is meant to cover things that every child needs. For example: food, clothing, and shelter. Section 7 expenses are things that, while not necessarily rare, are not a basic thing required by every child in all cases. For example: daycare and soccer.

Either parent (or person who stood in the place of a parent) may have section 7 expenses. These expenses are often shared between the parents based on their income. For example: if the parents make the same amount of money, they will each pay half of the section 7 expenses. If one parent makes more money than the other, the parent with a higher income will pay more toward the section 7 expenses.

To ask a parent to help pay for these additional expenses, the other parent must generally show evidence that the cost has already been paid, is soon to be paid, or is paid regularly.

Section 7 expenses do not have to be permitted by a court. A parent can ask that the other parent contribute, but a judge may not agree. The court will consider whether the expense is really necessary based on the child’s best interests and how reasonable the expense is in relation to the parents’ incomes, the needs of the child, and the family’s spending habits prior to separation. When deciding whether an expense is reasonable, the court will often look at whether the payor was involved in the decision in advance (it is more “reasonable” to ask first).

Section 7 expenses are also limited. The guidelines provide a clear and fixed list, and the expenses must fit into the categories given. To see the exact wording of section 7, see the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Web Federal Child Support Guidelines
Government of Canada
English

Section 7 expenses have two different categories: “ordinary” and “extraordinary.”

  • Ordinary expenses are the more “usual” kind of expenses. In other words, they happen in many cases. Examples include: day care costs, health insurance premiums, prescription medications, and glasses.
  • Extraordinary expenses are educational and extracurricular expenses. Examples include: tuition at a special school for talented hockey players, and expenses related to the child’s special needs. Up to a certain value, these expenses are included in the base table amount (for example: standard school “fees”). The expense becomes “extraordinary” if the cost is necessary for the child’s best interests and reasonable given the total amount of the parents’ income, but otherwise outside of the ability of the requesting parent to pay for on his or her own (with his or her own income plus the base amount of child support).

Some schools or recreational organizations offer families reduced fees when parents complete some kind of volunteer work (for example: bingos). Courts have found that this volunteer work has a value, and that that value needs to be considered in the calculation of section 7 expenses. When only one parent contributes volunteer time, only that parent gets the financial benefit: the share paid by the other parent is calculated based on what the cost would have been without the volunteer work.

For children still in the charge of the parent, and enrolled in school, the costs involved with going to school may be considered section 7 expenses. However, the child’s ability to contribute through scholarships, loans, and part-time work will also be considered.

For more information about section 7 expenses, see the following resources. Be sure to look at the resources listed in the “Basic Amount” section above as well.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 11.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 11:40.

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 10-22.

Audio/Web Child Support Guidelines
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web A Brief Primer on Child Support: Part Two
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step
Government of Canada
English
See Step 7.


Web Spousal and Child Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See "Federal Child Support Guidelines."

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Special Expenses
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Back to School: Who Pays for What?
Connect Family Law
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What special or extraordinary expenses may be covered by support?
Peterson Stark Scott
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Can a Parent Replace Child Support … with Gifts?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Presentation Pension alimentaire pour enfants
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information in video and other formats, see the following resources.

Video Child Support: Distinguishing Between the Table Amount & Section 7 Expenses
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Webinar Child Support: Dealing with a Difficult Ex-partner
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereStart at 50:00.

Video Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Some Section 7 Hassles – Sometimes It’s Just Not Worth It
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Step 3: Undue hardship

Undue hardship is not a required part of the child support calculation; it is just something that either parent can claim.

The term “undue hardship” is used when paying the regular amount of child support (as properly calculated in the first two steps), would cause too much difficulty for the payor given his or her financial situation. The difficulty must be severe: it is quite rare for courts to find that there is a hardship bad enough that it should affect the child’s right to support.

The Guidelines set out the kinds of things that might amount to “undue hardship”:

  • the payor has a high level of debt and that debt is a result of costs used to support the family before the separation;
  • the payor has unusually high expenses required in order to engage in parenting time;
  • the payor has a large debt from a legal judgment;
  • the payor has to support other children who are not children from this relationship; or
  • the payor has a legal duty to support someone else who is ill or disabled.

There could be other reasons that are not on this list—it is up to the court to decide.

In addition to showing evidence to prove the undue hardship claim, the payor parent must also show that the standard of living in his or her home is lower than the standard of living in the home of the recipient. In other words, the court will look at the total expenses and total income of each parent's household (this includes the income of each parent's new partner).

For more information about undue hardship, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4 and p. 16-18.

Audio/Web Child Support Guidelines
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 12.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 13:00.

Web Child Support Guidelines FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step
Government of Canada
English
See Step 8.


Video Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Obligations to Pay Child Support Even with Undue Hardship
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Future “financial disclosure”

Over time, things change. As a result, child support will have to be recalculated on a regular basis.

To make this possible, the Guidelines require that parents give their financial information to each other every year. This is often written in the court order, just to make it absolutely clear.

For more information about exactly what financial information must be provided, see the following resources.

Video The Fundamentals of Child Support
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Updating Child Support Payments: What To Do
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Annual Income Disclosure
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Disclosure of Income and Child Support: It’s an Annual Thing
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Tax issues about child support

When dealing with child support issues, tax issues can often up.

Some of the most important tax-related information to keep in mind includes:

  • the Canada Child Benefit, and whether or how it should be considered when calculating child support;
  • when doing your income taxes, child support is not added to the recipient’s income, and it is not subtracted from the payor’s income; and
  • the cost of going to court to get or enforce a support order, including an order for the payment of arrears, is tax deductible for the person receiving support. This is true of both partner support and child support. However, the cost of defending a claim for support or for the payment of arrears of support is not deductible for the payor.

For further information about tax issues and how they are affected by parenting plans and living arrangements, see the Custody and Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For even more information, see the following resources.

Web Child Support Guidelines FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Support Payments
Government of Canada
English

Web What amount can I claim or report?
Government of Canada
English

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 7.


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

Web Are Alberta support payments tax deductible?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video How are child payments taxed?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Two necessary evils – know your obligations re: income tax and spousal / child support
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Income Tax Implications of Support Payments
Canadian Bar Association - British Columbia Branch
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Tax Matters Toolkit: Separation & Divorce
Canadian Bar Association
English

Web Accounting and legal fees
Government of Canada
English

Web What the New Canada Child Benefits Will Mean for Divorced Parents
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web New Canada Child Benefit - Potential Impact on Support Payments?
Peterson Stark Scott
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

French resources:

Web Pension alimentaire
Government of Canada
French

Web Quel montant puis-je demander ou déclarer?
Government of Canada
French



Web Frais juridiques et comptables
Government of Canada
French
Child support after the payor dies (including using life insurance as security)

In general, any ongoing child support payments end if the payor dies, unless an agreement or court order says that the payments are to continue after death—this is called having child support payments “binding on the estate of the payor.”

Many agreements and court orders do say that child support payments are binding on the estate of the payor. Even if they don’t mention being binding, there are exceptions to the general rules, and an estate may end up owing child support nonetheless. In addition, although ongoing payments may end, arrears are binding on the estate.

As a result, a payor’s estate may owe child support. However, sometimes the estate does not have enough money to pay the child support that is owing (which may be arrears, ongoing payments, or both). The recipient may even suspect or know that this is likely to happen. If that is the case, the parties can arrange to have life insurance set up to make sure that child support payments and arrears will be taken care of if the payor dies.

For example:

  • One spouse (Alex) has life insurance that says that his or her spouse (Terry) will get $300,000 if Alex dies.
  • Alex is terrible with money, often has trouble paying bills on time, and has serious health issues.
  • Alex and Terry, who have 2 children, decide to separate.
  • When they separate, Alex wants to cancel the life insurance.
  • Alex has to pay Terry child support.
  • Terry is concerned that Alex will not pay child support on time (resulting in child support arrears).
  • Terry and Alex decide to keep the life insurance policy, with Terry to get the money in trust for the children if Alex dies.
  • As part of their agreement or court order, Alex and Terry will decide who will pay the premiums on the life insurance.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Life Insurance After Divorce
State Farm
English
 This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The Impact of Divorce on Your Life Insurance
Western Direct Insurance
English
 This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Spousal (and Child) Support – Life Insurance
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Whose life insurance is it anyway?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The ex-spouse, child support and the insurance policy
Fiscal Agents
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Child support life insurance beneficiary claim against the estate? A few things to consider.
Canadian Bar Association
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Life Insurance: Protecting Support Obligations after Death
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Life insurance and support obligations on marriage breakdown
Manulife Financial
English
This is a private source and can be a challenge to read. Learn more hereStart on p. 4.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

When it comes to paying child support, Aboriginal parents have some additional issues to learn about. These include:

  • “grossing up” income for calculating child support amounts; and
  • enforcing support orders on reserve.

“Grossing-up” income for calculating child support amounts

The Guidelines are based on the assumption that the payor pays income tax. However, Aboriginal people who are “status Indians” under the Indian Act and who work on reserve may not be required to pay income tax. As a result, the standard calculations would not be correct.

If this is the case, the guideline income has to be recalculated so that it is comparable to a person's income who does pay taxes.

For example: an Aboriginal person earns $40,000 per year and pays no taxes. $40,000 is not the correct guideline income. To calculate the correct guideline income, you must figure out what a taxpaying payor would have to earn pre-taxes (“gross”), in order to have $40,000 left after taxes (“net”). Let’s assume that a taxpaying payor would have to earn $50,000 gross, in order to have $40,000 net—then the correct guideline amount would be $50,000.

This is a complicated calculation that must take into account many factors; you may want to ask for help from an accountant or someone who has legal training in this area. See the following resources for more information.

PDF Your Rights on Reserve: A Legal Tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in BC
Atira Women's Resource Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee p. 56-57.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 16-17.

Web Child Support Guidelines
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See "Imputing income."

PDF Aboriginal persons in family law proceedings
Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. See p. 4-5.

Enforceability of support orders on-reserve

The Indian Act affects the enforcement of child and spousal support orders when the payor is a status Indian who lives on reserve.

  • If the recipient (the child) is not a status Indian, then the Indian Act limits the ability to enforce a support award, and the property or income on-reserve cannot be used to pay the support.
  • If both the payor and the recipient (the child) are status Indians, then the Indian Act does not limit the ability to enforce a support order, and on-reserve property or income can be used to pay the support.

