Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid (Family Law)

Law

There are many places in Alberta that can help you with your family law matters. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Where to get legal information online and in-person in Alberta
  • Where to go to talk to a lawyer for free or at a reduced price
  • Where to go for help solving your legal problems out of court
  • Getting legal aid
  • Getting help with court paperwork and preparing for court
  • Getting help with family communication
  • Safe visitation and monitored exchange programs when you are concerned about your children’s safety
  • Where to find other professionals to help (such as accountants, Commissioners for Oaths, Notaries Public, paralegals, and process servers)
  • Additional places that can help if you are Aboriginal or an immigrant


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: June 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is about using community legal resources to help you solve a family legal problem. It is for anyone who is in the process of trying to solve a family legal problem and might want or need the help of community resources.

There are many organizations across Alberta that help people with their legal problems. You may just need some information about the law, or you may need more hands-on help such as seeing a lawyer for legal advice, help with filling out forms, or finding someone to go with you to court or teach you how the court process works.

This Information Page will give you a starting point for finding the legal help you need. Keep in mind that some organizations may change their services over time, so it’s a good idea to contact a staff member at the organization to double-check the information you find here or somewhere else online.

Other organizations keep “directories” or lists of community resources available across the province. These can be very helpful in locating potential resources, but again, it’s always best to call the organizations to make sure the information is current. See the following resources for some good starting places.


Interactive Support Services/Organizations
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web LawCentral Alberta: Legal services
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Help for Individuals
Pro Bono Law Alberta
English

Web Service Support Agency Links
Legal Aid Alberta
English

If it is available in your area, you can also call 211, a confidential, multilingual, 24 hour telephone helpline that can help you find community, social, and government services. The website, www.ab.211.ca, has a map showing where the service currently operates.

There are many ways to deal with a family legal problem. You may be able to come to an agreement on your own (with your former partner or any other person who is involved with your family), or you may need the help of someone else who can work with your family to solve your legal issues without having to “go to court.” For more information on either of these options, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own and Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Pages.

If you end up going to court to resolve your family legal problems, you can choose to hire a lawyer or represent yourself. For more information on these options, see the Working with a Lawyer and Representing Yourself in Court Information Pages.

No matter how you decide to work through your issues, you will need to educate yourself about your legal rights and responsibilities. If you are representing yourself, you are expected to know what laws apply to your situation, and make sure that any solution that you come up with is legally sound. See the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page for more information about doing your own legal research, including how to find accurate and high-quality legal information.

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.

legal information

General statements about the law that do not apply to any specific person’s situation. Legal information helps people understand the law, the nature of their legal issues, and how to solve legal problems (both in court and out of court). Legal information is available to the public on websites, in print, and in person, and it is different from legal advice. Legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.”

To learn more about the difference between legal information and legal advice, see the following resources.

PDF Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: What is the Difference?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Legal information is not the same as legal advice
Community Legal Education Ontario
English

PDF Helping Clients with Legal Issues: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

legal advice

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

To learn more about the difference between legal information and legal advice, see the following resources.

PDF Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: What is the Difference?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Legal information is not the same as legal advice
Community Legal Education Ontario
English

PDF Helping Clients with Legal Issues: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

summary legal advice

Meeting for a short time (often around 30-60 minutes) with a lawyer to discuss your legal issue and get advice about how you should move forward. Summary legal advice is not the same as having your own lawyer—this lawyer may only meet with you the one time, and is not taking on your case at this time.

self-represented litigant

A person who is representing himself or herself in a court action (that is, he or she is not represented by a lawyer). Someone who has a “limited scope retainer” or is getting “unbundled legal services” can still be a self-represented litigant if he or she is not represented by a lawyer in court.

supervised access

A way for children to spend time with a parent (or someone else with whom they have contact), under the supervision of another adult. For example: a grandparent may supervise the visit. This allows the child and parent/person to continue having contact when there are safety concerns. There can also be also conditions on how and where the visit takes place.

Supervised access may be ordered, or agreed to, when there are worries about the child's well-being if visits were not supervised.

For example, this could happen when the parent/person:

  • has limited parenting or child-care skills;
  • has a history of abusing alcohol or drugs;
  • has a history of abusing the child;
  • might otherwise abduct the child; or
  • has not had contact with the child for a long time, and they may need some time to re-establish their relationship.

safe visitation

Generally refers to supervised access that takes place in a facility specifically intended to provide the opportunity for visits under the supervision of trained staff and volunteers.

monitored exchange (also called “safe transfer”)

Monitored exchange programs provide a neutral location for supervised exchange of children from one parent to another. This may be necessary in situations of family violence, where one parent is not comfortable meeting the other parent to exchange the children for parenting time or visitation.

Where to get legal information online

Sometimes you might just need information about your legal issue so you have an idea of where to start and what your options are.

