Custody & Access under the Divorce Act (married parents)

Law

Divorcing parents can use Canada’s Divorce Act to deal with matters such as:

  • Custody of a child
  • Parenting time arrangements (also called “access”)
  • Where the children will live (residency)
  • Making and changing a parenting plan
  • Travelling and moving with the children
  • The rights and responsibilities of step-parents and non-biological parents
  • Solving custody and access matters out of court
  • Going to court to deal with child and access issues

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

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

Be Aware

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

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

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

This Information Page has information about deciding custody and access for parents who:

  • were in a married relationship; AND
  • are planning on divorcing and resolving their parenting and support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act.

However, married parents do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. For parenting and support issues, married parents can choose which law they use when they separate. They can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act:

  • If you want to deal with custody and access using the federal Divorce Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • You may have already started the actual “divorce” process (rather than just separating without getting a divorce). If so, you will have to use the Divorce Act to deal with custody and access.
  • If you want to deal with the custody and access using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the wrong Information Page. You will need this Information Page instead: Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act..

The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

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

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

If you are not a biological or adoptive parent of the children, but you still wish to be involved in the lives of the children, you have several options.

  • If you “stood in the place of a parent” you can apply for custody and access under the Divorce Act. For more information, see the “Determining custody” section below.
  • Even if you did not “stand in the place of a parent,” you may be able to apply for custody of the children under the Divorce Act. However, this is rarely done, as it is easier to use the Family Law Act to apply for guardianship instead. Although guardianship and custody are different, they are similar. See the “What the words mean” section below. For information about how to apply for guardianship under the Family Law Act, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.
  • If you do not want custody or guardianship of the children, you may still wish to spend time with the children. To do so, you may be able to apply for “access” under the Divorce Act. However, this is rarely done, as it is easier to use the Family Law Act to apply for contact instead. For information on applying for contact, see the Contact for Non-Guardians under the Family Law Act Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is about people who live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

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

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

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

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

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 are many different words that 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

The words used to describe this area of law can be quite confusing because many different words are used in different laws across Canada and internationally.

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).

custody

The term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually parents) have about a child. It refers to the ability to make major decisions about the child.

For more information, see the section below called “What are custody, access, and residency?”

Be Aware

In some of the resources you will see on this Information Page, the term “guardianship” will be used. You may even see it used interchangeably with “custody.” These terms are similar: they both describe decision-making powers. But they are not the same thing. As a married parent, resolving your child-related issues by using the Divorce Act, “custody” is the correct word. That is the word you will be using in your paperwork.

access

The term used in the Divorce Act to describe time spent with a child. Access only gives a person the right to spend time with the child, and to ask for and receive information about the child. Access does not give a person the right to to make any decisions about the child. Under the Divorce Act, decision-making is done by people with “custody”—see above.

The word “access” is used to refer to the time that the child spends with a parent who does not have “primary residency” (see the definition of “residency” below). For example: a child spends most of their time with the mother, and only every second weekend with the father. The time the father spends with the child is called “access.”

For more information, see the section below called “What are custody, access, and residency?”

Be Aware

“Parenting time” is the term used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the time spent with either parent, no matter who the child lives with. “Parenting time” is not a term used in the Divorce Act. In many of the resources listed below, you will see the term “parenting time” used. The terms “access,” “parenting time,” and “residency” are not the same thing, but you may sometimes see them used as if they are. This can get confusing.

residency

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

  • “Shared” residency means that a child lives (or spends their time) equally with more than one adult who has guardianship.
  • “Primary” residency means that a child lives (or spends their time) mostly with one adult who has guardianship.
  • “Split” residency refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one guardian (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other guardian (for example: the father).

For more information, see the section below called “What are custody, access, and residency?”

party

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

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

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

“best interests of the child”

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

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.

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

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. Here, two different courts deal with family law matters: the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. There is some overlap in the issues each court will deal with. Sometimes you might have the option to choose which court you would prefer to use for your situation.

Tip

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

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

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

If you would like to deal with your parenting issues under the Alberta Family Law Act, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Be aware that the language used on that Information Page is written for non-married partners, but the concepts will apply to you in the same way.

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

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 4-6.
If there has been family violence

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

Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings. If there was violence against the child, it could even dictate how you must proceed. See the rest of this section for more information.