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

Blended family considerations

In Canada, the law around child support in married relationships is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your child support issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Depending on your exact situation, a topic that may be important to you is whether becoming part of a new blended family can lead to a change in a previous child support order. Specifically, an increase in household income due to a new partner can be considered in a claim of “undue hardship.” For more information, see the “How is child support calculated?” section above.

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 the Divorce Act, the law around child support is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your child support 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 child support 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.

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

Polyamorous relationships

Child support is the right of the child and is not based on the exact nature of any adult relationships. Therefore, if you stood in the place of a parent to a child or children during the polyamorous relationship, you may want to provide child support, or you may be required to provide child support. For more information about “standing in the place of a parent,” see the “Who is responsible for paying child support?” section above.

If the applicant for child support is not one of the “married spouses,” the child support request must be made using Alberta’s Family Law Act. For information about that, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Polyamorous Relationships and Family Law in Canada
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. See p. 37-38.
Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

One or more parties in the relationship may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

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

In these situations, family breakdown may be much more complex. This is especially true if one spouse is being sponsored by the other for immigration, or if the relationship involves domestic violence.

Although all of the general family law rules and processes still apply, immigration issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • what to do when,
  • whether and when to involve a lawyer,
  • what you need to include in any agreement, and even
  • what you can ask for in court.

If any of the above applies to you, be sure to review the Family Breakdown and the Immigration Process Information Page and the following resource.

Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Be Aware

Under an immigration policy from October 25, 2012 to April 17, 2017, some permanent residents had to continue living with their sponsor for 2 years to keep that legal status. During this 2-year time, they were called a “conditional” permanent resident. As of April 18, 2017, conditional permanent residency no longer applies. Anyone who had been considered a conditional permanent resident is no longer subject to the conditions. If you were being investigated for not following this rule after separating from your sponsor, the investigation will stop.

If one or both of the parents are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or more of the parents/guardians is involved in criminal law issues at the time of family breakdown, 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 even
  • when and how to schedule court hearings.

If you are experiencing family breakdown and one or more of you is involved in criminal proceedings, be sure to review the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law Information Page.

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your child support issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

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.

However, it is important to understand that child support is the right of the child. Even though child support is generally paid to the parent, it is the child who has the right to child support. This right has been confirmed by the Alberta Guidelines. This means that a parent who has the majority of care and control of the child cannot bargain away child support, or accept an amount that is unreasonably low. The parent does not have the right to do so.

In other words, you can only agree on the annual income amount; you cannot contract out of the child support guidelines in their entirety. In addition, the agreement is subject to the review of the Court and may be denied.

Also, child support is separate from partner support and division of property. Again, child support is the right of the child. Partner support and division of property is about the partners. As a result, a parent who has the majority of care and control of the child cannot just “give up” child support in exchange for partner support or most of the property.

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 heading 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 two examples.

  1. Both parents and the children currently live in Alberta and have never lived anywhere else.
  2. Both parents 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 two examples.

  1. A court action was started in another province or country, and then one or both parents moved to Alberta.
  2. One or both parents 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, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Resolving child support in court

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.

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

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.

Enforcing child support: The Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)

“Enforcing” an order means making sure that what the court ordered is actually done. When a judge makes an order, the parties are expected to do what the judge has decided. However, the ability to enforce an order is not automatically included in the court order. Instead, you will have to follow a process to make sure you can enforce it.

What is the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)?

To make sure that children are properly cared for, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

  • collects and delivers court-ordered child support and spousal/partner support; and
  • can take action to enforce those court orders.

How does MEP work?

All support orders are automatically filed with MEP. However, they are only enforced when one of the parties registers the order.

For example: You have a court order for child support. Your former spouse must pay you $300 per month.

  • If you do not register your order with MEP, you will have to make your own arrangements for payment. For example, you may get a cheque mailed to you every month.
  • If you register your order with MEP, they will make arrangements for payment (such as having the money paid directly from the payor’s bank account). If payments are not made, MEP has the power to do something about it right away.

Who can register with MEP?

Eligibility to register with MEP depends on a few things. The information is described below based on where the recipient lives.

If the recipient lives in Alberta

If the recipient lives in Alberta, you are eligible to register with MEP if you have:

  • a court order for child or partner support; or
  • a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (see the “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements” heading just below).

If the recipient lives in another Canadian province or territory

If the recipient lives in another Canadian province or territory, you must register with the support enforcement program in that province or territory. That enforcement program will then collect, deliver, and enforce the support. See the following resource for a list of enforcement programs in Canada.


If the recipient lives outside of Canada

If the recipient lives outside of Canada, your enforcement options depend on where the parties live and whether the court order was granted in an area has a “reciprocity agreement” with the province of Alberta.

Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If the recipient lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page for your options for enforcement.

If the recipient lives in an area that is not a reciprocating jurisdiction (for example: Mexico), you can only register with MEP in Alberta if the payor lives in Alberta. If the payor does not live in Alberta, your situation is more complicated. You may want to get the advice of lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

For more information about who is eligible to register with MEP, see the following resource.

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Am I eligible?
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how to register with MEP, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

What happens after you register?

Once an order is registered with MEP, the payor will pay the support to the Director of Maintenance Enforcement, and the money is then directly deposited to the recipient.

In order to carry out collection and enforcement, MEP has very broad powers, including:

  • deducting the support payments directly from the payor’s wages (this is called a “garnishee”);
  • taking support amounts owing directly from bank accounts, mutual funds, rent, or contract fees;
  • taking support amounts owing directly from income tax refunds, GST rebates, Canada Pension Plan income, and Employment Insurance payments;
  • preventing the payor from selling any property;
  • suspending the payor’s driver’s licence, registration, or licence plates;
  • canceling the payor’s driver’s licence if payments are more than 60 days late;
  • taking away the payor’s passport; and
  • publicly identifying the payor as being in arrears (this is done on the MEP website).

See the following resources for more information about what MEP can do. There is even more information in the resources at the end of this section.

Web Child Support – The Maintenance Enforcement Program FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 16.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 15:10.

Arrears: What happens if a payor can’t make their payments?

Sometimes, there are unavoidable reasons why a payor might delay or miss payments. These missed payments are called “arrears.” If this happens, the payor can try to make a different payment arrangement with MEP.

If it is not possible to make a different arrangement with MEP, the payor can request a “Stay of Enforcement” from the Court. This “pauses” MEP’s enforcement actions for a short period of time. However, there are only certain things that a Stay of Enforcement can do. For example:

  • A Stay of Enforcement can stop or change the amount of a wage “garnishee.” This is when MEP takes money you owe directly from your paycheque.
  • A Stay of Enforcement can stop MEP from taking any further steps to enforce the support order.
  • A Stay of Enforcement cannot get you your driver’s licence back.
  • A Stay of Enforcement cannot stop federal enforcement steps that have already started (such as a garnishee of your Employment Insurance payments).

Be Aware

Before a court will grant a Stay of Enforcement, the payor must show that they tried to make a different payment arrangement with MEP, and an arrangement was not possible. To help with this, MEP will give payors a written explanation if a payment arrangement is not possible.

For more information about Stays of Enforcement, see the following resources.


Web Limit the collection of your support payments
Government of Alberta
English

Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English
See “Stay of Enforcement on Arrears.”

For information about applying for a Stay of Enforcement, see the section called “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

If a payor is unable to pay child support arrears, he or she can ask the Court that the arrears be reduced or cancelled. This is not an easy argument to make, as the court system places a very high value on a child’s right to support. See the “Child support arrears” section below for more information.

Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements

Queen's Bench

 

Many people agree with each other on support and do not want to have to go to court just to get an order that can be registered with MEP. They would like to register their agreement instead. To register a support agreement with MEP, it must be in a specific format: the Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (MESA).

To make a MESA, you must:

  • meet the eligibility requirements;
  • follow the instructions; and
  • file the proper paperwork in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

For more information about how to do this, see the following resources.


More information

For general information about enforcement of support in Canada, see the following resources.

Web Enforcing Support
Government of Canada
English

Web Exécution de pensions alimentaires
Government of Canada
French

Web Resolve Enforcement Issues
Government of Canada
English

For more information about MEP and how it can help enforce child support, see the following resources.

Web Child Support – The Maintenance Enforcement Program FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 16.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 15:10.

Audio/Web How to Enforce a Support Order
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Maintenance Enforcement Program.”


PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 133-134.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 17.

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Am I eligible?
Government of Alberta
English

PDF MEP information sheets
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Maintenance for Adult Children Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Glossary
Government of Alberta
English

If you are an employer of people registered with MEP and you want information about that, see the following resources.


For information about how to register with MEP, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Child Support Recalculation Program

Child support orders often have to change. There are many reasons for this: incomes change, needs change, costs change. If parents always had to go back to court to get the original child support order changed, it would be too expensive. To make this process easier, Alberta Justice offers the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP).

The RP is a service that recalculates child support (base amount and section 7 expenses) every year, based on the yearly income tax information the parties provide. However, not all court orders are eligible. Also, since the RP uses income tax information, the program is not appropriate for situations such as self-employment.

Be Aware

The Recalculation Program does not have authority to reduce or award arrears (unpaid support). This can only be done by a judge through an application to change (or “vary”) your order. Also, if your financial situation changes during the year (for example, if you lost your job or your income increased), RP cannot review your file before your annual recalculation date. If you want to review your file before your annual recalculation date you must apply to court.

For more information about the RP, see the following resources.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program
Government of Alberta
English

Child support arrears

Sometimes, the payor gets behind on his or her child support payments. When this occurs, the debt accumulates and the payor is still responsible to pay the amount owing. The debt of unpaid child support is called “arrears.”

There are times when a payor can ask a court to reduce or completely cancel his or her arrears. In addition, even if the arrears are not reduced or cancelled, the payor can ask that payment of those arrears be postponed or paid over a longer period of time.

Asking for any of these things is not very easy—since support is the right of the child, courts are very reluctant to do this. As a result, it is only possible in very specific circumstances.

If you want to ask for this, you will have to provide a lot of financial disclosure, including the following.

  • Your current income. To show this, you will need pay stubs. Tips, cash income, student grants, and student loans must also be included.
  • Your last 3 years of tax returns and Notices of Assessment or all T4s issued during that time.
  • If you are dealing with more than 3 years of arrears, your tax returns and Notices of Assessments for all of the years you wish to review.
  • If you have a business or self-employment income, your business financial statements and tax returns for all of the years you wish to review.