Legal information is different from legal advice. Legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.” Any of the resources listed in this section will offer general information about the law itself, not your specific situation. If you have questions about a specific legal problem, you will need to talk to a lawyer directly. See the following resources and the “Legal advice & legal clinics” section below for more information.

PDF Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: What is the Difference?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Legal information is not the same as legal advice
Community Legal Education Ontario
English

PDF Les renseignements juridiques ne sont pas des conseils juridiques
Community Legal Education Ontario
French

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 20.

LegalAve brings together much online legal information in a single location, organized by legal topic. Some of our major contributors are listed below, and a more complete list is available on our Resource Owners page. Check out their websites to see all of their legal information in one place.

Be Aware

Some of the organizations listed below provide only legal information; others provide more services.

Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta

The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta has many plain language websites, publications, and podcasts about a variety of legal topics.

Web Our Websites
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Publications & Resources
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio Podcasts
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

BearPaw Legal Education & Resource Centre

BearPaw Legal Education & Resource Centre is a project of Native Counselling Services of Alberta. BearPaw has many plain language publications, podcasts, resource guides, and online videos about legal issues that affect the Aboriginal community. Although geared toward Aboriginal people, much of the information is the same for all Albertans.

PDF BearPaw Publications
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Audio BearPaw Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Video BearPaw Legal Videos
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Web BearPaw Digital Library: Family Law & Parenting
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Calgary Legal Guidance

The Dial-A-Law website from Calgary Legal Guidance has very useful information on many legal topics, which is all available in audio format as well.

Web Dial-A-Law and Lawyer Referral Service
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

You can also access this information by phone:

  • In Calgary: 403-234-9022
  • Toll-free anywhere in Alberta: 1-800-332-1091

For information about other services offered by Calgary Legal Guidance, see below.

Be Aware

Some of the information about the courtroom process may be specific to Calgary, so if you will be going to court in a different city you should check with your local courthouse to make sure the information you have is correct.

Student Legal Services of Edmonton

Student Legal Services of Edmonton is run by law students from the University of Alberta, and their website has much useful information about family law, criminal law, and civil law issues—click on the topics on the left of the webpage for detailed legal information.

Web Family Law Questions
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Web Criminal Law Questions
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Web Civil Law Questions
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

For information about other services offered by Student Legal Services of Edmonton, see below.

Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre

The Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre is a Calgary organization that has questions and answers about youth-related civil law issues.

Web Law Topics
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta

The Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta (AJEFA: French-speaking Lawyers' Association of Alberta) is a non-profit organization that was created in 1990 to promote access to justice in French in Alberta. The role of the AJEFA is to inform Albertans of their rights and responsibilities by providing and delivering French-language legal information to the general public and to special clienteles (schools, elders, newcomers, families).

L'Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (AJEFA) est un organisme sans but lucratif créé en 1990 pour promouvoir la justice en français. Le rôle de l'AJEFA est d'informer les Albertains de leurs droits et obligations en mettant à leur disposition de l'information juridique de qualité (ressources, ateliers, conférences, etc.) Elle vise également à améliorer l'accès à la justice en Alberta ainsi qu'à faciliter l'obtention de services juridiques en français en Alberta.

For information about other services offered by AJEFA, see the following resource.

Web Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

Government websites

In addition to the organizations listed above, the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta both have legal information on their websites about family law issues, and this is often the most current information available.

See the following resources for good places to start looking for family law information.

PDF Helping Clients with Legal Issues: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 17-30.


Web Department of Justice Canada: Family Law
Government of Canada
English

For legal information in other provinces, territories, and countries, see the “Finding legal information in other provinces” section below and the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Where to get legal information in person

Sometimes you might just need information about your legal issue so you have an idea of where to start and what your options are.

Legal information is different from legal advice. Remember, legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.” Any of the resources listed in this section will offer general information about the law itself, not your specific situation. If you have questions about a specific legal problem, you will need to talk to a lawyer directly. See the following resources and the “Legal advice & legal clinics” section below for more information.

PDF Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: What is the Difference?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Legal information is not the same as legal advice
Community Legal Education Ontario
English

PDF Les renseignements juridiques ne sont pas des conseils juridiques
Community Legal Education Ontario
French

PDF Helping Clients with Legal Issues: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 20.

If you want to talk to someone in person, over the phone, or attend a legal information workshop, the organizations below may be able to help.

Tip

There are also organizations that provide in-person legal information specific to immigrants. For more information, see the “Immigrant-serving organizations” section below.

Alberta Law Libraries

Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) is a network of 11 law libraries in courthouses and provincial buildings across Alberta. The libraries are open to all Albertans. Only judges and lawyers can borrow books from Alberta Law Libraries, but everyone can use their materials and online databases inside the library for legal research.

Web Our Libraries
Alberta Law Libraries
English

Native Counselling Services of Alberta

Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA) provides much legal assistance to the Aboriginal community, and has locations all over the province. They also offer free workshops in communities across Alberta. Contact NCSA to find out what help they can offer you.

