Contact for Non-Guardians under the Family Law Act

Law

You may want to spend time with a child even if you are not the child’s guardian. If so, you can use Alberta’s Family Law Act to get “contact” with a child. See the sections below to learn more about:

  • What “contact” is
  • Making a contact agreement out of court
  • Going to court to get a contact order
  • Who can apply to the Court for contact (including special rules for grandparents)
  • What the Court considers when granting contact

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

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

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

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

This Information Page contains information for non-guardians who want to apply for contact with a child under the Alberta Family Law Act.

“Contact” is the term used to describe when a person who is not a guardian of a child wishes to spend time with the child. A contact agreement or contact order only gives that person the right to spend time with the child—not to make any decisions about the child (decision-making is what a guardian does).

If you are a guardian of the child, you do not apply for contact—instead you apply for “parenting time.” To find out if you are already a guardian, see the “Determining guardianship” section of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

If you are not a guardian but want to apply to become a guardian, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.

If you were married to a parent of the child, and are either the other parent, or you “stood in the place of a parent” to the child, you do not need to apply for contact. Instead, you can apply for access or custody under the Divorce Act. For more information, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

In general, the law and processes described on this Information Page are about people who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the children and people applying for contact should all 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 Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta. For information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

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

What the words mean

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

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

guardian (of a child)

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

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

contact

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

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

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

“best interests of the child”

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

For example:

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

party

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

application

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

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

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


Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, 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 know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

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

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

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. In Alberta, for matters under the Family Law Act, there is often a choice of courts: these matters can be heard by either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Which court you choose can depend on what is being asked for—certain things (such as property issues) can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. On the other hand, certain services are only available in the Provincial Court.

In general, contact applications are made in court actions that have already begun. If the parents/guardians are already in the Provincial Court, you will likely want to consider making your application in the Provincial Court as well. Or, if the parents/guardians have already started addressing their issues in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will likely want to consider making your application in Queen’s Bench as well. This is because the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. So, if there is already an existing court action related to the child in question, you will be strongly encouraged to make your application for contact in the same level of court as the other matters. Using the same level of court is also usually less complicated, keeps costs down, and makes it easier for all parties involved to schedule hearings.

Tip

You do not have to go to court to solve your family law 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.

Although you may not end up going to court (for example, if you and the parent(s)/guardian(s) reach an out-of-court agreement about contact), you need to look into the court issues anyway, so you know what to do if you do need to go to court.

Be Aware

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

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 6:10.
If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, a parent, or the children? 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.

If the children are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more information about child abuse and what can be done to help, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

If you think that the children have been victims of family violence, you may also want to consider whether or not you need to involve Alberta’s Child and Family Services. For more information, see the Child Protection Information Page.

At the start

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise for everyone involved, especially extended family and loved ones. It can be an emotional time for everyone. The same is true of a sudden death.

As a result, family members and loved ones can be excluded from children’s lives for a while. In some circumstances, this exclusion can become more permanent. A few things to keep in mind in these early stages include the following.

Keep the children in mind

Separation and divorce is often very difficult on the children. They see things differently than the adults in their lives, and their needs are different than adults’ needs. At this time, more than ever, the children need help and support from their loved ones. This is especially challenging since it is such a stressful time.

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

Web Because Life Goes On - Helping Children and Youth Live with Separation and Divorce
Government of Canada
English
Although this resource is intended for parents, it has good general information as well.
Web Parce que la vie continue - Aider les enfants et les adolescents à vivre la séparation et le divorce
Government of Canada
French
Bien que cette ressource est destiné aux parents, il y a aussi des bonnes informations générales.

Try to keep as much contact as you can with the children

If you end up in court to ask for contact with the children, the amount of time you generally spend with the child will be considered. The judge will also consider if that pattern has been interrupted for a lengthy time.

For this reason, it is important to continue to have much contact as possible as you can with the child while you are working out your disagreement. This contact can include: in-person contact, phone calls, emails, video chats (such as through Skype and FaceTime), texts, and letters. You may also want to keep track of the contact so that you can tell a court about it, in case you need to do so.

You can agree

If possible, you can come to an agreement with the child’s parent(s)/guardian(s). Going to court is not a requirement. For more information about how to reach an out-of-court agreement, see the “Out of court resolution options” section below.

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. If the parties 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. For more information about going to court to get an interim contact order, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

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 Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about your legal options.

If there was a domestic contract (cohabitation or pre-nuptial agreement)

A domestic contract is a contract created by two people who are living together, or are about to start living together. 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.

In general, when a couple separates and they have a domestic contract, the terms of that contract will govern the legal issues that come up during the separation. However, that is not always the case.

For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • One or both ex-partners provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if special circumstances existed when the agreement was signed that prove that one of the parties did not understand the contract, or if one of the parties did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, the parents could not agree that no child support would be paid (because child support is the right of the child).

Another reason that part of a domestic contract might not be enforceable is if it is against “public policy.” When something is against public policy, it is inconsistent with the law and the general social and moral values of our society, even though it may not actually “break” any laws. For a condition to be consistent with public policy, it must be consistent with the law and the general social and moral values of our society. For example: a couple might sign an agreement that states that, if they separate, any children of the relationship will have no contact with the extended family of one of the partners (including the grandparents). If there is not a good reason to deny contact, such a clause would likely be viewed as being against public policy.