If you do not have this information, you can:

  • contact the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA will mail a copy of your past 7 years of Notices of Assessment at no charge; or
  • access your Notices of Assessment online from the CRA website. If you don’t have an online account with CRA, you will need to create one:
Web My Account for Individuals
Government of Canada
English

Web Mon dossier pour les particuliers
Government of Canada
French

You may also have to provide other kinds of information, including the following.

  • A current resume, including education, work history, and qualifications and certificates (with an explanation of periods of unemployment, incarceration, education, or welfare).
  • A copy of the Order or Agreement you want to change.   
  • Any current or recent court applications for changing child support or requesting a Stay of Enforcement.
  • A copy of your current MEP account, going back to the time of the Order that you wish to change or cancel.
  • Any recent mediation or dispute resolution officer reports regarding support.
  • Any recent Recalculation Program decisions.
  • Private records showing payments to the recipient, if there are any. For example: receipts, bank transfers, electronic payments, or money orders that are not recorded on your MEP statement.
  • A list of any Section 7 expenses you have now, or those that you paid during the time under review (including the amounts paid to the other parent or to the service provider).
  • A list of any medical or mental health conditions that affect your ability to work (including dates of illness, hospitalization, incapacity, etc.).
  • Any medical records relating to your ability to work, such as: an AISH application; doctor or psychologist reports; occupational assessment reports; and disability or WCB claim entitlements, awards, or reports.
  • A history of your job search efforts during periods of unemployment and/or details of any other special circumstances.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 27.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 17.

PDF Statement of Finances: Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Payment Arrangements for Arrears: Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English
Retroactive child support

Retroactive child support is sometimes called “back-dated” child support. Sometimes, a payor might be paying an incorrect amount of child support (and may have been doing so for quite some time). This can happen if:

  • the payor’s income had previously increased, and the existing order does not reflect that increase;
  • there is an agreement between the parents, but it is not a reasonable amount of child support (according to the Guidelines); or
  • there is no child support order, and no child support is being paid, but it should have been paid.

You can only apply for retroactive child support if the child is still eligible for support at the time that you apply—for more information about that, see the “Which children are eligible for child support?” section above.

Be Aware

The general rule is that the Court will not go back more than 3 years when awarding retroactive child support. However, in some cases a Court will consider more than 3 years of retroactive support. If this is your situation, you may want to speak with a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

For information about what is required to apply for retroactive child support, and what the Court will consider in making its decision, see the following resources. The considerations are the same under both the Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 14.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 13:50.

Web Child Support – Retroactive Child Support FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Retroactive Child Support
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making Changes to Child Support
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee section 5.2.2.

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

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Back-Dating Child Support – A Kids’ “Bill of Rights”
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web How Blameworthy Conduct Can Affect Retroactive Child Support
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web To Get Retroactive Support, Does a Kid Have to be Eligible at Now … or Only Back Then?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.



Changing child support orders

Child support amounts often have to change. There are many reasons for this: incomes change, needs change, and costs changes. Although parents are free to use the Child Support Recalculation Program to change child support (see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section above), that is not always possible or appropriate.

If necessary, parents can go to court to change a child support order. In order to get a change in support, the person making the request must show that there has been a significant change in the circumstances since the previous order was granted. Some changes that might be considered include:

  • a change in income;
  • a change in the amounts paid for special expenses; and
  • a change in where the child lives.
Be Aware

You may not be able to get a consent order to reduce or cancel support arrears, or even change ongoing support, if the recipient has ever been on income assistance.

For more information about asking for a change in achild support order, see the following resources.

Web Child Support – Changing a Child Support Order FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web How to Change a Financial Support Order
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See "Variation of Support Orders."

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 25.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 15.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 14:40.


PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 16.

Video Child Support Recalculation
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Separation and Divorce: Child Support
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Ending child support

Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, child support can end when the child turns 18. However, if the child has to remain in his or her parent's care because of illness, disability, or other causes (including being a full-time student), child support continues.

For more information about ending child support, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 14-20.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 7.

Web New Random Answers to Random Search Terms
JP Boyd on Family Law
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Web Can adult children in Alberta receive child support?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Adult Child is in School Because They Have “Nothing Better to Do” – Do They Still Get Child Support?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside of Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Support for the Adult Child
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside of Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Child Support – Attending an American University
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside of Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book School is Not Out for the Summer – Post Secondary Studies? (article included in "Child Support Fundamentals")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full text from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

If you are ending child support before a child turns 22 and you have registered your child support order with MEP, you will need to specifically let MEP know. If you don’t, MEP will continue to collect payments until the child’s 22nd birthday. See the following resource for more information.

PDF Maintenance for Adult Children Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English
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 an order

It is possible to appeal a court decision. However, you can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error in the facts. You cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it.

To appeal a court decision, you would have to appeal to the next highest court. In Alberta, all divorce matters are heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench, so any appeal of a Queen’s Bench order would happen in the Alberta Court of Appeal.

In addition, be aware that an appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order. For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Process

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

  • Options for staying out of court (including consent orders)
  • 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
Be Aware

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. 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: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about child support for parents whose relationship is breaking down.

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.

This Information Page is for parents who were in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing and resolving their child support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act.

However, if you were married and your relationship is breaking down, you do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. For parenting and support issues (including child support), married parents have a choice which law they use when they separate—they can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act:

  • If you want to deal with child support using the federal Divorce Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • If you want to deal with child support using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the wrong Information Page. See the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page instead.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

If you are parents who were in a non-married relationship, you are on the wrong Information Page. You must deal with your issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act. The federal Divorce Act does not apply to you. See the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is about children who 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 Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want. 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.

Alberta’s two-court system

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, there is no single “family court” in Alberta. People ending a married relationship in Alberta have a choice about which law they will use (the Alberta Family Law Act or the federal Divorce Act) and which court they will use. This is a very important decision. Each law and court offer different things, and there are some things you can only ask for in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on your situation, you may have a choice to make. Or your circumstances may mean that you only have one option of which law or court to use.

Tip

You do not have to go to court to solve your separation issues. There are many ways to resolve legal issues out of court, which are often faster and less expensive than going to court. For more information, see the “Out of court resolution options” section below.

The information below this point is for people who have decided to use the Divorce Act, and as a result will deal with their issues in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

For an introduction on the differences in the two courts and what kinds of things to consider when making your decision about which law and which court to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page. For more detailed information, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

The Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

If you have children and you are ending your marriage, the Parenting After Separation (PAS) course is mandatory. This is true even if you end up agreeing to everything and resolving your issues by way of a “desk divorce.” If children are involved, the PAS course is mandatory.

You may attend the workshop either online or in-person. The PAS workshop is offered in-person across Alberta and throughout the year. Some locations have it more often than others. You may attend anywhere in the province, no matter where your court action is taking place.

Different locations may have different rules about whether or not you can register for the same workshop as your former spouse. If you do not want to register in the same session as your former spouse, 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
Be Aware

The PAS course is a requirement for any spouse applying under the Divorce Act when there are children of the marriage under the age of 16—even if that spouse is not the parent of the children.

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your family law issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

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.

Be Aware

You cannot get the “divorce” part of a separation without a court order. You can agree to everything, and simply hand in the paperwork. However, a judge still has to see the paperwork and the process has to be finalized through the courts. This is called a “desk divorce.” For more information, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

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.

To make an agreement about child support, you will need to understand the law around child support and how to use the Guidelines. You will need to understand how to figure out the correct Guideline amount. For detailed information, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

For more information about creating your own child support agreement see the following resources.

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 48-49 and p. 115-132.

PDF Instructions: Child Support Data Sheets
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Support Agreements
Government of Canada
English


PDF Summary of Child Support Guideline Calculations
Government of Alberta
English


Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Agreements and Child Support
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

French resources:

Web Ententes de pension alimentaire pour enfants
Government of Canada
French


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.

Agreements resulting from out-of-court options

For any of these out-of-court options, the goal is to reach an agreement. This means that everyone involved will have worked out solutions for:

  • the issues you have now; and
  • how you will deal with future problems.

Keep in mind that making agreements can be tricky and complex. There are many things to consider. For more information on the process and requirements of making an agreement, as well as things to watch out for, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

Courthouse staff and Resolution and Court Administration Services cannot help with the drafting or completion of the agreement.

Turning your agreement into a consent order

Having an agreement does not mean that the other party will necessarily follow that agreement. For that reason, once you have an agreement you may wish to take steps to make sure that your agreement can be enforced.

There are two ways to make sure that a child support agreement can be enforced:

  1. You can prepare a consent order setting out the terms of your agreement. However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information about how to complete consent orders in Queen’s Bench, see the “Consent orders” section below.
  2. You can complete a “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement.” (MESA). By itself, a MESA is not a court order. However, it is a specific kind of Agreement that has a mandatory template form and required steps. For more information about how to complete and file Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements in Queen’s Bench, see the “Consent orders” section below.

After you have your Consent Order: Registering your Order

In order to enforce a child support order, turning your agreement into a consent order is only the first step. Once you have your court order, you must register it with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). For more detailed information about MEP’s requirements and processes, see the “Enforcing child support” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” section below.

In addition, you may also be able to register your order with the Recalculation Program (RP), which is a program that adjusts the child support amount every year so that you do not have to go to court to do so. For more information on the RP, see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program” section below.

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

Although these programs are provided by the Alberta Courts, a family does 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.

Be Aware

These programs can become mandatory if they are ordered by a judge.

 

Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families (PASHC)

This program is for parents 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, and is not available online. For more information, see the following resources.


Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

FOCIS is a free, voluntary, 6-hour, skill-based communication course. 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

Parents 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

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

Dispute Resolution Officer / Child Support Resolution Officer (Edmonton and Calgary only)

The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is in Calgary, and the Child Support Resolution Officer (CSRO) program is in Edmonton. These programs are mandatory in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but available to parties without any court action started.

These programs allow parties who want to apply for or change their child support to meet together with a “resolution officer.” This resolution officer is a family lawyer who will help the parties try to reach an agreement. If they can't reach an agreement, the lawyer will go over next steps. See the following resource for more information.

Web Resolving child support disputes
Government of Alberta
English

The paperwork required for these programs is different in Edmonton and Calgary.

  • If you want to attend in Edmonton, see the following resource.
PDF Child Support Resolution Project (Edmonton)
Government of Alberta
English
  • If you want to attend in Calgary, see the following resource.
PDF Dispute Resolution Officer Program (Calgary)
Government of Alberta
English

Child Support Services

Alberta Human Services provides child support assistance to low income families who are receiving the following services:

  • Income Support,
  • Alberta Adult Health Benefit, or
  • Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Schedule A - Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English
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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.