Web Contact Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Web Booking workshops with BearPaw Legal Education & Resource Centre
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Centre albertain d’information juridique / Alberta Legal Information Centre

Le Centre albertain d’information juridique est une initiative de l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta. Il offre des services gratuits et confidentiels d’information juridique, d’orientation et d’accompagnement à tous les Albertains. Les consultations se font en personne ou à distance, grâce à un numéro de téléphone sans frais et au courriel.

The Alberta Legal Information Centre is an initiative of the Association of French Speaking Lawyers of Alberta. It offers free and confidential legal information services, guidance and support to all Albertans. Consultations are done in person or remotely, through a toll-free phone number and email.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Centre albertain d’information juridique
Centre albertain d’information juridique
French

John Howard Society

The John Howard Society (JHS) is a Canada-wide organization that works with people who have come into conflict with the criminal law, including victims and people currently in jail. Although its services mainly focus on criminal law, it recognizes that criminal law and family law often overlap, and in such situations, it can help to provide information for both areas of law.  

JHS has branches across Alberta, each with their own programs for providing help. For more information about the exact services provided in your area, see the following resource.

Web John Howard Society of Alberta: Services
John Howard Society of Alberta
English
Choose the location nearest you from the list on the right.

Elizabeth Fry Society

The Elizabeth Fry Society is a Canada-wide organization that helps women and girls involved with the criminal justice system. Family law and criminal law often overlap, such as in cases of family violence. Contact either the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary or the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton to see what help they can offer.

Audio/Web 

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance gives legal education workshops on a variety of topics, and the workshops are held all over Calgary. Contact Calgary Legal Guidance for more information about upcoming legal information topics and locations.

Web Legal Education
Calgary Legal Guidance
English
Web Calgary Legal Guidance: Contact Us
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Edmonton Community Legal Centre

Edmonton Community Legal Centre gives free legal information sessions throughout the year at different Edmonton Public Library locations. Depending on the session, you may have to register to attend.

Web Legal Education
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

Student Legal Services of Edmonton

In addition to their online legal information (see above), Student Legal Services of Edmonton will give legal information over the phone. Contact Student Legal Services for general legal information over the phone.

Web Contact Information and Project Hours
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic (Red Deer)

The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic is located in Red Deer. Anyone can visit the office to get legal information, and you may be referred to other services based on your income.

Web Programs & Services
Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic
English

Women’s Outreach (Red Deer)

Women’s Outreach in Red Deer provides information and referrals to local organizations to people involved with the legal system. For more information about this program, contact Women’s Outreach.

Web Legal Information & Referral
Women's Outreach
English
Web Contact Information
Women's Outreach
English

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance offers many legal services, including general legal information. They may also refer you to more services if you qualify. Contact Grande Prairie Legal Guidance for more information.

Web Programs & Services
Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
English

Lethbridge Legal Guidance

Lethbridge Legal Guidance (LLG) offers many legal services, including general legal information. LLG hosts a “Know Before You Go” lunchtime legal information session with a family law lawyer for those thinking of leaving their spouse or partner. Staff at LLG may also refer you to more services if you qualify. Contact Lethbridge Legal Guidance for more information or to register for an information session.

Web Programs & Services
Lethbridge Legal Guidance
English

Lethbridge Public Library & Lethbridge College

Lethbridge Public Library hosts “Law at Lunch” information sessions throughout the year on a variety of legal topics. These sessions are provided by the Lethbridge College Public Legal Education program. See the complete list of topics on the Lethbridge Public Library website.

Web Law at Lunch
Lethbridge Public Library
English

Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre

Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre provides free legal information and advice to people who have a legal issue but do not qualify for Legal Aid. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre
Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre
English

Medicine Hat Public Library & Medicine Hat College

Medicine Hat Public Library hosts “Law at the Library” information sessions throughout the year on a variety of legal topics. These sessions are provided by the Medicine Hat College Public Legal Education program. See the complete list of courses offered and register to attend on the Medicine Hat College Continuing Studies website.

Web Courses: Public Legal Education
Medicine Hat College
English
Choose your location, then see “You and the Law.”
Summary legal advice & legal clinics

Many community legal organizations offer legal clinics (advice sessions) with a volunteer lawyer. This may also be called “summary legal advice,” meaning you will meet for a short time (usually around 30-60 minutes) with a lawyer to discuss your issue and get advice about how you should move forward.

Be Aware

Summary legal advice is not the same as having your own lawyer to represent you. With summary legal advice, a lawyer may only meet with you the one time, and is not taking on your case at this time. For more information about hiring a lawyer to represent you, see the “Finding a lawyer to represent you” section below.