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

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

Parents’ rights and children’s rights

As a starting point, under law:

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

Sometimes even violence against the children does not affect the basics of family law as much as you might expect. For example, some people believe that if one parent has been abusive to a child, that parent would not be allowed to have custody of the child, or get to see the child. That is not necessarily true. The Alberta court system always places a high value on contact with both parents. It is very rare that a parent will not be granted parenting time (even if the parent is in jail). However, there are options available to help keep both you and the children safe, such as safe transfer and supervised access. These are explained in the section below called “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan.”

Parental abduction

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

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

Web Abduction Information
Child Abduction Legal Information
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 213- Child Abduction with Crystal Dunahee
AdviceScene
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Child abuse and involving Child Protective Services

Child abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

How to use this website

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

Family Violence

 

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

More information

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


Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is custody and access?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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



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

PDF Making Appropriate Parenting Arrangements in Family Violence Cases: Applying the Literature to Identify Promising Practices
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more hereStart on p. 31.

At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. Maybe your spouse has just told you that he or she is leaving. Maybe it is you who is ready to leave. If there is a child in the relationship, one of your first thoughts will likely be: “What do we do about the child?” This can be scary and overwhelming. That is natural.

For detailed information on things to consider when family breakdown has just occurred, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page and the following resource.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the children in mind

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

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

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

Web Parent Guide
Justice Education Society
English

Web Guide de Parents
Justice Education Society
French




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

Web Mindful Co-Parenting: Helping Children Cope with Divorce
Custody X Change
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Web Can I Keep My Ex’s New Partner Away from My Kids?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you an overview of the resources, 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 Negotiating with your ex: Divorce is only the beginning
Brad McRae
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. Get the full book from a library: The Alberta Library

Both parents have rights

In most cases, unless ordered otherwise by a court, both parents have custody of a child and the child generally has the right to spend time with each of the parents.. This means that neither parent is presumed to have a legal right to parenting time over the other parent. This is true even if one parent did most of the child care. And unless ordered otherwise by a court, both parents have a say in decisions that affect the child. As a result, you can no longer do certain things without the consent of the other parent (such as crossing the Canadian border).

You can agree

If possible, you can come to a custody agreement with your spouse. Going to court is not a requirement. You can even agree on custody arrangements before you actually leave. For more information about how to do that, see the sections below called “Creating a parenting plan” and “Out of court resolution options.”

Temporary arrangements are possible

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

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

For more information about going to court to get an interim custody order, see:

  • the “Resolving custody and access in court” section below; and
  • the “Before you go to court: Get to know the court system” section of the Process tab of this Information Page.

You can’t just move away and take the kids

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

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

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

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

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

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

For more information about moving while dealing with family law issues, see the “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” section below.

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

Some parents simply move out (or away) and leave the child with the other parent without making any arrangements to see the child. Leaving the child like this does not mean that the child cannot live with you in the future. But your spouse may later argue, and it could suggest to a court, that you felt that leaving the child with your spouse was in the best interests of the child. This could make it harder for you in the future to get an order for your child to live primarily with you. See the following resource for more information.

Get any important documents you need

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

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

For more information, see the following resource.

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

Slow down if you can

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

However, if safety is an issue for either you or the children, see the section above called “If there has been family violence.”

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

PDF Tips for Separated Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Learn

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

More detailed information is in the following resource, which 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 6.
If there was a domestic contract (pre-nuptial or marriage agreement)

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between 2 people who are planning on getting married in the near future. In this agreement, the parties can address many issues. For example, it can include roles and responsibilities while they live together, and what will happen if they later separate. If the parties are already married when they enter into the contract, then it is called a marriage agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

What are custody, access, and residency?

What is custody?

“Custody” is the word used to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually parents) have about a child. It refers to the ability to make major decisions about the child.

People often misunderstand what “custody” truly is. They may believe that if a parent has “custody” of the child, the child lives with them on a daily basis. This is incorrect. Both parents may have “custody” of a child, with only one parent having day-to-day care. Custody strictly means the power to make major decisions affecting the child. Where the child lives is “residency” (see below).

There are several ways to describe how custody can be shared (or not shared). The most common are as follows.

“Sole” custody. This is when only one person has been given all of the decision-making power about a child.