In addition, if there was a legal issue that was not dealt with in the agreement, it can still be disputed when the relationship breaks down.  

This is a very complex area of law. If this has occurred in your case, you may wish to consider consulting a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information about how domestic contracts are treated and the law around setting them aside, see the Relationship Breakdown if You Had a Domestic Contract Information Page. “Setting aside” an agreement means that a judge decides that there is something wrong with the agreement itself or how it was reached, and therefore the agreement does not have to be followed.

What is contact?

“Contact” is the term used to describe when a person who is not a guardian of a child wishes to spend time with the child. Having contact only gives that person the right to spend time with the child—it does not give that person the right to information about the child, or the right to make any decisions about the child (decision-making is what a guardian does).

See the following resources for more information about contact.

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 5:00.

Many people, such as grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones, play important roles in a child’s life. Sometimes, however, when parents separate or divorce, these people may no longer be allowed to spend time with the child. This is especially true in situations where there is a great deal of anger and conflict between the former partners/spouses. In such situations, these loved ones can apply to the court for permission to spend time with the child.

Similarly, if the parents have never lived together, the biological father may not be a guardian, or may not want to be a guardian, but he can still be involved in the child’s life through contact. In such a case, the biological father could apply for contact himself, or the guardian of the child could apply for contact for him.

Who can apply for contact?

Applications for contact are for people who are not guardians of the child.

If you are a guardian, you do not need to apply for contact, as the law provides other options for you. Specifically:

  • If you were not married to the parent of the child, and if you are a guardian of the child, you can apply for “parenting time” under the Family Law Act. To find out if you are already a guardian, see the “Determining guardianship” section of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.
  • If you were married to the parent of the child, and are either the other parent, or you “stood in the place of a parent” to the child, you do not need to apply for contact. Instead, you can apply for access or custody under the Divorce Act. For more information, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.
Remember

If you are not a guardian, and you want more than just contact, you may be able to apply for guardianship. For more information, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page (if you are a parent but not a guardian), or the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page (if you are neither a parent nor a guardian).

Non-guardians who are a parent of the child

If you are the parent of the child, but you are not currently a guardian, you can apply to the Court for a contact order.

Unlike for other non-guardians, you do not need to first ask for the Court’s permission (also called “leave”) to apply for contact. You also do not need to give the parent(s)/guardian(s) any warning (also called “giving notice”) that you will make this application.

Non-guardians who “stood in the place of a parent” to the child

If you stood in the place of a parent to the child (such as a step-parent might), you can apply to the Court for a contact order.

Unlike for other non-guardians, you do not need to first ask for the Court’s permission (also called “leave”) to apply for contact. You also do not need to give the parent(s)/guardian(s) any warning (also called “giving notice”) that you will make this application.

Non-guardians who are the grandparents of the child

Under the Family Law Act, a grandparent can apply for a contact order if all of the following apply:

  • the parents are the guardians of the children;
  • the guardians are living separate and apart or one of the guardians has died; and
  • the grandparent’s contact with the children has been interrupted by this separation or death.

If you are a grandparent and you meet all of these conditions, you can apply to the Court for a contact order. Unlike for other non-guardians, you do not need to first ask for the Court’s permission (also called “leave”) to apply for contact. You also do not need to give the parent(s)/guardian(s) any warning (also called “giving notice”) that you will make this application.

However, if you do not meet these conditions, you may need to ask the Court for permission (“leave”) to apply. This requires giving notice to the child’s guardian(s).

This means that you will need to ask for leave of the Court if:

  • you never had contact with the child (in other words, there was no “interruption” because there was nothing to interrupt),
  • the family unit (the parents/guardians and any children) is still intact, or
  • the family unit is not intact, but the reason you have been cut off from the child has nothing to do with the separation of the parents.

Other non-guardian applicants

Non-guardians who do not fit into the above 3 categories must first have permission from the Court before asking for contact. This is called “asking for leave,” and is explained in more detail on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Asking for leave also requires giving notice to the child’s guardians and the child, if he or she is over 16 years of age.

More information

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

Audio/Web Contact with a Child by a Non-Guardian
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 5:00.


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

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English

For more specific information for grandparents, see the following resources.

PDF Grandparents' Rights in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Contact orders for Alberta grandparents
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. 

Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. See 12:00-13:00.

Video Episode 102 - Grandparents' Rights (a discussion on divorce and children)
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Grandparent-Grandchild Access: A Legal Analysis
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
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. The rules about whether you must take it are different depending on which court you are going to:

Queen's Bench

If you end up going to court for child-related issues through the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, 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).

Provincial Court

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

Given that you may be required to take the course, and the course provides very helpful information on parenting, you may wish to take the course as soon as you can. It cannot hurt to take it.
For more information, see the following resources.      

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


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

PDF Le rôle des parents après la dissolution/séparation de la famille (PAS)
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French
The “best interests of the child”

Under the law, any decisions about a child need to be in the “best interests of the child.”

The best interests of the child are 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).

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

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

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

 
Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

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

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

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

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

Video Atelier juridique en français sur les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French
What the Court considers when granting contact

Granting leave to apply for contact

When deciding whether or not to grant leave to apply for a contact order, the Court must consider the best interests of the child (see below), including:

  • the significance of the relationship, if any, between the child and the applicant (in other words: is this an important relationship for this child’s life?), and
  • if making a court order for contact between the child and the applicant is necessary to maintain this relationship.