However, even if you do have a lawyer, you may wish to continue reading this (and other Information Pages) to educate yourself further.

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
Be Aware

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 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

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a Court Procedure Booklet that has helpful information.

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.

Starting a court action

As you are dealing with issues of child support, it is important to keep in mind that you will never get a divorce without involving the court system. In other words, even if you agree on everything to do with the child(ren), if you ultimately also want a divorce, you will still have to start a court action in Queen’s Bench.

For this reason, many parents are encouraged to file a “Statement of Claim” as a first step. This is the form that starts the court action. Then, if they need to “go to court” to decide any child-related issues, the action will have already been started.

This does not mean that you have to let a court decide the issues for you, or that you must actually “go to court.” In other words, you may not have to be in a courtroom in front of a judge. Some people never end up going to court. In Alberta, you can get a “desk divorce,” which can include issues such as custody/access, child support, spousal support, and division of property. It is called a “desk divorce” because you do not have to appear in front of a judge. Instead, your paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk.

Be Aware

When there are children involved, the desk divorce paperwork has very specific requirements about the children that must be met. For more information on this process, see the “Desk divorce” section below.

Even if you do not get a desk divorce, this does not mean that you will necessarily have to “go to court.” Separation and divorce is a long process. At the beginning, many people are unsure of how things will be resolved in the end. Some people never end up going to court. However, depending on how things go, you may end up in court.

What are “Applications”?

“Applications” are smaller, individual parts of the court action, where one of the parties asks something of the Court. It is a court hearing used to temporarily solve some matters before coming to a final agreement, or before the case is permanently decided at a trial.

If you and your spouse disagree about any separation or divorce-related topics, you may need to file one or more Applications to have the Court hear the issues and decide for you.

There is usually a fee for making an application in the Court of Queen’s Bench. 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

What to expect in 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 “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 child support). 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 divorcing couples can resolve their issues in chambers. 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 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 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 ask at 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
The “Desk Divorce”

In Alberta, it is possible to get a “desk divorce.” It is called a “desk divorce” because you do not have to appear in front of a judge. Instead, your paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk. In addition to the “divorce” part, the desk divorce also deals with custody/access, child support, and spousal support. These issues are called the “corollary relief.”

Be Aware

The Divorce Act does not deal with matrimonial property issues. Therefore, the “joint desk divorce” and the “uncontested desk divorce” paperwork does not include any documents that deal with property. For information about how to deal with property-related issues, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

In Alberta, there are 2 kinds of desk divorces:

  • a “joint” desk divorce; and
  • an “uncontested” desk divorce.

Joint desk divorce

In a joint desk divorce, both parties are agreeing to divorce and agreeing to the child custody and access, child support, and spousal support issues. If you choose to file a joint desk divorce, there is a single set of paperwork required. This is different from the usual paperwork used to start the divorce action (as described below).

Remember

The standard set of desk divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act). Therefore, if you come to an agreement on your property issues as well, you will have some separate processes and paperwork to complete. For more information about coming to an agreement about property, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Be Aware

You can only complete the joint desk divorce process once you and your spouse have lived “separate and apart” for one year. The other “grounds for divorce” (adultery or cruelty) cannot be used in a joint desk divorce. However, you can file your court paperwork for divorce at any time. It just won’t be finalized until the grounds for divorce have been met.

See the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page for more information on this divorce option, including:

  • the “grounds for divorce”;
  • the paperwork required for the joint desk divorce;
  • when a joint desk divorce is appropriate; and
  • how to get out of the joint process if you need to.

Uncontested desk divorce

In an uncontested desk divorce, one person asks for the divorce (and all the matters that go with it). That person files all of the required paperwork, and the other person does not answer. In other words, they don’t say “no” or make any arguments against the requests. The person has been given the chance to respond. Because they have chosen not to respond, the Court will consider simply granting what was requested by the person who filed the paperwork.

There is another situation where you might follow this process. You may have filed the Statement of Claim, but then reached an agreement before any Statement of Defence was filed. Then one spouse completes all the remaining paperwork to complete the divorce, and the other simply signs his or her agreement.

Be Aware

You can only complete the uncontested desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation).

Remember

The standard set of desk divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act). Therefore, if you come to an agreement on your property issues as well, you will have some separate processes and paperwork to complete. For more information about coming to an agreement about property, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

See Ending a Married Relationship Information Page for more information on this divorce option, including:

  • the “grounds for divorce”;
  • the paperwork required for an uncontested desk divorce; and
  • when an uncontested desk divorce is appropriate.
Starting the court action: The “Statement of Claim”

Even if you agree on everything to do with the children, if you also want a divorce, you will still have to start a court action in Queen’s Bench.

To start a court action in Queen’s Bench, you will need to file a “Statement of Claim for Divorce.” You can file this at any time. However, be aware that your divorce cannot be finalized until you have met the “grounds for divorce.” The “grounds for divorce” are typically being separated for one year. But a faster divorce might be possible if you can prove adultery or “cruelty.” For more information, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

However, even if you have not yet been separated for a year, you can still file your Statement of Claim to start the court action. You will then be allowed to file all of the other paperwork needed to work out your separation issues. For example: custody and access, child support, spousal support, and property division. Also, if needed, you can go to court to resolve these issues.

Remember

You may have started the court process. There may even have been one or more hearings about divorce-related issues. But you can still come to an agreement and get the final divorce judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk. Sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce.

An important term that may be used in court or on some paperwork is “the pleadings.” It is used to describe the combination of:

  • the details that are in the Statement of Claim; and
  • the details that are in the spouse’s response to the Statement of Claim (see below).
Remember

Before you file a Statement of Claim for your divorce action in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, make certain that Alberta is the correct province in which to file. For more information about whether or not to file in Alberta, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Completing the Statement of Claim

Unless you are filing for a joint desk divorce (see “Desk Divorce” section above for more information about that), to start your divorce action in Queen’s Bench you can choose to file one of the following forms.

You can file a “Statement of Claim for Divorce.” With this form you are asking the court to deal with:

  • your divorce; and
  • things called “corollary relief.” This includes custody, access, child support, and spousal support.

Or, you can file a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” With this form you are asking the court to deal with:

  • your divorce;
  • things called “corollary relief.” This includes custody, access, child support, and spousal support; and
  • the division of your property.
Be Aware

When there are children involved in a divorce, there are also additional documents that must be included with this first form. For a complete overview of the divorce process, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

The person who files the Statement of Claim is called the “Plaintiff.” It is very important that you, as the Plaintiff, include in your Statement of Claim all of the issues you want decided in court. If a topic is not included in “the pleadings,” it cannot be brought up later.

When you file your Statement of Claim, there are 2 other forms you might want to file at the same time.

  • You can file a “Notice to Disclose/Application.” This is the court document that requires your ex-spouse to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. You will need this financial information if you plan to have the Court make an order about child or spousal support. If the information is not provided within a month, there will be a court hearing.
  • You can file the documents for an Application about another matter related to your divorce action. For example, if you want a court hearing to ask the Court to make an order for child support. This court hearing can occur on its own or it can be combined with the court hearing about a Notice to Disclose.

For more information about filing either, or both, of these documents, see the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section below.

See the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page for more information about completing a Statement of Claim, including:

  • whether to file in Alberta,
  • what to include,
  • timelines,
  • deadlines,
  • how to provide your spouse with a copy, and
  • what happens if both spouses started a Divorce Act action on the same day.

On that same Information Page, you can also learn about what to do once you have completed your paperwork, including:

  • getting it checked over,
  • swearing it,
  • filing it,
  • serving it, and
  • proving that you served it.

For information about other divorce-related issues, see the following Information Pages:

Be Aware

In response to your Statement of Claim, your spouse may file a “Counterclaim” (see below). Then you would also need to file a “Statement of Defence to Counterclaim.” You have limited time to do this. If you do not file within the time limits, the pleadings will be considered closed. This means you will no longer be allowed to file your Statement of Defence to Counterclaim. For more information about this, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

If you are representing yourself, you can find some help with these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Responding to the Statement of Claim

To use the Divorce Act, either you or your ex-spouse can start a court action. Unless you are applying for a joint desk divorce (see “Desk Divorce” section above), this means that either you or your ex-spouse will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

If you have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property,” you can now respond. The person who filed the Statement of Claim is called the “Plaintiff”; you are called the “Defendant.”

If you have children, the documents that you have been served with will contain information about custody, access, and parenting time.

You have a limited amount of time to respond to these documents, depending on your location at the time of service:

  • 20 days if you are served within Alberta;
  • 1 month if you are served outside of Alberta, but still in Canada; or
  • 2 months if you are served outside of Canada.

If you do not respond within these time limits, your spouse may be able to continue with an “uncontested desk divorce.” They may get what they have requested. You will not have your side heard. Also, you will not be able to make your own requests regarding custody, access, and parenting time. In fact, you will not even be told of any further court proceedings unless you respond with a “Demand for Notice” form.

You have several choices when you are served with a Statement of Claim. You can:

  • Do nothing. This may lead to an uncontested desk divorce (see the “Desk Divorce” section above).
  • File a “Demand for Notice.” This will keep you informed about any court proceedings.
  • File a “Statement of Defence.”
  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce.”
  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Division of Matrimonial Property.”
  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.”

If you complete any kind of Statement of Defence, it is very important to include all of the issues you want decided in court. If a topic is not included in the pleadings, it cannot be brought up in an Application.

See the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page for more information about completing all of these documents, including:

  • what to consider,
  • what to include,
  • timelines,
  • how to file them,
  • how to provide your spouse with a copy, and
  • what happens if both spouses started a Divorce Act action on the same day.

For information about other divorce-related issues, see the following Information Pages:

If you are representing yourself, you can find some help with these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you were served with documents for an Application

When you were served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property,” you may also have been served with other court forms.

  • Notice to Disclose/Application. This is the court document that requires you to give your spouse detailed financial information. This information is needed if the Court is going to make an Order about child support. This often goes along with deciding custody and access. If you do not provide the information within a month, there will be a court hearing.
  • Notice of an Application (also called a “Family Application”). This is the court document your spouse would use to ask for a court hearing. The hearing is so that the Court can make an order about another matter related to your divorce action. For example: custody and access/parenting time. This court hearing can occur on its own or it can be combined with the court hearing about a Notice to Disclose.

For information about how to respond to these forms, see the “Responding to Application forms for the first time” section below.