“Joint” custody. This is when more than one person shares all the decision-making powers about a child. For example, a mother and father may each have the power to make any and all decisions.

“Split” custody. This can refer to 2 different situations:

  • There are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one person who has custody (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other person who has custody (for example: the father).
  • One person has decision-making power about one thing (for example: medical issues) and another person has decision-making power about another thing (for example: religious matters). However, this arrangement is not common.

Joint custody is the most common kind of custody when a case involves 2 parents.

Be Aware

Some resources we link to might use the words “primary” and “shared” to describe “custody.” That can be misleading. Remember that “custody” refers to decision-making powers. Instead, the words “primary” and “shared” should only be used when describing “residency” (see below).

What is residency?

Residency refers to where the child lives. In parenting arrangements, there are different ways to describe “residency.” The most common are as follows.

“Shared” residency. This means that a child lives (or spends their time) equally with more than one adult who has custody. For example: if a mother and a father have shared residency, the child will spend between 40-60% of his of her time with each of them. This can also be called a “shared parenting regime.”

“Primary” residency. This means that a child lives (or spends their time) mostly with one adult who has custody. For example: if a child lives mostly with the father, but spends 2 days every week with the mother, then the father has primary residency. In these cases, the parent who has the children for most of the time is sometimes called the residential parent. The parent who has the children only occasionally may be called the non-residential parent or the access parent.

“Split” residency. This refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one adult who has custody (for example: the mother), and the other children live mostly with the other adult who has custody (for example: the father).

How is custody different from guardianship?

In some of the resources you will see on this Information Page, the term “guardianship” will be used. You may even see it used interchangeably with “custody.” These terms are similar: they both describe decision-making powers. But they are not the same thing. For more information, see the definition of “guardian” in the “What the words mean” section above.

In general, all parents, whether they are married or not, have guardianship of their children. This means they both make decisions about the children. When married parents live happily together with their children, they are both guardians of the children. Neither is considered to have, or not have, “custody.” The issue of “custody” only comes up upon the breakdown of the marriage, when married parents are addressing their parenting issues using the Divorce Act. Custody can be arranged by either applying in court or making an agreement.

For married parents using the Divorce Act, “custody” is the correct word. That is the word you will be using in your paperwork.

What is access?

“Access” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe time spent with a child. Access only gives a person the ability to:

  • spend time with the child; and
  • ask for and receive information about the child.

Access does not give a person the right to make major decisions about the child. Under the Divorce Act, decision-making is done by people with “custody” (see above).

The word “access” is used to refer to the time that the child spends with a person who does not have “primary residency” (see above). For example: a child spends most of his or her time with the mother, and only every second weekend with the father. The time the father spends with the child is called “access.”

Be Aware

Access is granted for the benefit of the child, not the parent. It is not the “right” of the parent to have time with the child. Rather, it is the “right” of the child to have a relationship with the parent and time with the parent.

There are several ways to describe access. For example:

  • “Specified” access is described in detail in the court order (including exact days, dates, times, and maybe even places).
  • “Generous,” “liberal,” or “reasonable” access is left more open and flexible. The parents are free to work out the details as required.
  • “Supervised” access is where the adult is not left alone with the child. The adult’s time with the child must occur with another adult. This person is usually someone both parties agree to.
  • “Conditional” access is when the person must complete certain conditions before having access with the child. For example, if one parent must provide a clean drug test before alternate weekends can start.
Be Aware

Non-parents who do not have custody but still want to spend time with the child may also be granted “access” under the Divorce Act. However, it is not easy to get a court order for this kind of access. As a result, non-parents who want to spend time with the children usually apply for “contact” under Alberta’s Family Law Act instead. For more information, see the Contact for Non-Guardians under the Family Law Act Information Page.

How is “access” different from “parenting time”?

“Parenting time” is the term used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the time spent with either parent, no matter who the child lives with. “Parenting time” is not a term used in the Divorce Act. However, lawyers, courts, and legal information materials have recently started to use the word “parenting” to describe situations under the Divorce Act. This is especially true in cases where the time is split more equally between the parents. When this is the case, neither parent can really be considered to have “access” as described above.

Be Aware

In many of the resources linked below, you will see the term “parenting time” used. The terms “access,” “parenting time,” and “residency” are not the same things, but you may sometimes see them used as if they are. This can get confusing.