Granting a Contact Order

When deciding whether or not to grant a contact order, the Court must be convinced that:

  • contact between the child and the applicant is in the best interests of the child (see below);
  • the child’s physical, psychological, or emotional health may be at risk if contact between the child and the applicant is not allowed; and
  • the guardians are not being reasonable in denying contact to the applicant (in other words: there is no good reason for the guardians to not allow contact between the child and the applicant).

The “best interests of the child” test

When looking at the “best interests” of child, the Court can consider many factors, including:

  • the history of care of the child (and whether the applicant took part in caring for the child);
  • the child’s views and preferences (if the Court thinks it’s appropriate);
  • the benefit to the child in having and keeping a relationship with the applicant;
  • the nature and strength of existing relationships;
  • any history of family violence; and
  • any legal proceedings that may affect the child’s safety or well-being.

More information

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

Audio/Web Contact with a Child by a Non-Guardian
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


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

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English

For more specific information for grandparents, see the following resources.

PDF Grandparents' Rights in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. See 12:00-13:00.

Video Episode 102 - Grandparents' Rights (a discussion on divorce and children)
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library. See Chapter 13.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

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

Web First Nations in Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Premières nations de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Sometimes, when the child lives on-reserve, a band council may restrict a non-band member from coming on-reserve to see the child. If such a restriction exists in your case, you will want to ensure that any contact agreement or contact order takes the restriction into account and plans around it (for example: alternate visitation sites and off-reserve transfers of the child or children).

Regardless of whether Aboriginal children live on-reserve or off-reserve, heritage and cultural considerations are very important in determining the best interests of the child. This means that Aboriginal children have the right to keep a connection to their heritage and culture. This can have an effect on the contact that a court might give, especially if the applicant will keep the child in touch with his or her heritage and culture.

Blended family considerations

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

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

If a person who stood in the place of parent wants to apply for contact, he or she will have one less step to go through than other applicants normally would (see the “Who can apply for contact?” section above). A person who stood in the place of parent can also apply for guardianship and possibly custody of the child. For more information about that, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page or the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

LGBTQ considerations

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, the law around contact is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your contact 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 contact using a different name and/or gender than that assigned at birth. You may have to take additional steps to show that you are the same person. You may need to prove that you qualify to make the application.

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

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

Polyamorous relationships

The breakup of a polyamorous relationship where one or more partners has children can be complicated. You may want to continue to be involved in the life of a child of one of your former partners. Or, one of your former partners may want to continue to be involved in the life of your child. This involvement could be in the form of guardianship, parenting time, or contact.

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

However, remember that polyamorous relationships are quite new to the legal landscape and you can expect difficulties. This is a very complex area: consider consulting a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

 

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 partner 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.

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/guardians 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
  • 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.

Lawyers for children

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

Be Aware

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

When can it happen?

A child could have their own lawyer if:

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

How does a court appoint a lawyer for a child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to get legal help for children

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

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

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

More information


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

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


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

You do not have to go to court to solve your contact 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.

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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

If any of these situations apply to you, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Resolving contact issues in court

Choosing a court

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

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

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

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

 

Be Aware

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

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

Understanding the court system

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

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

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

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

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

If you are going to court about contact, it is important to understand the “best interests of the child” test. See the section called “The best interests of the child” above.

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.

Changing a contact order

Sometimes, the parties may want to, or have to, change contact arrangements. For example, this can happen due to schedule changes as children get older.

If necessary, the parties can go to court to change a contact order. Because there is already a contact order in place, there is no need to first apply for leave to change the order. When considering the request, the Court will look at all of the same factors it considered when first making the Order (see the “What the Court considers when granting contact” section above). As always, the most important consideration will be whether the change being requested is in the best interests of the child.

For more information about changing a contact order, see the following resource and the Process tab of this Information Page.

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Varying a Parenting Order.”
Enforcing a contact order

Once a contact order is in place, most parents and/or guardians follow it, because they recognize how important it is to their children. However, some don’t.

Because of this possibility, a contact order can include an “enforcement clause.” An enforcement clause in the court order allows police to force a person to follow the court order. Without an enforcement clause, the police cannot make a person obey a court order.

However, enforcement clauses are not included automatically. If you want one, you must specifically ask for one. Even then, judges do not include an enforcement clause just because it was asked for. The person asking must show that there is a real concern that the order will not be followed (this is called a “breach”), or that breaches have occurred in the past.

For more information on enforcing a contact order, see the following resources.

Audio/Web How to Enforce a Parenting or Contact Order
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Enforcing an Order.”
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. To appeal a court order, you have to appeal to the next highest court:

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

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

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: August 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the legal process of asking for contact with a child under the Alberta Family Law Act.

Tip

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

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

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

For more information about out-of-province issues, including how “ordinarily resident” is defined, see the 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 that can be followed to resolve contact issues. 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

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. In Alberta, for matters under the Family Law Act, there is often a choice of courts: matters under the Family Law Act can be heard by either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Which court you choose can depend on what is being asked for—certain things (such as property issues) can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. On the other hand, certain services are only available in the Provincial Court.