Filing the paperwork for a first-time “Application”

What are “Applications”?

To apply for child support under the Divorce Act, you must already have a divorce file started in the Court of Queen’s Bench. In other words, there must have been a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” filed. See the “Starting the court action” section above for more information about that.

You can also file your first Application at the same time as you file your “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.”

“Applications” are smaller, individual parts of the court action, where one of the parties asks something of the Court. An Application is a court hearing used to temporarily solve matters related to your separation or divorce, including issues about child support. In other words, decisions from applications can deal with issues until you come to a final agreement, or until the case is permanently decided at a trial.

Applications are heard in “chambers” or “special chambers.” For more information about what these are, see the “Before you go to court: Get to know the court system” section above. For detailed information about chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

On the other hand, if you or the other parent disagree about any of the divorce-related topics, you will need to file one or more Applications to have the Court hear the issues and decide for you. Applications can only be used for topics brought up in your pleadings. If a topic was not included in the pleadings, it cannot be brought up in an Application.

The information in this section is for the spouse who fills out the “Application” paperwork to ask for child support for the first time. This person is called the “Applicant.” The other parent will have different paperwork to fill out (see the “Responding to Application forms for the first time” section below).

All of the links below take you to an electronic version of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have started the court process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

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?

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

Is this the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The judicial centre that you must use depends on what has happened so far in your case.

Remember, to make an Application under the Divorce Act, there must be an “action” already started. In other words:

  • a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” has already been filed; or
  • you are filing a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” at the same time as you file your Application forms.

These Statement of Claim forms are part of the “pleadings.” See the “Starting the court action” section above for more information about pleadings.

If you are starting an action at the same time

A person starting an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench must usually file their court documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.

As a result, if:

  • this is your first application related to the breakdown in the relationship; and
  • you are filing your pleadings at the same time

you will file all of the documents in the judicial centre where you live. This will start the court “file.”

If the action has already been started

When pleadings are filed, the Court creates a “file” in the judicial centre where those pleadings were filed.

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located. As a result, if your action has already been started, you will likely have to file your Application in the judicial centre where your court file is located.

For example:

  • The pleadings were filed in Fort McMurray. The court file is in Fort McMurray.
  • You live in Grand Prairie.
  • Your Application documents would still have to be filed 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 Grande Prairie. 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 any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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.

Filing the Application at the same time as the Statement of Claim

When you file your first Application, you may also be filing the Statement of Claim that starts the divorce action. If that is the case, pay close attention to the date of the court hearing to make sure your spouse will have enough time to:

  1. respond to your Application documents; and
  2. complete a Statement of Defence.

Child support and financial information: Understanding “disclosure”

Before you can get a court order for child support, you will need to give the Court certain financial information. This is needed for the Court to determine how much child support must be paid under the Child Support Guidelines. Both parties must give their financial information to the Court. This is called “financial disclosure.”

The financial information that must be given is listed in section 21 of the Child Support Guidelines. This includes:

  • your income tax returns for the last 3 years;
  • your Notices of Assessment for the last 3 years;
  • proof of your current income from this year (such as pay stubs); and
  • a list of section 7 expenses (see the Law tab of this Information Page for more information).

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return. Your Notice of Assessment explains if you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes.

For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

However, this is not all of the information that must be provided. There is much more information that must be included. The exact information you need to provide depends on your situation.

For a complete list of the income information that is required, see the following resources.

PDF Court of Queen's Bench: Providing Financial Disclosure
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 10-11: “Section 21 Federal Child Support Guidelines."

Web Financial Information Required for Determination of Income for Child and Spousal Support
Blair Corkum Financial Planning Inc.
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Applying for financial disclosure only: The “Notice to Disclose” form

Applicants will usually deal with financial disclosure at the same time as they apply for child support. However, in some cases, Applicants may want to see this financial information before deciding if they will apply for child support.

This is more complicated and takes more time than applying all at once. It is done by using a specific kind of Application called a “Notice to Disclose.” A Notice to Disclose requires your former spouse to give you detailed financial information within one month. You can use this information to decide if you want to ask the Court to make an order about child support.

The following paragraphs describe how to file a Notice to Disclose on its own. You would do this if you are not applying for child support at this time, but you still want financial information from your former spouse. If you want to ask for the financial information at the same time as you make your first application for child support, see the “Applying for child support and dealing with financial disclosure at the same time” heading below.

To ask for financial disclosure using a Notice to Disclose, use the following package. Be sure to check off the box for every kind of information that you need. If a box is not checked off, your spouse does not need to give you that information.

As part of the process of getting financial disclosure, you must give your former spouse the same financial information. To do so, use the following package.

All of the above forms must be filed with the Court. They must also then be served on your former spouse. This means that they must be delivered in person. To prove that your former spouse was served with all of these documents, the person who served them will need to file an Affidavit of Service with the Court.

When you file a Notice to Disclose, you are also setting up a chambers hearing date. If your former spouse has not given you the financial information by the date of that hearing, the Court can take action to get the information (either from your former spouse or his or her employer). The Court can also charge fines. On the other hand, if you get all of the information that you asked for before the hearing date, you can cancel the hearing—call the Court to do that.

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

You can also adjourn (delay) the hearing if you need to. For example, if your former spouse is self-employed, and there are many documents you need to go through to see if it is complete. To ask for an adjournment, you would also call the Court.

Example

  • You file a Notice to Disclose with the Court on its own. You serve it on your former spouse on September 30. You must include your own financial information.
  • Your former spouse has until October 30 to give you his or her financial information. The hearing is scheduled for October 31.
  • You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the Court, also before October 30.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you call the Court to cancel the hearing.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31.
Be Aware

The fines for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large. They can sometimes be hundreds of dollars per day for each day that you are late. Also, the Court may consider these fines as unpaid child support, if one of the parties asks. If that happens, these fines can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This can lead to further actions being taken against the person who does not disclose the financial information. For more information about the things MEP can do, see the “Enforcing child support” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Applying for child support and dealing with financial disclosure at the same time

When you apply for child support, you must provide income information about yourself (called “financial disclosure”). If you do not give the Court your financial disclosure, you will not be allowed to file your Application.

Be Aware

In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for child support without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

To give the Court your financial disclosure, use the following package.

Your former spouse is also required to give financial disclosure to the Court.

If you already have this information from your former spouse, you can include it in your Application. For example: you may have asked for it and your former spouse has already given it to you.

If your former spouse has not yet given you the information, he or she will have to give it to the Court as part of the Response.

  • If your former spouse lives in Canada or the United States, he or she must give the Court the financial information within 30 days of being served with your Application.
  • If your former spouse lives somewhere other than Canada or the United States, he or she must give the Court the financial information within 60 days of being served with your Application.

If your former spouse does not give the Court the financial information in time, the Application may go ahead and the Court can “impute” income. This means that the Court can simply assign an amount of income to your former spouse. Also, if the Court imputes income:

  • your former spouse would not be allowed to change the child support amount until he or she gives the Court all of the financial information that is required;
  • your former spouse may have to pay “costs” (see the “Asking for costs” section below for information about this); and
  • your former spouse may not be allowed to make any other Applications about divorce-related matters until he or she has provided the required financial information.

Completing Application forms

To apply for other matters related to your divorce, you will need several different forms. These are included in “kits” for the Court of Queen’s Bench. Which kit you must use depends on what you are asking for.

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

  • The Application form. This is where you specify the things that you are asking for.
  • The Affidavit. This is where you include the facts that the Court will need to see. The form has clear instructions to let you know what information the Court will want to see. All of the documents that you want the judge to see must be written about in the Affidavit. For more detailed information about how to complete an Affidavit (including what you should not put in it), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.
  • The Affidavit of Service. This is the form used to prove that you gave a copy of the documents to your spouse. There is more information about this below.

Which kit you must use depends on what you are asking for:

  • If you are making an Application for only Child Support, you will need to use the following kit:

  • If you are making an Application for Custody, Access, and Child Support you will need to use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Custody & Access under the Divorce Act.

  • If you are making an Application for Child Support and Spousal Support, you will need to use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

Tip

All of the above kits mention the “income information” that you will need to provide. If you have already completed the forms about financial disclosure as described above, you do not need to repeat the information.

For examples of what information to include in your Affidavit, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 24-27.
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk. 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 your Application, be sure to indicate whether you want the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP) to recalculate child support or not. All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the RP:

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

If the other party disagrees with you on this topic, you may have to give the judge your reasons for choosing one over the other. The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders."
Tip

All of the kits that deal with custody and access also include an application to travel without consent, an application to obtain a passport without consent, and an application for enforcement (if you need any of those things).

If you also wish to apply for division of property or short-term exclusive possession of property, you will need to complete entirely different paperwork. For more information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has also created a general information kit to help self-represented litigants with the process of bringing an Application to court. See the following resource.

Be Aware

If you are represented by a lawyer, the forms may have different names and will look different than the self-help forms provided by the Court. This is normal.

Regarding parentage

Under the Divorce Act, if the spouses were married when the child was born, then both spouses are assumed to be biological parents of the child. In this case, there is no need for any kind of declaration about parentage.

However, in other circumstances, one or both of the spouses could claim that the father is not the biological father of the child. If this happens, you can bring up the issue of proving “parentage” and request DNA testing in your Application.

Be Aware

Even if the DNA results show that the father is not the biological father of the child, he may have “stood in the place of a parent.” In this case, he would still be given rights and responsibilities as if he were the biological father. See the Law tab of this Information Page for more information about “standing in the place of a parent” under the Divorce Act.

Is this an “interim” application? If yes, say so

Sometimes, when you go to court in a family matter, you start by asking for a short-term (or “temporary”) solution. You plan to go back to court later to get a more permanent arrangement. In some of the resources on this Information Page, these temporary orders are also called “interim” or “interlocutory” orders.

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Interim orders may be needed for support issues, because the Court is waiting for one of the parties to provide full financial disclosure before giving a more permanent support order.

Family Violence

Interim orders are also quite common in cases involving family violence. Sometimes, they are required because the situation is an emergency. In such a case, you might be able to get the interim order without even giving notice to the other party. This is called an “ex parte” order.

For more information on interim orders, including ex parte orders, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

In situations where the order is intended to be short term, it is important that your Application:

  • says that you are asking for a temporary order;
  • explains what you want; and
  • tells why you want it.

This is especially important if the request is for something unusual, or something that the Court might normally reject.