For more information about the importance of legal advice, see the following resource and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

PDF How to avoid surprises
Canadian Bar Association
English

PDF Comment éviter les surprises
Canadian Bar Association
French
Tip

Because these legal advice sessions can be very short, it’s a good idea to prepare for the meeting ahead of time. Get general legal information on your topic before meeting with the lawyer, so you know what questions to ask and you can make the most of your time. See the list of Family Law Topics on LegalAve to find what you need, or use the Guided Pathway by clicking on the “Guided Pathway” link at the top of the page. If the lawyer has to spend the whole time explaining the law to you, then you won’t have time to talk about the details of your particular situation.

The organizations below offer legal clinics where you can get legal advice. Be aware that there may be income guidelines in order to get free summary legal advice, and you may have to go through an intake process to make sure you qualify. Contact the organizations directly for the most current information.

Legal Aid Alberta - Duty Counsel Program

Duty counsel are lawyers who offer limited services to people who are unrepresented at their court appearance. Depending on the situation, duty counsel may speak in court on the person’s behalf. There is no financial eligibility requirement to get help from duty counsel. It is free to all Albertans.

However, duty counsel can only help with certain issues and in certain courthouses across Alberta. 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

Calgary area

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) provides free legal advice for low income people. CLG holds clinics at different locations around Calgary. CLG also hosts ID clinics for those who need legal photo identification.

Web Legal Clinics
Calgary Legal Guidance
English
Web Events Calendar
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre

The Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) is a nonprofit organization in Calgary that provides children, youth, and their families with legal education, legal information, and legal representation. For more information about the services CLERC offers, see the following resources.

Web About CLERC
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English
Web Ask a Lawyer your Question
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English
Web Contact Us
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Pro Bono Law Alberta

Pro Bono Law Alberta runs several legal clinics in the Calgary area. See the following resource for information about upcoming events.

Web Help for Individuals
Pro Bono Law Alberta
English
See “Free Legal Programs.”

Student Legal Assistance

Student Legal Assistance (SLA) is a group of volunteer law students from the University of Calgary. SLA runs legal clinics from their office and at different locations around Calgary. Contact SLA for more information about upcoming clinics.

Web Services: Family
Student Legal Assistance
English
Web Contact Student Legal Assistance
Student Legal Assistance
English

The Women’s Centre

All women can attend free legal advice sessions at the Women’s Centre in Calgary, but you will need an appointment. Contact the Women’s Centre for information about upcoming sessions.

Web Get Assistance
The Women's Centre
English
Web The Women's Centre: Contact Us
The Women's Centre
English

Edmonton area

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) has free evening legal clinics if you qualify. Contact ECLC to see if you qualify and make an appointment with a lawyer.

Web Programs & Services
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Web Contact Us
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

Central Alberta

The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. You will need to go through an intake process (in person or over the phone) before you see a volunteer lawyer. More information (including upcoming legal clinic dates across central Alberta) is available on the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic website.

Web Programs & Services
Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic
English

Southern Alberta

Lethbridge Legal Guidance provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Legal clinics take place every Tuesday evening, but you will need an appointment. You will also need to call or visit Lethbridge Legal Guidance ahead of time to make sure you qualify. Contact Lethbridge Legal Guidance for more information.

Web Programs & Services
Lethbridge Legal Guidance
English

Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre provides free legal information and advice to people who have a legal issue but do not qualify for Legal Aid. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre
Medicine Hat Legal Help Centre
English

Northern Alberta

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Legal clinics take place throughout the month. You will need to fill out an application before you can speak to a volunteer lawyer. More information (and an application form) is available on the Grande Prairie Legal Guidance website.

Web Programs & Services
Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
English
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to the various ways that people can resolve their disputes without “going to court.” ADR includes mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and collaborative family law. Many people think that having a judge decide the issues is the most common way to resolve legal problems, but it is not. “Going to court” is not required.

Alberta Courts offers free Family Mediation Services to families who qualify. Mediation aims to help you reach an agreement about separation issues. To qualify for free mediation:

  • one of the parents 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

Some lawyers can also help you with ADR. Lawyers can either lead the ADR session for the parties involved, or they can assist you on the side while you are going through ADR by reviewing the terms of an agreement and giving legal advice. For information about finding a lawyer to help you with ADR, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For detailed information about:

  • other options for staying out of court;
  • choosing an ADR professional;
  • how to work well with your ADR professional; and
  • what to expect from the ADR process

see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

To find an ADR professional in Alberta, see the following resources.

Interactive Find a Mediator
Alberta Family Mediation Society
English
Interactive ADR Connect
ADR Institute of Canada
English
Interactive Find an Arbitrator or Mediator
ADR Institute of Alberta
English
Interactive Find a Mediator
Family Mediation Canada
English
Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

When you are faced with family law legal issue, 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.”

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will explain to you what is happening with your case and why. If you have to go to court, a lawyer can represent you in court. A lawyer can also represent you during processes that don’t involve court, such as mediation or collaborative family law. For more information about hiring a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Tip

Even if you hire a lawyer, you may wish to review other Information Pages on LegalAve, as they can help you understand more about what is going on in your case.