In general, contact applications are made in court actions that have already begun. If the parents/guardians are already in the Provincial Court, you will likely want to consider making your application in the Provincial Court as well. Or, if the parents/guardians have already started addressing their issues in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will likely want to consider making your application in Queen’s Bench as well.

This is because the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. So, if there is already an existing court action related to the child in question, you will be strongly encouraged to make your application for contact in the same level of court as the other matters. Using the same level of court is also usually less complicated, keeps costs down, and makes it easier for all parties involved to schedule hearings.

Tip

You can ask the parent(s)/guardian(s) to tell you which court their matter is in. If they do not tell you, you may be able to search courthouse records to find out. Ask the court clerks in your judicial centre to help you with this.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

Although you may not end up going to court (for example, if you and the parent(s)/guardian(s) reach an out-of-court agreement about contact), you need to look into the court issues anyway, so you know what to do if you do need to go to court.

You will now be asked to make a choice.

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

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

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

Provincial Court

Learn more about going to Provincial Court to apply for contact with a child, including:

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

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

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your contact 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.

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.

Remember

If possible, reaching an agreement with the parent(s)/guardian(s) is often the best solution for contact issues. If you come up with a schedule that everyone has agreed to, and therefore can hopefully follow, it makes things much easier.

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 parties will necessarily follow that agreement. For that reason, once you have an agreement you may wish to have a consent order prepared that sets out the same terms and conditions as your agreement. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

However, you cannot just file your agreement with the court. You must first start a court action. There may be a fee. 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 Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

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

For more information about how to turn an agreement into a consent order, see the “Consent orders” section below.

Once your agreement is turned into an Order, if you need to apply for enforcement later, you can do so.

Government programs to help avoid court (but they may be 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.

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

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

Parenting After Separation (PAS)

To start an action in Provincial Court, the Parenting After Separation (PAS) workshop is not mandatory. However, the Court may order you to take the workshop at any point after you start a court action. Also, you may choose to take the workshop.

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

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

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

Caseflow conferencing 

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

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

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. See the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below for information about help available in your area.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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
Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

RCAS staff also:

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

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

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

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

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

Docket court

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

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

  • Make orders that deal with procedures and rules. For example, if you request an exception to a particular court rule. This means you are asking for permission to not follow that rule.
  • Make “interim orders.” Interim orders are “temporary” orders, meant to provide short-term solutions while the parties work out longer-term plans. Interim orders can be for a set period of time. Or they may have no set ending time.
  • Make “orders” about family law matters (such as issues about contact). 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.”

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other parties

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

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

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

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

For example, it may be possible to:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Applying for contact for the first time

If you cannot resolve your issues out of court, you can make an application to ask a court to grant you contact with the child. This means you will complete the first set of paperwork, and the parent(s)/guardian(s) will have to respond.

Remember

“Contact” is when someone who is not a guardian wants to spend time with the child(ren). A person with a contact order has no decision-making powers or responsibilities with respect to the child. For information about your options if you want decision-making power, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

The information in this section is for a person who wants to apply for contact for the first time. This is called an “initial” contact application.

“Initial” applications are also used in situations where you are asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action that you might have already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about changing an existing contact order, see the “Applying to change a contact order” 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?

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

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

Applications for contact can be heard in either Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live. However, under the Family Law Act, when a person files a claim involving a child, the general rule is that the matter should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives.

For example:

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

PDF Claim - Family Law Act (Form FL-10 / CTS3459)
Government of Alberta
English
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When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there is a Statement for asking for leave to apply for contact, and a separate Statement for requesting the contact itself (see below).

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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 contact issues.

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

  • 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. There is more information about Statements below.

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.

If you need to change a temporary order before the next scheduled hearing, you will need to apply to have the hearing date moved up. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Applying for leave to make an application for contact

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, unless you are a parent, a person standing in the place of a parent, or a grandparent in specific circumstances, before making the application for contact, you must first apply for leave (permission) of the court. As part of this process, you must notify the parent(s)/guardian(s) that you intend to apply for contact.

In general, the application for leave of the court and the application for contact are scheduled for the same hearing. In other words, the Court first hears the application for leave of the court, and, it the Court grants the leave, the application for contact is heard immediately after. The parties can choose to have separate hearings if they want, but then the application fee would have to be paid twice.

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

PDF Statement - Leave of Court (Form FL-44 / CTS3467)
Government of Alberta
English
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You can apply for leave and for contact at the same time. However, if you are not granted leave at the hearing, the request for contact will not go ahead.

Completing the Statement for contact

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

PDF Statement - Contact (Form FL-42 / CTS3461)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

There can be more than one Applicant. For example: two grandparents can apply together.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the Respondent(s). “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify them that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that they get 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.

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

PDF Affidavit of Service - Applicant (CTS3513)
Government of Alberta
English
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Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the Respondent(s) will be serving you with their Response(s). Be aware that there are time limits for responding (see the “Responding to an application for contact” section below). You will need to read the paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

The Respondent(s) may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Responding to an application for contact for the first time

If you have reached the point where your contact issues cannot be resolved out of court, a non-guardian can ask a court to grant him or her contact with a child/children.

The information in this section is for the parent(s)/guardian(s) who responds to a first application for contact.

These “first-time” applications are also called “initial” applications. “Initial” applications are used in situations where the Applicant is asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about changing an existing contact order, see the “Applying to change a contact order” 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 in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? For more information on the differences between Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

For example:

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

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant(s) filed an initial application, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a special document called a Response.