Determining custody: The legal starting points

When determining who will have custody of child, there are certain legal starting points that are important to know about.

Biological and adoptive parents

When married parents (biological or adoptive) live happily together with their children, they are both guardians of the children. Neither is considered to have, or not have, “custody.” The term only comes up upon the breakdown of the marriage, when married parents are addressing their parenting issues using the Divorce Act. When that happens, both parents are generally considered to have “custody.”

This can change if the parents agree. Or, if the parents can't agree on how the decision-making powers will be shared between them, they can ask a court to make the decision for them when they request a Custody Order. For a court to give one parent “sole custody” of a child there has to be a very good reason.

Adoptive parents

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

Parentage issues

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

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

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

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

Audio/Web Paternity Rights
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Non-spouses and custody

Under the Divorce Act, it is possible for a person who is not one of the spouses to apply to get custody of the children. To do so, however, that person would have one extra step to complete. He or she must first ask permission from the court to even apply. This is called “asking for leave of the court.” This extra step usually means the whole process of deciding issues will take longer and may cost more (both financially and emotionally).

It is very rare for a person who was not a spouse of the marriage to ask for custody using the Divorce Act. There are 2 main reasons for this.

  1. The extra step of “asking for leave of the court,” and the extra time that takes.
  2. It is much easier for a non-spouse to instead apply for guardianship using Alberta’s Family Law Act. Although guardianship and custody are different things, they are similar: see the “What the words mean” section above.

The ability to apply for 2 similar things under 2 different laws might seem odd. Basically, it is a result of the structure of the Canadian legal system and the changing concept of “family” over time. The Divorce Act is a decades-old federal law that applies to married spouses and their children. The focus is primarily on the couple. On the other hand, Alberta’s Family Law Act is a much newer law. It recognizes a more modern concept of “family”—including non-married couples and other family members who had no legal protection under the Divorce Act. The Family Law Act applies to all families, including those where the couple is married. The result is 2 different laws that do similar things.

Because it is so rare for non-spouses to apply for custody under the Divorce Act, there is no process information about this on this Information Page. Instead, see

Determining access: The legal starting points

Access for parents

The word “access” is used to refer to the time that the child spends with a parent who does not have “primary residency.” For example: a child spends most of his or her time with the mother, and only every second weekend with the father. The time the father spends with the child is called “access.” For more information about what these terms mean, see the “What are custody, access, and residency?” section above.

The exact amount of time can vary. As described above, unless ordered otherwise by a court, a child has a right to some time with each parent. However, that time does not necessarily have to be divided equally between the parents. As always, the determining factor is the “best interests of the child.” For information about this, see the section below called “The best interests of the child.”

Access for non-parents

It is also possible for a person who is not a parent, nor standing in the place of a parent, to have access, so that he or she can regularly spend time with the child. This access can be agreed upon by the adults who have custody.

However, sometimes the people who have custody do not agree. If that happens, the person who wants to spend time with the child may wish to ask a court to make an order allowing them to spend time with the child. Under the Divorce Act, a person can do this by applying for “access.” However, if you do so, you will have one extra step to complete. You must first ask permission from the court to even apply. This is called “asking for leave of the court.” This extra step usually means the whole process of deciding issues will take longer and may cost more (both financially and emotionally).

It is very rare for a person who was not a spouse of the marriage to ask for access using the Divorce Act. There are 2 main reasons for this.

  1. The extra step of “asking for leave of the court,” and the extra time that takes.
  2. It is much easier for a non-spouse to instead apply for “parenting time” or “contact” using Alberta’s Family Law Act.

The ability to apply for 2 similar things under 2 different laws might seem odd. Basically, it is a result of the structure of the Canadian legal system and the changing concept of “family” over time. The Divorce Act is a decades-old federal law that applies to married spouses and their children. The focus is primarily on the couple. On the other hand, Alberta’s Family Law Act is a much newer law. It recognizes a more modern concept of “family”—including non-married couples and other family members who had no legal protection under the Divorce Act. The Family Law Act applies to all families, including those where the couple is married. The result is 2 different laws that do similar things.