If you choose to represent yourself, you will want to review legal information about the specific topics you are trying to resolve (for example: child support). This information can be found on the other Information Pages on LegalAve, as well as the resources we link to. You may also sometimes want to get some summary legal advice—see the “Summary legal advice and legal clinics” section above. You will also need to learn about laws, regulations, case law, and court rules.

For more information, see the following Information Pages.

Finding a lawyer to represent you: Legal Aid Alberta, community legal centres, and private lawyers

If you think you need a lawyer to work through your legal issues, there are services that can help you find a lawyer and make sure you’re happy with him or her.

Legal Aid Alberta

What is Legal Aid Alberta?

If you have a low income, you may qualify for financial help to cover the cost of a lawyer and court fees through Legal Aid Alberta. 

Be Aware

Legal Aid is not free. If you qualify for a Legal Aid lawyer, you will get discounted rates and will be able to pay your bill over time without interest.

For more general information about the services offered by Legal Aid Alberta, see the following resources.

Web Services & Eligibility
Legal Aid Alberta
English

PDF Legal Aid Alberta: Services for Albertans
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Working with your lawyer
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Legal Aid
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For more specific information, including what you will need to bring with you when you apply, see Legal Aid’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Web Frequently Asked Questions
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Who is eligible for legal aid?

For more information about who qualifies for legal aid, see the Legal Aid Alberta eligibility guidelines. Even if you are unsure about whether you qualify, you can always contact Legal Aid for information about what services they can offer you.

Web Getting Legal Aid - Eligibility
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Legal Aid Alberta: Contact Us
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Community legal centres

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) provides free legal help for low income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Contact CLG to see if you qualify to see a lawyer.

Web Family Law Program
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Calgary Legal Guidance: Contact Us
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Client Intake Form
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Student Legal Assistance of Calgary

The law students at the University of Calgary represent low-income clients appearing in Provincial Court in the Calgary area (including Airdrie, Canmore, Cochrane, and Okotoks). Student Legal Assistance does not help with any issues involving Child & Family Services, divorce, or matters filed with the Court of Queen's Bench. Contact Student Legal Assistance for more information about the caseworker program.

Web Contact Student Legal Assistance
Student Legal Assistance
English

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) provides free legal advice for low income people, who don’t qualify for legal aid. Contact ECLC to see if you qualify and find about how get in to see a lawyer.

Web Programs & Services
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

Web Contact Us
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

Student Legal Services of Edmonton

Student Legal Services of Edmonton can represent low-income people if they qualify. However, they will only take on certain family law topics. Contact Student Legal Services for more information.

Web Contact Information and Project Hours
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Central Alberta: The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic

The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic provides legal help to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. You will need to go through an intake process (in person or over the phone) before you see a volunteer lawyer. More information is available on the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic website.

Web Programs & Services
Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic
English

Southern Alberta: Lethbridge Legal Guidance

Lethbridge Legal Guidance provides legal help to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. You will need to call or visit Lethbridge Legal Guidance to make sure you qualify.

Web Programs & Services
Lethbridge Legal Guidance
English

Northern Alberta: Grande Prairie Legal Guidance

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance provides legal help to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. You will need to fill out an application before you can speak to a volunteer lawyer. More information (and an application form) is available on the Grande Prairie Legal Guidance website.

Web Programs & Services
Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
English

Hiring a private lawyer

The Law Society of Alberta is the association for all practicing lawyers in the province. It offers a Lawyer Referral service, which will connect you with up to 3 lawyers who might be able to help you, and you can have a free 30-minute consultation with each lawyer to talk about your legal issue and what the lawyer might be able to do for you. For more information about this program, see the following resources.

Web Find a Lawyer
Law Society of Alberta
English

Web The Law Society of Alberta – Resources for the public
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more detailed information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Help with court fees

In every court matter, there are always court fees that you must pay. For example: fees to file your documents with the court.

If you have a lawyer, these fees will be included with your lawyer’s bill for your case. If you don’t have a lawyer, these fees will still need to paid.

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
Help with court paperwork

Court paperwork can be complicated and confusing. If you don’t have a lawyer to help you, many organizations can help you fill out forms.

Be Aware

When you get help filling out forms, many organizations will only provide legal information, not legal advice—see the “What the words mean” section above for more information about the difference. Be sure to ask about what kind of help you can get with your forms, because in Alberta, only lawyers are allowed to give legal advice.

Province-wide

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

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

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

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

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

Calgary area

Calgary Legal Guidance offers a Do Your Own Divorce Clinic for anyone who has attended an evening clinic about divorce. See the following resource for more information.

Web Do Your Own Divorce
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Edmonton area

Edmonton Community Legal Centre

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre has free evening legal clinics if you qualify. At these clinics, you can get help filling out legal documents. Contact Edmonton Community Legal Centre to see if you qualify and make an appointment with a lawyer.