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

PDF Response - Family Law Act (Form FL-11 / CTS3460)
Government of Alberta
English
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Fill in the information at the top of the Response form, then pay careful attention to the choices you are given.
 

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. For example: if they included a “Statement - Leave” and a “Statement - Contact” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement” for both (see below for direct links).

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Reply Statement for leave

To respond to the request for leave, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Leave of Court (Form FL-66 / CTS3468)
Government of Alberta
English
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Completing the Reply Statement for contact

To respond to the request for contact, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Contact (Form FL-64 / CTS3462)
Government of Alberta
English
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If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

If you are asking for something else that was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

PDF Affidavit of Service - Respondent (Form CTS3514)
Government of Alberta
English
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Watch for Update Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Applying to change a contact order (also called a “variation”)

As circumstances change, the parties may need or want to change the terms of a previous order for contact. You can ask for a “variation” to change the terms of your existing contact order.

Be Aware

When applying for a variation, there is no need to apply for leave of the court.

If you are trying to change an interim order, you cannot apply for a variation. Instead you must request that the next scheduled court date be made sooner. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

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 several 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 change (“vary”)? Should the application be in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

Is it a Provincial Court order that you are trying to vary?

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The general rule is that a person must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live. However, under the Family Law Act, when a person files a claim involving a child, the general rule is that the matter should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives. Are you filing this request for a variation in the judicial centre where the child lives?

The child may now live in a different judicial centre than he or she used to. In this case, you can file the variation request in the judicial centre where the child now lives. The court file may still be in the previous judicial centre. Check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre.

For example:

  • You were granted an Order from Red Deer, and the court file is still in Red Deer.
  • You and the child have moved to Calgary.
  • Now you want to apply to vary the Order.
  • You can file your variation request in Calgary, but the documents will be sent to Red Deer and the hearing will start in Red Deer.
  • When you go to Red Deer for the start of the hearing, you can ask that the application and future matters be heard in Calgary. This would mean having the court file transferred to Calgary.

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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.

Completing the Claim and Variation Statement

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

When you file a Claim to vary a previous court order, you must also file a “Variation Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. If you are trying to change what the court order says about contact, use the following form.

PDF Statement - Vary Contact (Form FL-43 / CTS3464)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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 contact issues.

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

  • 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. There is more information about Statements below.

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.

If you need to change a temporary order before the next scheduled hearing, you will need to apply to have the hearing date moved up. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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 and choosing a court date

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

Be Aware

It is possible to ask for a variation without notifying the other party. This is called applying ex parte. For example: a parent may have contact ordered for a certain weekend. The guardian then finds out something very concerning about that parent on the Thursday before. The guardian may be able to make an ex parte application to change the contact order before the contact that is scheduled on the weekend happens. For information about whether you can do that, and how to do it, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

After you have picked a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your claim. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them.

“Serving” the paperwork

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

Remember

If you are making an ex parte application, there is no need to serve the other party.

 

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the Respondent(s) will be serving you with their Response(s). Be aware that there are time limits for responding (see the “Responding to a request to change a contact order” section below). You will need to read the paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

The Respondent(s) may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Responding to a request to change a contact order (also called a “variation”)

If you have been served with paperwork in which the Applicant asks for changes to a contact order, you will need to file documents to respond.

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 in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

Perhaps the Applicant made a mistake? Should 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.

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Is the Order they are trying to vary a Provincial Court order?

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

For example:

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

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant(s) filed a request for variation, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement or a Variation Statement. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.
 

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Variation Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant that you disagree with. For example: if they included a “Statement - Vary Contact” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Vary Contact.” See the heading below called “Completing the Variation Reply Statement for Contact” for more information.

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement or a Variation Statement. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Variation Reply Statement for Contact

If you disagree with a variation that the Applicant is asking for, you must fill out a Variation Reply Statement.

In this case, the Applicant included a “Statement - Vary Contact.” You disagree with what they asked for, so you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Vary Contact.”

You will use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Vary Contact (Form FL-65 / CTS3466)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Completing other Reply Statements

The Applicant may be asking for other topics to be addressed along with changing the contact Order. If this is the case, you will have additional forms to fill out.

  • If the Applicant is also asking to change other parts of an Order that you already have, you will complete a Variation Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Vary Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Vary Child Support.”
  • If the Applicant is asking for something new in addition to the contact variation, you will complete a Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

  • If you are asking for a change to an Order you already have, and the topic was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Variation Statement for each topic. For example, if you want to change the amount of child support being paid. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address changing the child support. You would complete a “Statement - Vary Child Support.”
  • If you are asking for something entirely new, and the topic was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Watch for Update Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Plan to go to the court 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. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process, including what can happen if you do not respond in time.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of a Contact Order

Enforcement orders are a kind of “variation.” In this section you will find only information about the different forms needed to request or reply to an enforcement application.

For information on:

  • things you need to know before you fill in the paperwork (such as: is there domestic violence and is this the right court);
  • completing the Claim form or the Response form; and
  • what to do with the completed paperwork (such as: checking over, filing, serving, and proving service)

see the “Applying to change a contact order” and “Responding to a request to change a contact order” sections above.