Because it is so rare for non-spouses to apply for access under the Divorce Act, there is no process information about this on this Information Page. Instead, see:

Custody, access, and “parenting time” arrangements

There are many ways to divide the decision-making powers of the parents and the time that the children spend with the parents.

You will find detailed information and examples of various custody and access arrangements in the following resources. They also provide information about the rights and responsibilities of separating parents and the concept of the best interests of the child.

Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Custody and Access.”

Web Custody and Access: Children of Married Parents Seeking a Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “Custody.”

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 1:40.


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

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

Video Divorce 101 in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
Start at 6:00.

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

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start on p. 42.

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

French resources


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

For custody and access information specific to situations of domestic violence, see the following resources.


Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English
The Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

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

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

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

Family Violence

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

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

For more information, see the following resources.

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 27:10.


PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 99.

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

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


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
Creating a parenting plan (including travel concerns and tax issues)

A parenting plan is an agreement between parents on how they will raise their children after they have separated. In general, a parenting plan describes how parents will:

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

If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan and the matter goes to court, the judge will make decisions about custody and access by thinking about what is in the child’s best interests. This is known as the “best interests of the child” test. Judges usually find that it is in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents.

See the following resources for general information about parenting plans. 

Tip

There is more information about how to make a parenting plan, including worksheets and checklists, on the Process tab of this Information Page.

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 15:10.

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

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

Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

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 Negotiating with your ex: Divorce is only the beginning
Brad McRae
English
Get the full book from a library: The Alberta Library.

Travel

When creating a parenting plan, travel is an issue that is often overlooked. While the parents are together, travel is generally not an issue. However, you cannot cross borders without written consent from the other parent. Even when not crossing borders, it is always best to let the other parent know about travel plans, so that no one is charged with abduction. For more information on “parental abduction,” see the “At the start: Breakup has just occurred” section above.

If you are going to cross a border, you should be aware of the following:

  • In order to get a passport, each legal guardian must sign the passport application.
  • If the child has more than one guardian (in other words, more than one person with custody), and is crossing a border with only one guardian, a notarized Letter of Consent from the absent guardian(s) must accompany the child.
  • If you are the sole guardian, you do not require a letter from the other parent (as he or she is not a guardian). In general, however, you must travel with a notarized copy of the court order that appointed you sole guardian.

You cannot get a single Letter of Consent to Travel to allow all future travel. You must have a new Letter of Consent every time you travel. The letter must include very detailed and specific information.

If the other parent will not consent to the travel, you can go to court to ask a judge for a court order allowing the travel. More information about how to do this is on the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web How to apply for a child’s passport
Government of Canada
English


PDF Travelling with Children
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Travelling with Children FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 21.

Web Legal requirements when travelling abroad with a minor
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Travel Outside Canada: Will My Child Custody Arrangement Be Recognized?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Family Law Travel Court Orders
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Child abduction and custody issues
Government of Canada
English

Web Enlèvements d'enfants et problèmes de garde
Government of Canada
French

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

Web Passports for Children – Some Ins and Outs
Waterstone Law Group LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

A sample letter of consent is in the following resource.


Tax issues

Many parents forget to include tax issues in the parenting plan discussion. Then they end up in an argument later about who gets to claim what money. Be sure to consider these issues. Also, remember that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may have rules about what can and cannot be done. You may want to contact the CRA to ensure your plan works. 

Many people are surprised by how much a change in the parents’ relationship status affects their family benefits. For more information, see the following resource.

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

Be Aware

It is important to fully understand government benefits before applying for them. If an error is later found, the CRA will demand all of the money back, with interest.

Parents are equally surprised at how parenting arrangements can affect taxes. It can be especially complicated if the parents have shared parenting time (in other words, the child spends close to 50% of the time with each parent).

To plan for child-related tax issues, you first need to understand:

  • the different kinds of tax breaks available to parents; and
  • the rules about what can and cannot be done when filing taxes.

This is a complicated topic, but understanding it and planning for it can save a lot of money.

Tax benefits

As a parent, a person can receive benefits from the government. This is a payment by the government to the parent. An example is the Canada Child Benefit, a monthly tax-free payment for families with children under the age of 18.

However, these benefits can be affected by parenting plans. For example: in cases of shared parenting, where the child lives with each parent about the same amount of time during the year, it may be possible for each parent to apply for a portion of the benefits and each receive a portion of the payment.