If you get a temporary order, you can expect to go back to court in the future about this. In fact, the first Order will often include the next hearing date. This next hearing date is when the matter will be heard to see if changes are required and a more permanent order can be made.

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” your spouse with the paperwork (next step). You will also need to give your spouse 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.

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.

After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your application. 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. “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.

“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. The form you need is included in the kits above, or you can use the following form. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, your ex-spouse will be serving you with his or her response. Be aware that there are time limits in which your ex-spouse must respond (see the “Responding to Application forms” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to make sure that you are ready for your court date.

There are 2 ways your ex-spouse can respond.

  1. They can file an Affidavit in response to your Application. In their Affidavit, your spouse can state whether they agree or disagree with what you asked for. However, in an Affidavit, they are not allowed to ask for anything of their own. (For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page).
  2. They can file an Affidavit in response to your application, and they can file an “Application” to ask for something of their own. This is called a “cross-application.” This starts another Application, and an entirely new round of responses.

Do you need to respond to your ex-spouse’s Response?

If your ex-spouse responded with only an Affidavit

If your spouse only filed an Affidavit, you may be able to file a Supplemental Affidavit. You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make arguments. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. 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.


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

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

If your ex-spouse responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If your spouse responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of their own, you now become:

  • the Applicant in your own Application; and
  • the Respondent in your spouse’s Application.

When there are cross-applications, it gets very confusing as to which documents go with which Applications, and whose turn it is to do what. You can do the following things to make it easier:

  • keep all of the paperwork together;
  • keep things well organized (for example: in a binder);
  • mark deadlines and court hearings on a calendar; and
  • maybe even draw a little chart for yourself.

As a result, it is now your turn to file a “response” to the new Application (see the “Responding to Application forms” section below). Your ex-spouse will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit to your response, if he or she wants to (as described above).

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about cross-applications. 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.


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

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 your former partner 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

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. For further information on going to court and what is involved, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

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
Responding to Application forms for the first time

The information in this section is for the parent who responds to an “Application” that asks for something under the Divorce Act. This person is called the “Respondent.”

An “Application” is used by divorcing spouses to temporarily solve their divorce-related matters before coming to a final agreement, or before their case is permanently decided at a trial.

You have been served with forms telling you that there has been an Application made under the Divorce Act. In these forms, you have been notified of the date of the court hearing. If you agree with everything that is in those documents, you do not have to do anything. If you disagree with anything that is in those documents, you will need to complete a Response.

Applications are heard in “chambers” or “special chambers.” For an introduction to these concepts, see the “Before you begin: Get to know the court system” section above. For more detailed information about chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

When you were served with notice of the first Application, you may also have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” You can respond to both the Statement of Claim and the Application, but be aware that the response times will probably be different. For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Responding to the Statement of Claim” section above. For more information about how to respond to the notice of Application, continue reading this section.

All of the links below take you to an electronic version of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have started the court process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

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 other party made a mistake? Should you be making your Divorce Act application in a different province? Or should you be making a similar application in a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The judicial centre that must be used depends on what has happened so far in your case.

Remember, to make an Application under the Divorce Act, there must be an “action” already started. In other words:

  • a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” has already been filed; or
  • the Applicant has filed a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” at the same time as the Application forms.

These Statement of Claim forms are part of the “pleadings.” See the “Starting the court action” section above for more information about pleadings.

If the Applicant is starting an action at the same time

A person starting an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench must usually file their court documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.

As a result, if:

  • this is the first application related to the breakdown in the relationship; and
  • the Applicant filed a Statement of Claim at the same time,

then the Applicant likely filed all of the documents in the judicial centre where he or she lives. This would have started the court “file.”

If the action had already been started

When pleadings are filed, the Court creates a “file” in the judicial centre where those pleadings were filed.

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that says that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

As a result, if the action had already been started, the Applicant likely filed the Application in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

For example:

  • The pleadings were filed in Fort McMurray. The court file is in Fort McMurray.
  • You live in Grande Prairie.
  • The Application documents would still have to be filed 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 Grande Prairie. 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 any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

Once you have been served with the documents for an Application, you have to complete your Response within a “reasonable time” before the Application is scheduled to be heard. What is considered “reasonable” is different depending on your judicial centre. If you have any questions, contact the court in that area.

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

There are other time limits for the financial disclosure that you must provide. You must follow these rules or there can be serious consequences. See the information about financial disclosure below.

If for any reason you cannot file your Response within the time limits, you may still be able to file the documents late and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that your ex-spouse will ask for, and that the judge will grant, an “adjournment” (a delay of your court date). This would be because your ex-spouse did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. Or the judge may give your ex-spouse what he or she has asked for without taking your documents into consideration because they were not filed in time. However, you do have 30 days to provide your financial disclosure (see the information about financial disclosure below). So, if you have been served less than 30 days before the court date, you can ask the Court for extra time to file your Response.

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 the Application hearing set to take place before the time limit for filing a Statement of Defence?

When you were served with the documents for a first Application, you may have also been served with the “Statement of Claim” that started the divorce action. If that is the case, you will need to pay special attention to the scheduled court date, because it may be taking place before you have even had the chance to complete your Statement of Defence. Read the documents carefully and be sure you know what is expected of you.

For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Responding to the Statement of Claim” section above.

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 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.

Child support and financial information: Understanding “disclosure”

Before anyone can get a court order for child support, the Court will need certain financial information. This is needed for the Court to determine how much child support must be paid under the Child Support Guidelines. Both parties must give their financial information to the Court. This is called “financial disclosure.”

The financial information that must be given is listed in section 21 of the Child Support Guidelines. This includes:

  • your income tax returns for the last 3 years;
  • your Notices of Assessment for the last 3 years;
  • proof of your current income from this year (such as pay stubs); and
  • a list of section 7 expenses.

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return. Your Notice of Assessment explains if you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes.

For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

However, this is not all of the information that must be provided. There is much more information that must be included. The exact information you need to provide depends on your situation.

For a complete list of the income information that is required, see the following resources.

PDF Court of Queen's Bench: Providing Financial Disclosure
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 10-11: “Section 21 Federal Child Support Guidelines.”

Web Financial Information Required for Determination of Income for Child and Spousal Support
Blair Corkum Financial Planning Inc.
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Responding to a request for financial disclosure only (the “Notice to Disclose”)

Applicants will usually deal with financial disclosure at the same time as they apply for child support. However, in some cases, Applicants may want to see this financial information before deciding if they will apply for child support.

This is more complicated and takes more time than applying all at once. It is done by using a specific kind of Application called a “Notice to Disclose.” A Notice to Disclose requires your former spouse to give you detailed financial information within one month.

You may have been served with a “Notice to Disclose.” The following paragraphs describe how to respond to a Notice to Disclose on its own. For information about responding to a request for financial information that is part of an Application for child support, see the “Responding to an Application for child support with financial disclosure included” heading below.

The Notice to Disclose will include a hearing date. You should carefully read your documents so that you know about your deadlines and any hearing dates.

If you were served with a Notice to Disclose, you must give your financial information to your former spouse within one month. If you do not, the Court may make an order to get the information from you or your employer, and they may charge you fines. If you give your financial information to your former spouse within one month, the hearing can be cancelled.

To respond to a Notice to Disclose, use the following package.

All of the above forms must be filed with the Court. They must also then be served on your former spouse. This means that they must be delivered in person. To prove that your former spouse was served with all of these documents, the person who served them will need to file an Affidavit of Service with the Court.

Be Aware

Your former spouse will have to give you his or her financial information before the court hearing as well.

Example:

  • You must give your former spouse and the Court your financial information by October 30. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the Court, also before October 30.
  • Your former spouse must also give you his or her financial information by October 30. This may have been done at the time you were served with the Notice to Disclose.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, the hearing may be cancelled by your former spouse (to do this, he or she must call the Court).
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31.
Be Aware

The fines for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large. They can sometimes be hundreds of dollars per day for each day that you are late. Also, the Court may consider these fines as unpaid child support, if one of the parties asks. If that happens, these fines can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This can lead to further actions being taken against the person who does not disclose the financial information. For more information about the things MEP can do, see the “Enforcing child support” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Responding to an Application for child support with financial disclosure included

To apply for child support, both parties must give the Court financial disclosure. If you have been served with an Application for child support that includes a request for financial disclosure, you must provide financial disclosure. If you do not give the Court your financial information, you will not be allowed to file your Response.

Be Aware

In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to respond without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

To give the Court your financial disclosure, use the following package.

You must do this within a specific period of time:

  • If you live in Canada or the United States, you must give the Court your financial information within 30 days of being served with your former spouse’s Application.
  • If you live somewhere other than Canada or the United States, you must give the Court your financial information within 60 days of being served with your former spouse’s Application.

If you do not give the Court your financial information in time, the Application may go ahead and the Court can “impute” income. This means that the Court can simply assign an amount of income to you. Also, if the Court imputes income:

  • you may not be allowed to change the child support amount until you give the Court all of the financial information that is required;
  • you may have to pay “costs” (see the “Asking for costs” section below for information about this); and
  • you may not be allowed to make any other Applications about divorce-related matters until you have provided the required financial information.

Completing a Response to the child support Application

When responding to the Application for child support, you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents.
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. Or, do this if it is not clear what the Applicant is asking for (for example: if your former spouse asks for child support, but does not provide a specific amount).
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

For example:

Your spouse has filed for sole custody of the child and access every second weekend for you.

  1. If you agree that your spouse should have sole custody and that you should have access only every second weekend, you do not need to fill out any documents.
  2. If you disagree that your spouse should have sole custody, you can file an Affidavit. In the Affidavit you provide the facts about why you think your spouse should not have sole custody and you say that every second weekend is not enough. There are then 2 questions before the court. Should the Applicant have sole custody? And, is every second weekend enough access? If you really want sole custody yourself, or if you want access only every second weekend for your spouse, the Court will not consider those specific requests because you have not asked for them. You can only “ask” for things in an Application. In an Affidavit, all you can do is state facts about things that have already been “asked” for in an Application.
  3. If you disagree with your spouse and want to ask for specific things of your own, you can file an Affidavit and an Application of your own. This will make sure the Court considers your options for the situation. For example, you could ask for joint custody with your spouse and split residency for the child.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you choose to respond to your ex-spouse’s Application with only an Affidavit, the exact Affidavit that you will use will depend on what is being asked for by the Applicant.