Web Programs & Services
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Web Contact Us
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

Student Legal Services of Edmonton

Student Legal Services of Edmonton offers a do-your-own-divorce clinic for uncontested divorces. Contact Student Legal Services to see if your divorce qualifies for this clinic, and when the next clinic is being held.

Web Family Law Questions
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Web Contact Information and Project Hours
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Northern Alberta

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Legal clinics take place throughout the month, and can include help with filling out court forms. You will need to fill out an application before you can speak to a volunteer lawyer. More information (and an application form) is available on the Grande Prairie Legal Guidance website.

Web Programs & Services
Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
English
Help preparing for court or going to court

If you do not have a lawyer to represent you, you may still be able to get some help preparing for court or going to court.

Be Aware

For help preparing for or going to court, many organizations will only provide legal information and general support, not legal advice—see the “What the words mean” section above for more information about the difference. In Alberta, only lawyers are allowed to give legal advice.

Province-wide

Alberta Courts: Family Court Counsellors

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

Family Court Counsellors are available in Provincial Court in most of Alberta. They are also available in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but only in some areas, and only for matters under the Family Law Act.

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free, including 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 they are only at certain courthouses on certain days, and there may be a large number of people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early and 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

Native Counselling Services of Alberta

Native Counselling Services of Alberta runs a Family Courtworker program that helps Aboriginal families involved in the courts, including families involved with Children’s Services. These courtworkers are not lawyers, but they can help you present your case in court. They also offer other support and educational services. Contact Native Counselling Services to see what help they might be able to offer you.

Web Family Courtworkers
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Contact Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

John Howard Society

The John Howard Society (JHS) is a Canada-wide organization that works with people who have come into conflict with the criminal law, including victims and people currently in jail. Although its services mainly focus on criminal law, it recognizes that criminal law and family law often overlap, and in such situations, it can help to provide information for both areas of law.  

JHS has branches across Alberta, each with their own programs for providing help. For more information about the exact services provided in your area, see the following resource.

Web John Howard Society of Alberta: Services
John Howard Society of Alberta
English
Choose the location nearest you from the list on the right.

If you are dealing with a family legal issue at the same time as a criminal law issue, see the Family Breakdown & Criminal Law Information Page.

Elizabeth Fry Society

The Elizabeth Fry Society is a Canada-wide organization that helps women and girls involved with the criminal justice system. Family law and criminal law often overlap, such as in cases of family violence. Contact either the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary or the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton to see what help they can offer.

Audio/Web 

Calgary area

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance may be able to provide a support person to go with you to court if you are testifying. Contact Calgary Legal Guidance to see if they can help you.

Web Calgary Legal Guidance: Contact Us
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Children's Legal & Educational Resource Center

The Children's Legal & Educational Resource Center (CLERC) offers volunteer lawyers for youth up to 19 years old in the Calgary area. Contact CLERC for more information.

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

Student Legal Assistance of Calgary

Student Legal Assistance (SLA) provides student caseworkers to appear in court with low-income people in the Calgary area. SLA caseworkers can help with guardianship, parenting, child support, contact, and enforcement issues. SLA does not help with any issues involving Child & Family Services, divorce, or matters filed with the Court of Queen's Bench. Contact Student Legal Assistance for more information about the caseworker program.

Web Contact Student Legal Assistance
Student Legal Assistance
English

Edmonton area

The law students at the University of Alberta may be able to appear in court with you about “uncomplicated” child support matters. Contact Student Legal Services for more information about what kind of court help they can offer you.

Web Family Law Questions
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Web Contact Information and Project Hours
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Central Alberta

The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic has partnered with Women’s Outreach in Red Deer to provide a Court Preparation Program, which may include a support person to accompany you to court. For more information about this program, contact Women’s Outreach.

Web Legal Information & Referral
Women's Outreach
English
Web Contact Information
Women's Outreach
English

Northern Alberta

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Legal clinics take place throughout the month, and can include help with court preparation. You will need to fill out an application before you can speak to a volunteer lawyer. More information (and an application form) is available on the Grande Prairie Legal Guidance website.

Web Programs & Services
Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
English

Southern Alberta

Lethbridge Legal Guidance provides legal advice to low-income people who don’t qualify for legal aid. Legal clinics take place every Tuesday evening by appointment only, and you can get court preparation help there. You may also qualify for representation in court. Contact Lethbridge Legal Guidance for more information.

Web Programs & Services
Lethbridge Legal Guidance
English
Other professionals who can help: Accountants, notaries, paralegals, and process servers

When working through your family law matters, you may need extra help with a particular issue. Even if you have a lawyer, he or she may not be qualified to give you advice about certain topics. Or, it may be less expensive to use someone other than your lawyer for a particular service. Contact the professionals below if you need help with other issues related to your legal matter.