For more information about the various tax benefits that can be affected by separation and parenting plans, see the following resources.



Web Child and family benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web Prestations pour enfants et familles
Government of Canada
French

Interactive Child and family benefits calculator
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Calculateur de prestations pour enfants et familles
Government of Canada
French

Web Splitting The Canada Child Benefit In Shared Guardianship Cases
Zukerman Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What is the Canada Child Benefit (CCB)?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English


Web Putting the Canada Child Benefit to the test
MoneySense
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
  

Tax credits

Parents of children are also eligible for certain tax credits. A credit is an expense that is subtracted from tax owed. It does not lower your income.

An example of a child-related tax credit, and the one that is usually of the greatest value, is the amount you can claim for a child as your “eligible dependant.” In general, the parent who receives child support is the person who can claim the child as an eligible dependant. A parent who pays child support cannot claim the child as an eligible dependant. See the following resource for more information.

Web Line 305 - Amount for an eligible dependant
Government of Canada
English

In cases of shared parenting, this can present a problem, as the child is with each parent for almost the same amount of time in a year. In many such cases, each parent technically “pays” support to the other, but really, money only changes hands once.

For example:

  • Peter and Mary are separated but have a child together.
  • Each has 50% parenting time (in other words, shared residency).
  • As a result, Peter pays Mary $300 per month and Mary pays Peter $100 per month.
  • Rather than each make a payment to each other, they simply arrange for Peter to pay $200 per month ($300 - $100 = $200).
  • Technically, each parent still “pays” child support, but really, only Peter actually sends a cheque every month.

In such a situation, there are 3 options available:

  1. one parent can claim the eligible dependant, and keep the financial benefit associated with it;
  2. one parent can claim the eligible dependant and share the money that is saved with the other parent; or
  3. the parents can alternate years in which they claim the benefit. For this option, the CRA will require a copy of an Order or an agreement that very clearly says that this is what will be done.

The one thing Peter and Mary cannot do is each claim half of the eligible dependant amount every year. The CRA does not allow it.

However, if there is split residency of 2 or more children (in other words, if one child lives mostly with one parent and the other child lives mostly with the other parent), each parent can claim the benefit for the child who lives with them. For this option, the CRA will require a copy of an Order or an agreement that very clearly says that this is what will be done.  

Tax deductions

Parents of children are also eligible for certain tax deductions. These are expenses that reduce your taxable income.

An example of a child-related tax deduction is the cost of child care.

Web Line 214 - Child care expenses
Government of Canada
English

Web Ligne 214 - Frais de garde d'enfants
Government of Canada
French

For more information about deductions in general, see the following resource.

Interactive What you can deduct
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Quels montants déduire
Government of Canada
French
 

More tax information

On its website, the Canada Revenue Agency provides in-depth information on options and procedures for child-related tax issues. See the following resource for additional Alberta-specific information.

Web Alberta Tax and Credits
Government of Canada
English

Web Impôt et crédits de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

The CRA also offers an online “Learning About Taxes” course. See the following resource

Web Learning About Taxes
Government of Canada
English

Web Apprenons l'impôt
Government of Canada
French

A final tax consideration related to parenting is the effect of child support on each parent’s tax situation. Child support can be closely related to parenting time. Be sure to read the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Possible challenges when making a parenting plan: Moving, communication issues, and high-conflict situations

Separation is never an easy time, and making a parenting plan is hard work. Each situation may have different problems, but there are a few issues that often come up. These include:

  • Moving
  • Communication issues
  • Supervised access and transfer
  • Parental alienation
  • Getting help from experts: Parenting interventions and parenting assessments

Moving

When couples separate, their lives change in many ways. Often, one parent may wish to move away. When children are involved, it is important to think about the effect a move will have on them. The following resources explain more about what to consider regarding moving when making a parenting plan.

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 9.



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

If you already have a parenting plan or arrangement in place (whether by agreement or court order) and want to change it because you are considering moving, see the “Changing custody and access” section below. The resources listed there also have good general information about things to consider when moving.

Communication issues

Many newly separated couples face communication challenges; this is a highly emotional time. One way to get some help with communication is by taking the Parenting After Separation (PAS) course. This is a free service offered by Alberta Courts (see the “Parenting After Separation” section above).