Requesting enforcement

Sometimes, although you have a court order giving you contact with a child, the parent(s)/guardian(s) might not be letting you have that time. As a result, you may wish to apply for an “enforcement order,” which will allow the police to enforce your court order. For information on the law related to enforcement orders, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

To apply for an Enforcement Order, you must have a court order that gives you contact with a child (but that order cannot be made under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, formerly called the Child Welfare Act). In addition, the parent(s)/guardian(s) must have refused to give you your time with the child in the last 12 months.

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

The instructions will provide you with detailed information about the various things that you can ask for. These can include: time with the child to make up for the time you missed (this is called “compensatory time”), some kind of security from the other party to help make sure that it does not happen again; and reimbursement of expenses that resulted from not being able to spend time with the child.

Requesting reimbursement for failure to take contact time

Sometimes, the opposite can also occur. A non-guardian may have a court order allowing him or her to spend time with the child and then he or she does not take that time. At times, this can result in a financial losses to the parent(s)/guardian(s).

For example:

  • Mary and the children live in Edmonton.
  • Paul, an uncle, lives in Calgary.
  • Paul has contact on a Saturday.
  • The parties arrange to have the contact occur in Red Deer.
  • Mary drives the children to Red Deer, but Paul does not show up.
  • Mary has now spent money on gas for contact that did not occur.
  • Mary can ask the court to make Paul pay that money back.

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

Varying an enforcement order

Once an Enforcement Order is in place, there may come a time that it needs to be changed. For example, you might need more compensatory time, or there may be a need for more security from the other party/parties. To request a change in an enforcement order, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

Replying to claims relating to an enforcement order

For all of the above three options regarding enforcement orders, there are also “replies” which the parent(s)/guardian(s) can use to respond. Please note that these links only open in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view them in Chrome and Firefox. For instructions on how to complete these forms, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.



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. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

However, you cannot just file this consent order with the court. You must first start a court action. There may be a fee. 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 Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

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

In other words, if you have not already done so, you will have to file a Claim and serve the documents. You must also go to court to have a judge grant the order. You will do that by attending your docket court date in the Provincial Court. Docket court is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people (yours is one case on the list).

On the day your matter is scheduled to be heard, you should arrive well before the scheduled start time. Tell the Clerk of the Court your name and what your matter is. The Clerk will then decide the order in which the matters will be heard. Often, matters where there are lawyers involved will be heard toward the beginning of the list, and matters involving self-represented litigants are heard toward the end of the list. If the judge agrees to the Consent Order, the Provincial Court Clerks prepare the Order and file it, then give it or send it to the parties.

In some judicial centres, before you get a consent order you must first have a formal intake appointment with Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). In other judicial centres, you may not need a formal appointment, but RCAS staff can help you put the court application together. Contact RCAS for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Going to and being in docket court

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for docket court

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

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

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

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

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

Family Court Counsellors

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

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

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

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

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

Other resources to help

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

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

After the docket court hearing is over

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

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

Asking for “costs” in docket court

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

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”);
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount; 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 Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to trial

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

Appealing a court order

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

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error on the facts. Also, 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 Queen's Bench
Government of Alberta
English

Queen's Bench

Learn more about going to the Court of Queen’s Bench to apply for contact with a child, including:

  • 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

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

The Parenting After Separation (PAS) Course

To make an application for contact in the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Parenting After Separation (PAS) course is mandatory. This means you must take the course.

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

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

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

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

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.

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 have a consent order prepared that sets out the same terms and conditions as your agreement. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

However, if you do not already have a Queen’s Bench file, you will need to open one in order to file your consent order. There will be a filing fee.

For more information about how to turn an agreement into a consent order, see the “Consent orders” section below.

Once your agreement is turned into an Order, if you need to apply for enforcement later, you can do so.

Government programs to help avoid court (but they may be 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.

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

Caseflow conferencing

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

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

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. 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

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

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

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.

Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

In some locations, RCAS staff also:

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

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

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

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

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

Chambers

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

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

  • Make orders that deal with procedures and rules. For example, if you request an exception to a particular court rule. This means you are asking for permission to not follow that rule.
  • Make “interim orders.” Interim orders are “temporary” orders, meant to provide short-term solutions while the parties work out longer-term plans. Interim orders can be for a set period of time. Or they may have no set ending time.
  • Make “orders” about family law matters (such as issues about contact). 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.”

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

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other parties

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 the children’s safety) may be at risk if you give the other party notice ahead of time.
Be Aware

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Applying for contact for the first time

If you cannot resolve your issues out of court, you can make an application to ask a court to grant you contact with the child. This means you will complete the first set of paperwork, and the parent(s)/guardian(s) will have to respond.

Remember

“Contact” is when someone who is not a guardian wants to spend time with the children. A person with a contact order has no decision-making powers or responsibilities with respect to the child. For information about your options if you want decision-making power, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

The information in this section is for a person who wants to apply for contact for the first time. This is called an “initial” contact application.

“Initial” applications are also used in situations where you are asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action that you might have already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about changing an existing contact order, see the “Applying to change a contact order” 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?

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

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

Applications for contact can be heard in either Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the “Alberta's two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Is this the right judicial centre?

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

If this is your first application related to the breakdown in the relationship, you will file it in the judicial centre where you live.