  • If the Applicant applied for child support only, you will use the following Affidavit.
  • If the Applicant applied for custody/access and child support, you will use the following Affidavit and simply leave the spousal support section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Custody & Access under the Divorce Act.

  • If the Applicant applied for child support and spousal support, you will use the following Affidavit and simply leave the custody/access section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. 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
Be Aware

All of the above kits mention the “income information” that you will need to provide. If you have already completed the forms about financial disclosure as described above, you do not need to repeat the information.

In your Affidavit, be sure to indicate whether you want the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP) to recalculate child support or not. All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the RP:

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

If the other party disagrees with you on this topic, you may have to give the judge your reasons for choosing one over the other. The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your ex-spouse’s Application by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section above.

A few things you should know:

  • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by your ex-spouse and the requests you are making in your own Application.
  • Usually it makes sense to choose the same hearing date as the date listed on your ex-spouse’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
  • There are now 2 applications with various time requirements. You and your spouse may need more time to review and file all of the paperwork. So you may need to ask for an adjournment of your hearing. For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling cross-applications. 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.

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

Regarding parentage

Under the Divorce Act, if the spouses were married when the child was born, then both the spouses are assumed to be biological parents of the child. In this case, there is no need for any kind of declaration about parentage.

However, in other circumstances, one or both of the spouses could claim that the father is not the biological father of the child. If this happens, you can bring up the issue of proving “parentage” and request DNA testing in your Application.

Be Aware

Even if the DNA results show that the father is not the biological father of the child, he may have “stood in the place of a parent.” In this case, he would still be given rights and responsibilities as if he were the biological father. See the Law tab of this Information Page for more information about “standing in the place of a parent” under the Divorce Act.

Regarding property

You may disagree with the property division or exclusive possession requested by your spouse. If so, you will need to complete entirely different paperwork for that. For more information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses 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

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.

“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. The form you need is included in the kits above, or you can use the following form. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Watch for your ex-spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If, in response to your ex-spouse’s Application, you filed only an Affidavit, your ex-spouse may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You are usually not allowed to file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to the other party’s Supplemental Affidavit. However, in rare cases, you may be able to apply for permission to do so. This is called applying for a “fiat.” This is a complicated process. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits. 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.


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

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of your own, your ex-spouse is now the Applicant in his or her Application, and the Respondent in your Application.

As the Respondent to your Application, your ex-spouse can file a “response” to your Application. Watch for that response, and be sure to read it when you are served with it.

When you are served with your ex-spouse’s response to your Application, you may be able to file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your Application, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your ex-spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make another argument. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. 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.


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

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

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 your former partner 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 Application 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.

Asking for changes to a previous court order (also called "variations")

As circumstances change, and your children age, you and/or your ex-spouse may need or want to change the terms of a previous court order. If so, you may need to apply to the Court for a change to a court order. This is sometimes called a “variation”.

The information in this section is for the ex-spouse who makes the request to change a court order (also called the “Applicant”). The other parent will have different paperwork to fill out (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below).

All of the links below take you to an electronic version of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have started the court process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Variation Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

Is it an Alberta court order that you are trying to vary? If you want to vary:

  • an order made under the Divorce Act in another province or territory; or
  • an order made under a similar law in another country,

see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Is this the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that says that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

As a result, you will have to file your paperwork in the judicial centre where your court file is located. Check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre.

You may want to apply to transfer the file. You must make this application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer your court 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 any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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.

Providing financial information

Before you can file your Application for a change in child support, both you and your former spouse must give the Court certain financial information. This is needed for the Court to determine how much child support must be paid under the Child Support Guidelines.

To refresh your memory about the financial information that you must give, see the “Child support and financial information” heading in the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section above.

Completing the Application to Change (or “vary”)

To request a change in a court order, you will need several different forms, which are included in “kits” for the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

  • The Application form. This is where you specify the things that you are asking for.
  • The Affidavit. This is where you include the facts that the court will need to see (the form has clear instructions to let you know what information the court will want to see). All of the documents that you want the judge to see must be written about in the Affidavit. For more in-depth information about how to complete an Affidavit (including what not to put in it), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page [FLProblems008].
  • The Affidavit of Service. This is the form used to prove that you gave a copy of the documents to your ex-spouse (there is more information below).
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. 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

Which kit you must use depends on what you are asking for.

  • If you are making an Application to change child support only, use the following kit.
  • If you are making an Application to change child support and spousal support, use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.
  • If you are making an Application to change custody, access, and child support, use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Custody & Access under the Divorce Act.
  • If you are the payor and you are asking only to have your child support arrears reduced or cancelled, use the following kit. Note that you will also have to serve the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). Also keep in mind that this is a difficult application to make (see the Law tab of this Information Page for more information).
Be Aware

All of the above kits mention the “income information” that you will need to provide. If you have already completed the forms about financial disclosure as described above, you do not need to repeat the information.

Child Support Recalculation Program requirements

In your Application, be sure to indicate whether you want the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP) to recalculate child support or not. All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the RP:

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

If the other party disagrees with you on this topic, you may have to give the judge your reasons for choosing one over the other. The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”

If you want to change a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement

If you had a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement and want or need to change the support amount (which can also include reducing or cancelling arrears) and you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on the changes, you will need to make an application to the court. The form to use depends on whether you are the payor of the support, or the recipient of the support:

  • If you are the payor, you must use one or both of the forms below, depending on if you are requesting a change to child support, spousal support, or both:

  • If you are the recipient, you will use one of the standard forms for asking for a change in support (the "kits" listed just above).

The Court of Queen’s Bench has also created a general information kit to help self-represented litigants with the process of bringing an Application. See the following resource.

Be Aware

If you are represented by a lawyer, the forms may have different names and will look different than the self-help forms provided by the Court. This is normal.

Is this an “interim” application? If yes, say so

Sometimes, when you go to court in a family matter, you start by asking for a short-term (or “temporary”) solution. You plan to go back to court later to get a more permanent arrangement. In some of the resources on this Information Page, these temporary orders are also called “interim” or “interlocutory” orders.

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Interim orders may be needed for child support issues, because the Court is waiting for one of the parties to provide full financial disclosure before giving a more permanent child support order.

Family Violence

Interim orders are also quite common in cases involving family violence. Sometimes, they are required because the situation is an emergency. In such a case you might be able to get the interim order without even giving notice to the other party. This is called an “ex parte” order.

For more information on interim orders, including ex parte orders, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

In situations where the order is intended to be short term, it is important that your Application:

  • says that you are asking for a temporary order;
  • explains what you want; and
  • tells why you want it.

This is especially important if the request is for something unusual, or something that the Court might normally reject.

If you get a temporary order, you can expect to go back to court in the future about this. In fact, the first Order will often include the next hearing date. This next hearing date is when the matter will be heard to see if changes are required and a more permanent order can be made.

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” your spouse with the paperwork (next step). You will also need to give your spouse 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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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. The form you need is included in the kits above, or you can use the following form. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, your ex-spouse will be serving you with his or her response. Be aware that there are time limits in which your ex-spouse must respond (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to make sure that you are ready for your court date.

There are 2 ways your ex-spouse can respond:

  1. They can file an Affidavit in response to your Application to change. In their Affidavit, your spouse can state whether they agree or disagree with what you asked for. However, in an Affidavit, they are not allowed to ask for anything of their own. (For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.)
  2. They can file an Affidavit in response to your application, and they can file an “Application to Change” to ask for something of their own. This is called a “cross-application.” This starts another Application, and an entirely new round of responses.

Do you need to respond to your ex-spouse’s Response?

If your ex-spouse responded with only an Affidavit

If your spouse only filed an Affidavit, you may be able to file a Supplemental Affidavit. You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make arguments. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. 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.


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

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

If your ex-spouse responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If your spouse responded with both an Affidavit and an Application to Change of their own, you now become:

  • the Applicant in your own Application to Change; and
  • the Respondent in your spouse’s Application to Change.

When there are cross-applications, it gets very confusing as to which documents go with which Applications, and whose turn it is to do what. You can do the following things to make it easier:

  • keep all of the paperwork together;
  • keep things well organized (for example: in a binder);
  • mark deadlines and court hearings on a calendar; and
  • maybe even draw a little chart for yourself.

As a result, it is now your turn to file a “response” to the new application (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). Your ex-spouse will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit (as described above).

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about cross-applications. 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.


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

Questioning on Affidavit

Before your chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to “question” the other party, in a formal way, about some of the facts set out in that party’s Statement. 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 your former spouse 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. This can be done in order to get factual information and answers that will be required in the hearing (and in order 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, as 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 to try to get information that the other party may be trying to avoid providing.

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

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. For further information on going to court and what is involved, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

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
Responding to a request for changes (“variations”) to court orders

If you have been served with paperwork in which the other parent (who is known as “the Applicant”) asks for changes to the child support arrangements, you will need to file documents to respond.

All of the links below take you to electronic versions of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have started the court process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Variation Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). An application to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located. You can check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre. Unless the Applicant made an error, you must respond in the same judicial centre where the application was made.

For example:

  • The court file is in Fort McMurray and the Applicant filed this request for a variation there.
  • You are in Lethbridge.
  • You must respond in Fort McMurray. Or, you may want to try to transfer the file. If you do, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to have the file transferred to Lethbridge. 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 any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

Once you have been served with the documents for an Application, you have to complete your Response within a “reasonable time” before the Application is scheduled to be heard. What is considered “reasonable” is different depending on your judicial centre. If you have any questions, contact the court in that area.

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

There are other time limits for the financial disclosure that you must provide. You must follow these rules or there can be serious consequences. See the information about financial disclosure below.

If for any reason you cannot file your Response within the time limits, you may still be able to file the documents late and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that your ex-spouse will ask for, and that the judge will grant, an “adjournment” (a delay of your court date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. Or the judge may give your ex-spouse what he or she has asked for without taking your documents into consideration because they were not filed in time. However, you do have 30 days to provide your financial disclosure (see the information about financial disclosure below). So, if you have been served less than 30 days before the court date, you can ask the Court for extra time to file your Response.

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 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.

Providing financial information

When you are filing your Response to an Application for a change in child support, both you and your former spouse must give the Court certain financial information. This is needed for the Court to determine how much child support must be paid under the Child Support Guidelines.

To refresh your memory about the financial information that you must give, see the “Child support and financial information” heading in the “Responding to Application forms” section above.