For general information about using other professionals, see the following resources.

Video Use of Third Party Professionals
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Other Professionals Involved in your Family Law Matter
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Getting separated or divorced
Government of Canada
English

Web Se séparer ou divorcer
Government of Canada
French

Accountants

Accountants can help you work through financial matters and make decisions about things like taxes and fees. See the following resources to find accountants and other help with money issues.

Interactive Find a CPA
Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta
English

Interactive Find an accounting firm
Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada
English


 

Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public: “Swearing” documents to be used in court

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.”

To prove that a document has been sworn or affirmed properly, it must be done in front of a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public. These are described in more detail below. When you swear your documents, you must take government-issued photo identification with you. The person who swears the documents for you must verify who you are.

You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca.

Resolution and Court Administration Services can also help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Tip

For detailed information about swearing and serving court documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Commissioners for Oaths

A Commissioner for Oaths is an official who has the power to administer oaths and affirmations for documents to be used in Alberta. The Commissioner for Oaths will:

  • administer (say) the oath or affirmation to you;
  • ask you to confirm that everything in the document is true;
  • witness your signature; and
  • sign the document as well to confirm that they administered the oath or affirmation.

For more information about Commissioners for Oaths, see the following resources.

Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Notaries Public

A Notary Public is similar to a Commissioner for Oaths, but has more powers:

  • A Notary Public may deal with documents that will be used outside of Alberta. For example, an Affidavit to be used in a lawsuit being conducted in the United States.
  • A Notary Public may also certify documents as being true copies of an original.
  • A Notary Public who is a lawyer or a judge may also certify contracts and commercial instruments, such as a promissory note.

For more information about Notaries Public, see the following resources.

Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is a “Notary” and why do I need one?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

 

Family communication

When dealing with legal issues, communication can sometimes be a challenge. There are organizations across the province that can help families communicate better, in order to have better outcomes. For example:

  • Communication with your ex-partner or ex-spouse may be a problem. Having someone else help guide the conversation and come up with new ideas can be useful.
  • When making plans for the future, your family may not all agree on what should be done. This often comes up in estate planning, especially if you are part of a “blended family.” Specialists are familiar with these issues and can help the family talk about their concerns and reach an agreement that everyone is comfortable with.

Organizations that offer families assistance with communication are listed below. You can also find such services in your community by searching on InformAlberta.

Province-wide

Web Family and Community Support Services
Government of Alberta
English
Web Children, Family and Community Service
Catholic Social Services
English
Web Family Group Conferencing
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Web Parent Link Centres
Government of Alberta
English

Calgary area

Web Calgary Counselling Centre
Calgary Counselling Centre
English
Web Carya
Carya
English

Edmonton area

Web The Family Centre
The Family Centre
English
Web YWCA Counselling Centre
YWCA Edmonton
English

Southern Alberta

Web Family Centre - Programs
Family Centre Society of Southern Alberta
English
Safety concerns: Safe visitation & monitored exchange

Sometimes, during a separation or divorce, there can be concerns about the safety of children when they are spending time with a parent or another person who has contact.

For example, this could happen when the parent/person:

  • has limited parenting or child-care skills;
  • has a history of abusing alcohol or drugs;
  • has a history of abusing the child;
  • might otherwise abduct the child; or
  • has not had contact with the child for a long time, and they may need some time to re-establish their relationship.

In many communities, there are programs that will help keep everyone safe. For example:

  • Safe visitation” means children can visit the parent/person in a controlled location and under supervision.
  • Monitored exchange” is another option when people are uncomfortable exchanging children. Monitored exchange programs provide a neutral location and supervised exchange of the children. This may also be called “safe transfer.”

The Alberta government has a Safe Visitation Program in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Whitecourt. More information about the program is in the following resource.

Web Safe Visitation
Government of Alberta
English

Safe visitation and monitored exchange is also offered by other private organizations—most are offered in larger centres (see examples in the list below). Your local branch of Child and Family Services will be able to tell you if there other organizations in your area that provide this kind of service.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

Calgary

Web Our Services
Families First Support Services
English
Web Men's Educational Support Association
Men's Educational Support Association
English
Web Pathways Programs
Pathways Community Services Association
English

Edmonton

Web The Family Centre
The Family Centre
English

Grande Prairie

Web What we do
P.A.C.E.
English
See “Monitored Exchange” and “Safe Visitation” on the right of the screen.

Lethbridge

Web YWCA Lethbridge and District Safe Visitation Program
YWCA Lethbridge and District
English

Red Deer

PDF Safe Visitation & Monitored Exchange
Women's Outreach
English
Web Safe Visitation Program
Women's Outreach
English
Web Monitored Exchange Program
Women's Outreach
English

Whitecourt

Web Safe Visitation
McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association
English

Reserves

Some reserves (for example: the Blood Reserve) offer safe transfer service for their residents or band members. Contact your Delegated First Nation Agency to see if your reserve has any such programs.