Perhaps this is your first application on this topic, but there has already been a different application related to the relationship breakdown. If that is the case, there is already a court file in the judicial centre where that other application was made. The rule in Queen’s Bench is that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

For example:

  • You used to live in Fort McMurray.
  • Some previous court documents about the relationship breakdown were filed in Fort McMurray.
  • As a result, there is already a court file in Fort McMurray related to the breakdown of this relationship.
  • Now you live in Lethbridge.
  • You will likely still have to make this new application in Fort McMurray.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

It may be possible to move the file. You would need to make a court application in the judicial centre where the court file is located. 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 court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there is a Statement for asking for leave to apply for contact, and a separate Statement for requesting the contact itself (see below).

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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 contact issues.

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

  • 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. There is more information about Statements below.

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.  

If you need to change a temporary order before the next scheduled hearing, you will need to apply to have the hearing date moved up. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Applying for leave to make an application for contact

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, unless you are a parent, a person standing in the place of a parent, or a grandparent in specific circumstances, before making the application for contact, you must first apply for leave (permission) of the court. As part of this process, you must notify the parent(s)/guardian(s) that you intend to apply for contact.

In general, the application for leave of the court and the application for contact are scheduled for the same hearing. In other words, the Court first hears the application for leave of the court, and, it the Court grants the leave, the application for contact is heard immediately after. The parties can choose to have separate hearings if they want, but then the application fee would have to be paid twice.

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

PDF Statement - Leave of Court (Form FL-44 / CTS3467)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

You can apply for leave and for contact at the same time. However, if you are not granted leave at the hearing, the request for contact will not go ahead.

Completing the Statement for contact

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

PDF Statement - Contact (Form FL-42 / CTS3461)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

There can be more than one Applicant. For example: two grandparents can apply together.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Statements 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 (and 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.

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

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 and choosing a court date

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

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

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

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

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

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

The court clerk will help you figure out what time you are to appear.

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.” There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, statements, and filing 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 Respondent(s). “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify them that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that they get 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.

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the Respondent(s) will be serving you with their Response(s). Be aware that there are time limits for responding (see the “Responding to an application for contact” section below). You will need to read the paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

The Respondent(s) may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Responding to an application for contact for the first time

If you have reached the point where your contact issues cannot be resolved out of court, a non-guardian can ask a court to grant him or her contact with a child/children.

The information in this section is for the parent(s)/guardian(s) who responds to a first application for contact.

These “first-time” applications are also called “initial” applications. “Initial” applications are used in situations where the Applicant is asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about changing an existing contact order, see the “Applying to change a contact order” 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 in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? For more information on the differences between Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

Be Aware

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant(s) filed an initial application, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a special document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. For example: if they included a “Statement - Leave” and a “Statement - Contact” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement” for both (see below for direct links).

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement. There must be a Statement form for each of the topics you checked off. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Reply Statement for leave

To respond to the request for leave, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Leave of Court (Form FL-66 / CTS3468)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Completing the Reply Statement for contact

To respond to the request for contact, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Contact (Form FL-64 / CTS3462)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Reply Statements 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 (and 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.

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

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

If you are asking for something else that was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Watch for Update Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Applying to change a contact order (also called a “variation”)

As circumstances change, the parties may need or want to change the terms of a previous order for contact. You can ask for a “variation” to change the terms of your existing contact order.

Be Aware

When applying for a variation, there is no need to apply for leave of the court.

If you are trying to change an interim order, you cannot apply for a variation. Instead you must request that the next scheduled court date be made sooner. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

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 several 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 change (“vary”)? Should the application be in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

Is it a Court of Queen’s Bench Order that you are trying to vary?

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). If you are trying to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench, 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. This application must be made 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.

Completing the Claim and Variation Statement

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

Be Aware

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

When you file a Claim to vary a previous court order, you must also file a “Variation Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. If you are trying to change what the court order says about contact, you will need to complete the following form.

PDF Statement - Vary Contact (Form FL-43 / CTS3464)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Statements 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 (and 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.

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

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

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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 contact issues.

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

  • 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. There is more information about Statements below.

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.

If you need to change a temporary order before the next scheduled hearing, you will need to apply to have the hearing date moved up. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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 and choosing a court date

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

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

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

Be Aware

It is possible to ask for a variation without notifying the other party. This is called applying ex parte. For example: a parent may have contact ordered for a certain weekend. The guardian then finds out something very concerning about that parent on the Thursday before. The guardian may be able to make an ex parte application to change the contact order before the contact that is scheduled on the weekend happens. For information about whether you can do that, and how to do it, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the Respondent(s). “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify them that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that they get 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.

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, the Respondent(s) will be serving you with their Response(s). Be aware that there are time limits for responding (see the “Responding to a request to change a contact order” section below). You will need to read the paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

The Respondent(s) may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Responding to a request to change a contact order (also called a “variation”)

If you have been served with paperwork in which the Applicant asks for changes to a contact order, you will need to file documents to respond.

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 in the right court?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

Perhaps the Applicant made a mistake? Should 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.

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Is it a Queen’s Bench order that is being varied?

Did the Applicant choose the right 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 your 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 now in Lethbridge.
  • You must respond in Fort McMurray. Or, you may want to try to transfer the file. 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 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

Time limits

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

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

Be Aware

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant(s) filed a request for variation, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement or a Variation Statement. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.
 

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Variation Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant that you disagree with. For example: if they included a “Statement - Vary Contact” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Vary Contact.” See the heading below called “Completing the Variation Reply Statement for Contact” for more information.