Completing the Response to the “Application to Change Child Support”

When responding to the Application to Change Child Support, you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents.
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. Or, do this if it is not clear what the Applicant is asking for (for example: if your former spouse asks for child support, but does not provide a specific amount).
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

For example: Your ex-spouse has filed an Application stating that there has been a “material change in circumstances,” that he or she should now have sole custody of the child, and that you should now have access only “every second weekend.” Your options include:

  1. If you agree with everything your ex-spouse said in his or her documents, you do not need to fill out any documents.
  2. If you disagree that the circumstances have changed, you could file an Affidavit stating the facts that show that circumstances have not changed and saying that you disagree with everything your ex-spouse is requesting.
  3. If you agree that the circumstances have changed, but disagree with what your ex-spouse is asking for, and you want to ask for specific things of your own (to make sure the Court considers those things as options), you can file an Affidavit and an Application of your own. For example, in your Application you could specifically ask for joint custody with your ex-spouse and split residency for the child.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you choose to respond to your ex-spouse’s application with only an Affidavit, the exact Affidavit that you will use will depend on what is being asked for by the Applicant.

  • If the Applicant is asking for a change to only child support, you will use the following Affidavit.
  • If the Applicant is asking for a change to custody/access and child support, you will use the following Affidavit and simply leave the spousal support section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Custody & Access under the Divorce Act.
  • If the Applicant is asking for a change to child support and spousal support, you will usethe following Affidavit and simply leave the custody/access section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.
Be Aware

All of the above kits mention the “income information” that you will need to provide. If you have already completed the forms about financial disclosure as described above, you do not need to repeat the information.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. 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 your Affidavit, be sure to indicate whether you want the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP) to recalculate child support or not. All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the RP:

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

If the other party disagrees with you on this topic, you may have to give the judge your reasons for choosing one over the other. The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”
Be Aware

If your ex-spouse has asked to reduce or cancel child support arrears, and/or your ex-spouse has asked for a change to ongoing child support that was in a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement, you use the same forms listed immediately above to respond (whichever one applies to your situation).

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your ex-spouse’s Application to Change by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section above.

A few things you should know:

  • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by your ex-spouse and the requests you are making in your own Application.
  • Usually it makes sense to choose the same hearing date as the date listed on your ex-spouse’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
  • There are now 2 applications with various time requirements. You and your spouse may need more time to review and file all of the paperwork. So you may need to ask for an adjournment of your hearing. For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them.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.


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

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.

“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. The form you need is included in the kits above, or you can use the following form. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Watch for your ex-spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If, in response to your ex-spouse’s Application to Change, you filed only an Affidavit, your ex-spouse may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You are usually not allowed to file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to the other party’s Supplemental Affidavit. However, in rare cases, you may be able to apply for permission to do so. This is called applying for a “fiat.” This is a complicated process. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits. 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.


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

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of your own, your ex-spouse is now the Applicant in his or her Application to Change, and the Respondent in your Application to Change.

As the Respondent in your Application to Change, your ex-spouse can file a “response” to your application. Watch for that response, and be sure to read it when you are served with it.

When you are served with your ex-spouse’s response to your Application to Change, you may be able to file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your Application to Change, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your ex-spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make another argument. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. 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.


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

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

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 your former partner 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 Application 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
Consent orders

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by going to court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order.

Be Aware

You may not be able to get a consent order to reduce or cancel support arrears, or even change ongoing support, if the recipient has ever been on income assistance. For more information on steps you will need to take, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

There are two ways to get your agreement turned into a consent order. Which one you choose will likely depend on what has happened so far and where you are in the process.

Option #1: Getting a Queen’s Bench Consent Order

The first option is to have your agreement’s terms entered into Queen’s Bench as a consent order. However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in Queen’s Bench. In other words, you have already filed your Statement of Claim for Divorce.

The Court of Queen’s Bench grants two different kinds of consent orders:

  • consent orders for first-time applications, and
  • consent orders that change (or “vary”) a previous court order.

Consent orders for first-time applications

The Court offers different forms for first-time consent orders. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

  • If you are only applying for a consent order for child support, use the following form (instructions included).
PDF Instructions: Consent Order - Child Support
Government of Alberta
English
  • If you are applying for a consent order for custody, access, and child support, use the following form (instructions included).
  • If you are applying for a consent order for child support and spousal support, use the following form (instructions included).
  • If you are applying for a consent order for custody, access, child support, and spousal support, use the following form (instructions included).

All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP):

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”
Tip

For more information about RP, see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program” section below.

Consent orders for variation applications

The Court offers different forms for consent variation orders that you can use when you and your ex-spouse are agreeing to change a previous court order. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

  • If you are only changing child support, use the following form (instructions included).
  • If you are changing custody, access, and child support, use the following form (instructions included).
  • If you are changing child support and spousal support, use the following form (instructions included):
  • If you are changing custody, access, child support, and spousal support, use the following form (instructions included).

All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP):

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”
Tip

For more information about RP, see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program” section below.

What to do with completed forms for consent orders and consent variation orders

In most judicial centres, you will take the following steps.

  • You fill out the correct Order form with the terms of your agreement.
  • You sign the form and have it properly witnessed.
  • You go to court to have a judge grant the order. You do that by attending “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 cases by different people. Before the judge starts to hear the cases on the list, he or she will ask if there are any preliminary matters. At this time, people who want to ask the judge to sign a consent order can do so. For more information about exactly how to do that, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

In Edmonton, however, Consent Orders can be done as “desk orders.” Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the court Order, remember that you must also file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench and serve it on the other parent. For more information about this step of the process, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Option #2: Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement

The second option is to complete a “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement." This is a specific kind of Agreement that has eligibility criteria, a mandatory template form, and required steps. One of those requirements is to file the completed Agreement with the Court of Queen’s Bench, which will turn the Agreement into a court Order. For more information about how to complete and file a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement, see the following resources.


PDF Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (Form MEP3388)
Government of Alberta
English
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This option is not available to everyone.

You cannot sign a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement if:

  • you already have a court order about child support (in other words, you cannot use this to change (or “vary”) a previous court order);
  • you have a signed agreement for child support made under the Parentage and Maintenance Act, the Income Support Recovery Act, or Part 5 of the Income and Employment Supports Act; or
  • you are receiving Supports for Independence (SFI), Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), or other benefits from the Alberta Ministry of Human Resources and Employment (unless your social services worker tells you it is okay to do so).

In addition, a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement deals only with support—nothing else can be added. Therefore, if you have agreed to matters other than just child support, getting a consent order may be a better option for you.

All court orders related to child support (which includes Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements that are filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench) must include one of two standard clauses about the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP):

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource. For more information about RP, see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program” section below.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”
Be Aware

If you complete a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement and later want or need to change the support amount (which can include reducing or cancelling arrears) and cannot agree on the changes with your ex-spouse, you will need to make an application to the court. For more information about how to do that, see the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section above.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

The Application 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 just one 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, as being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows. You will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). In addition, given the topic you are there to argue about, it will probably be a stressful experience.

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.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

All court orders related to child support must include one of two standard clauses about the Child Support Recalculation Program (RP):

  • a clause stating the RP may recalculate the child support amount; or
  • a clause indicating RP will not recalculate.

When you are in chambers, be sure to tell the judge whether you want RP to recalculate child support or not. This will make sure that the right clause is included in your child support order. If the other party disagrees with you on this topic, you may have to give the judge your reasons for choosing one over the other. The exact wording of the clauses is in the following resource.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program: Eligibility criteria
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recalculation clauses in court orders.”
Tip

For more information about RP, see the “Child Support Recalculation Program” section on the Law tab of this Information Page, as well as the “Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program” section below.

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

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 (more information on chambers is on the Understanding the Court Process Information Page). 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; and
  • 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 Application (if you are the Applicant) or your Affidavit (if you are the Respondent) 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.

Web Court Procedures and Rules of Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
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.

Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)

If you are the Recipient

Once you have your court order (or a variation order), you will likely want to register your order with MEP. See the following resources for information about:

  • how to register your child support order (including a Queen’s Bench order that you got as part of completing the Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement);
  • all of MEP’s powers and abilities; and
  • steps you need to take and forms you may need to complete in order to have MEP enforce your Order.
Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: How to register
Government of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Making and receiving payments
Government of Alberta
English
See “Receiving payments.”

Web MEP forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recipient of support.”


PDF Maintenance for Adult Children Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

Once your order is registered, both payors and recipients are required keep their contact information up-to-date with MEP. Also, payors must keep their employment, income, and other financial information current with MEP. For more information, see the following resource.

Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English
See “Contact info.”

MEP has policies that can affect your child support orders. For example:

  • MEP has a policy that says that it will not enforce child support for children over 22 years old unless the court order specifically requires that it do so. As a result, if you require MEP enforcement for support that is for a child over the age of 22, be sure to include it in your order.
  • MEP has a policy that says that it will not enforce child care costs for children over age 12. As a result, if you require MEP enforcement for day care costs that are for a child over the age of 12, be sure to include it in your order.
  • MEP will only enforce section 7 expenses if the type of expense is clearly stated. If a term is not specific enough, MEP will ask you to complete a separate Section 7 Expenses Agreement. Or, MEP may ask you to have the court Order changed to clarify the section 7 expense.

See the following resource for more information about MEP policies. You may wish to check with MEP for any policies that might affect your needs.

If you are the Payor

For general information about MEP, see the following resources.

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Making and receiving payments
Government of Alberta
English
See “Making payments.”

Web MEP forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Payor of support.”

If you are making payments from outside Canada, see the following resource.

If you have not made your child support payments and now MEP is taking action to enforce the child support order, you have 3 options to try to get some relief. These options are often combined to help avoid similar problems in the future.

  1. You can ask that your child support arrears be reduced or cancelled. For more information, see the “Asking for changes” section above.
  2. You can ask that your future child support payments be reduced. For more information, see the “Asking for changes” section above.
  3. You can ask for a “Stay of Enforcement” against MEP. This means you apply to have MEP not take action against you for your unpaid child support at this time. In other words, it delays MEP taking action against you, but does not cancel your arrears or change the child support order itself.

For more information about your options, see the following resources.


PDF Statement of Finances: Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Payment Arrangements for Arrears: Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English


Web Limit the collection of your support payments
Government of Alberta
English

Registering with the Child Support Recalculation Program

For information about registering with and using the Child Support Recalculation Program, see the following resources.

Web Child Support Recalculation Program
Government of Alberta
English




PDF Child Support Recalculation Program: Info sheets
Government of Alberta
English

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. In addition, be aware that 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

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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