Web Delegated First Nations Agencies
Government of Alberta
English
Situations of family violence

If you are in a situation of family violence, you may need some additional help. Many communities have organizations that may be able to assist you, including:

  • safe visitation and monitored exchange programs (described above in the “Safety concerns” section);
  • shelters;
  • emotional support;
  • legal and court-related help; and
  • financial aid.

For detailed information about the services and supports that are available, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Immigrant-serving organizations

There are organizations across the province that work with immigrants on many issues, including legal problems. These organizations can often provide legal help in multiple languages, but in some cases, you may need to bring your own interpreter—contact the organizations directly to find out.

If you cannot find a lawyer who speaks your first language in your area, then you may want bring an interpreter to your meetings with a lawyer. It is important to hire an interpreter who is trained for legal work because not every interpreter will be familiar with legal terms.

Sometimes, friends or community members may offer to translate for you. However, when friends or community members are used as interpreters, cultural issues may affect your interpreter. Therefore, it is best to use someone you can trust and/or who is supporting you with the legal issues you are facing. The law is complex, so it is helpful to use a professional and neutral interpreter who is trained for legal work, if possible (and if you trust them).

For more information about interpreters who are trained for legal work, see the following resources.

Web Free Multicultural Family Law Facilitation (Interpreting) Service
United Cultures of Canada Association
English

Web Multicultural Family Law Facilitators Project
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Province-wide

Web Current Members
Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies
English

Interactive Find free newcomer services near you
Government of Canada
English


Web Newcomer services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Immigration and Refugee Law
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Immigration and Settlement Service
Catholic Social Services
English

Web Find help to adjust – Refugees
Government of Canada
English

Calgary area

Web Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
Calgary Catholic Immigration Society
English

Web Family Services
Calgary Immigrant Women's Association
English

Web Centre for Newcomers Legal Clinic
Pro Bono Law Alberta
English

Web Our Services
Immigrant Services Calgary
English

Web Programs
Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary
English

PDF Connecting Elders from Ethno-cultural Communties (available in Amharic, Arabic, English, Farsi, Filipino, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Spanish, Tigrinya, Urdu, and Vietnamese)
Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary
Arabic, English, Farsi, Gujarati, Korean, Polish, Punjabi, Spanish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Other languages

Web Calgary Chinese Community Service Association
Calgary Chinese Community Service Association
English

Web Calgary Chinese Community Service Association
Calgary Chinese Community Service Association
Chinese

Edmonton area

Web Programs & Services
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
See “Immigration Law Program.”


Web Indo-Canadian Women's Association
Indo-Canadian Women's Association
English

Web Services and Programs
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association
English

Web Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers
Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers
English

Web Settlement
Centre d’accueil et d’établissement du Nord de l’Alberta
English

Web Établissement
Centre d’accueil et d’établissement du Nord de l’Alberta
French

Central Alberta

Web Our Services
Central Alberta Refugee Effort
English

Web Programs & Services
Central Alberta Immigrant Women's Association
English

Northern Alberta

Web Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers: Member Events
Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce
English

Web Immigrant Settlement Services
YMCA of Northern Alberta
English

Southern Alberta

Web Immigrant Services
Lethbridge Family Services
English

Web Saamis Immigration Services Association - Programs
Saamis Immigration Services Association
English
Aboriginal-serving organizations

There are organizations across the province that work with Aboriginal community members on many issues, including legal problems. Contact the organizations below to see what help they can offer you for your situation.

Interactive Aboriginal Legal Research Directory
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Web Programs
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Web Programs & Services
Metis Child and Family Services Edmonton
English
Web Friendship Centres
National Association of Friendship Centres
English
Web Aboriginal Resources
Catholic Social Services
English
Web Programs
Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary
English
See “Aboriginal Cultural Supports.”
Web Siksika Nation
Legal Aid Alberta
English
LGBTQ-serving organizations

There are organizations across Alberta and Canada that work with LGBTQ community members on many issues, including legal problems. See the following resources for more information.

Web LGBTQ-friendly Crisis Lines
University of British Columbia
English

Web Resources
Pride Centre of Edmonton
English

Web Youthsafe
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Choose your city from the “Cities” menu on the top of the page.

Web LGBT Resources
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English

In some locations, there may even be lawyers that specialize in handling LGBTQ legal concerns. For more information about specialized lawyers, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Finding legal information and legal help in other provinces or countries

If you or a family member is in another province or country, different laws may apply to your situation. For more information about this, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Process

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

Introduction

Because each community is different, there is no specific “process” to follow to get in touch with your community legal resources. Please see the Law tab of this Information Page for general information about legal resources in Alberta, as well as contact details for you to get in touch with the organizations and services that can help you work through your legal issue.

Last Reviewed: June 2017

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