Then, you will check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is only for topics not already mentioned by the Applicant. In other words, do not check off boxes for topics that the Applicant has already checked off on their Claim. For each of the boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Statement or a Variation Statement. See the heading below called “If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements” for more information.

Completing the Variation Reply Statement for Contact

If you disagree with a variation that the Applicant is asking for, you must fill out a Variation Reply Statement.

In this case, the Applicant included a “Statement - Vary Contact.” You disagree with what they asked for, so you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Vary Contact.”

You will use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Vary Contact (Form FL-65 / CTS3466)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Completing other Reply Statements

The Applicant may be asking for other topics to be addressed along with changing the contact Order. If this is the case, you will have additional forms to fill out.

  • If the Applicant is also asking to change other parts of an Order that you already have, you will complete a Variation Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Vary Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Vary Child Support.”
  • If the Applicant is asking for something new in addition to the contact variation, you will complete a Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

  • If you are asking for a change to an Order you already have, and the topic was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Variation Statement for each topic. For example, if you want to change the amount of child support being paid. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address changing the child support. You would complete a “Statement - Vary Child Support.”
  • If you are asking for something entirely new, and the topic was not mentioned by the Applicant, you will complete a Statement for each topic. For example, you are asking for child support for the first time. The Applicant’s paperwork did not address child support at all. You would complete a “Statement - Child Support.”

For information and forms about all of these other topics, see the Information Page about that topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Watch for Update Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the court 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. See the following resource for a brief summary of the paper exchange process, including what can happen if you do not respond in time.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of a Contact Order

Enforcement orders are a kind of “variation.” In this section you will find only information about the different forms needed to request or reply to an enforcement application.

For information on:

  • things you need to know before you fill in the paperwork (such as: is there domestic violence, and is this the right court);
  • completing the Claim form or the Response form; and
  • what to do with the completed paperwork (such as: checking over, filing, serving, and proving service)

see the “Applying to change a contact order” and “Responding to a request to change a contact order” sections above.

Requesting enforcement

Sometimes, although you have a court order giving you contact with a child, the parent(s)/guardian(s) might not be letting you have that time. As a result you may wish to apply for an “enforcement order,” which will allow the police to enforce your court order. For information on the law related to enforcement orders, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

To apply for an Enforcement Order, you must have a court order that gives you contact with a child (but that order cannot be made under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, formerly called the Child Welfare Act). In addition, the parent(s)/guardian(s) must have refused to give you your time with the child in the last 12 months.

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

The instructions will provide you with detailed information about the various things that you can ask for. These can include: time with the child to make up for the time you missed (this is called “compensatory time”), some kind of security from the other party to help make sure that it does not happen again; and reimbursement of expenses that resulted from not being able to spend time with the child.

Requesting reimbursement for failure to take contact time

Sometimes, the opposite can also occur. A non-guardian may have a court order allowing him or her to spend time with the child and then he or she does not take that time. At times, this can result in a financial losses to the parent(s)/guardian(s).

For example: Mary and the children live in Edmonton, and Paul, an uncle, lives in Calgary. Paul has contact on a Saturday. The parties arrange to have the contact occur in Red Deer. Mary drives the children to Red Deer, but Paul does not show up. Mary has now spent money on gas for contact that did not occur. Mary can ask the court to make Paul pay that money back.

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

Varying an enforcement order

Once an Enforcement Order is in place, there may come a time that it needs to be changed. For example, you might need more compensatory time, or there may be a need for more security from the other party/parties. To request a change in an enforcement order, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

Replying to claims relating to an enforcement order

For all of the above three options regarding enforcement orders, there are also “replies” which the parent(s)/guardian(s) can use to respond. Please note that these links only open in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view them in Chrome and Firefox. For instructions on how to complete these forms, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.



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. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

If you have already started a court action (in other words, if you have already filed a Claim and any Statements for your matters), you may have to take your draft consent order to chambers to have a judge grant the order. This does not have to be done on any particular day, and you do not have to wait until your scheduled court date if you had one.

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 a consent order can ask for one.

Be Aware

In some judicial centres, you may just be able to hand the draft consent order to the court clerk, who will present it to the judge in his or her office. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you have not yet started a court action, you can start the court action with the Consent Order. To do so, you must first get your draft Consent Order signed by a judge. The process for doing that depends on your judicial centre.

For example:

  • You may have to take the draft Consent Order to morning chambers (see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below for more information about how to do that). Once you have done that, you take the signed Consent Order to the filing counter and the clerks will open a court file with the Order; or
  • You may be able to give the draft Consent Order to the court clerks directly, who will get it to a judge for review and let you know whether the judge approved it. Once the Consent Order is signed, the clerks will open a court file with the signed Order.

Either way, there will be a filing fee. For more information about which process you need to follow in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the consent order, remember to make sure that it is filed with the Court and served on the other parties.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

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

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people (yours is 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. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

Family Court Counsellors

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

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

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

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

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

Other resources to help

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

If all the parties 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 can be found 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 parties—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other parties, 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 Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

Be Aware

Judges can grant costs if the parties do not follow the rules about hearings (for example: rules about the paperwork restrictions and the deadlines). For more information about these rules, see the following resource.

Lawyers for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to trial

It is possible for issues about contact to go 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
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