Alberta Courts also offers a Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS) course. This free, 6-hour, skill-based course teaches parents how to communicate effectively while living apart. Parents are not allowed to take the course together. For more information, see the following resource.

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

There are also other community organizations that help parents with communication issues. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

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

PDF Tips for Separated Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Supervised access and transfer

Courts generally believe that it is best for children to have as much contact as possible with both parents. However, where there are concerns about the child’s safety or the non-residential parent’s parenting skills, parenting time may be “supervised.” This may be a temporary arrangement or continue for longer periods of time. “Supervised access” means that the non-residential parent is only allowed to visit with his or her child in the presence of another adult.

For more information on supervised access in family law, see the following resources.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 26:00.



  
Family Violence

 



Web Safe Visitation
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Making Appropriate Parenting Arrangements in Family Violence Cases: Applying the Literature to Identify Promising Practices
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more hereStart on p. 31.


Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Watch 8:06 to 13:00.
  

Another option if you are concerned about the child’s safety is the Safe Visitation Program offered by the Alberta government. There are seven safe visitation sites across Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Whitecourt. Safe visitation is also offered by other private organizations. Your local branch of Child and Family Services will be able to tell you if there are such organizations in your area. For more information about the Safe Visitation Program, Child and Family Services, and other private organizations offering safe visitation, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Sometimes, due to high conflict or a history of partner abuse, a family may also need safe and secure transfer (or “exchange”) of the children between the parents. The organizations listed on the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page can also help with that..

“Parental alienation”: What is it and how is it proven?

“Parental alienation” occurs when one parent does everything he or she can to turn a child against the other parent. Parental alienation involves ongoing and very targeted behaviours by one parent. These damage a child’s emotional well-being, and greatly interfere with that child’s relationship with the other parent.

Many parents use the term “parental alienation” when their child agrees with the other parent, or if their child asks to live with the other parent. It is important to understand that not all of a child’s negative comments and reactions are the result of parental alienation. There are many reasons that a child may be angry with a parent, or refuse to see a parent. And there are many separation-related behaviours and reactions that are normal.

True parental alienation has very specific requirements, including extreme behaviour by one parent. Also, it must be shown that the child’s behaviours, actions, and reactions are not otherwise justified. There can be many reasons why a child might be distancing himself or herself from a parent (including situations of domestic violence).

However, if one parent thinks that the other parent is attempting to alienate the other, it can affect any attempts at creating a parenting plan. So, you may find it helpful to learn about parental alienation and to figure out whether it is or is not occurring in your situation.

For more information, including the requirements for proving parental alienation, see the following resources.

Web When Children Refuse to Visit: Alienation and Estrangement in Family Law Disputes
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Parental Alienation – Part 2
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Responding to Children’s Refusal to Visit After Separation – Part 3
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English


Video Episode 101 - Parental Alienation - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


Video Episode 214 Parental Alienation: Web Extra with Dr. Richard Warshak
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Webinar Webinaire FODF sur l'aliénation parentale (octobre 2015)
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio L’aliénation parentale
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Book 4 Degrees of Separation: Affinity, Alignment, Alienation and Estrangement (article included in "46th Annual Refresher, Family Law")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

Getting help from psychologists or other experts

Sometimes, challenges around parenting plans can get quite complex. It may not always be possible to resolve them entirely on your own. You might want the help of psychological or parenting experts. This can happen while you are trying to come to an agreement in the parenting plan (before you ever go to court), or at any point during the court process.

See the following resources for more information about these “expert interventions.”

Web Obtaining Evidence in High Conflict Parenting Disputes – Part 2
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Start on p. 33. Note that some information is out of date: there are no longer any “home studies” or subsidies available.

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “Custody and Access Orders.”
  
Family Violence

 

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English
Start at “Requesting a custody and access assessment.”

If you are heading to court to resolve your issues, court-supported help is available. As with any conflict, you can always seek help in the form of a mediator or arbitration. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

If these don’t work, the Court of Queen’s Bench allows parents to hire a psychologist or other “parenting experts” to review the situation.

Parenting Interventions (Practice Note 7 Intervention)

The first kind of intervention (sometimes called a “Parenting Intervention” or “Practice Note 7 Intervention”) is used when:

  • a family cannot agree on parenting issues;
  • the parents have made an application; and
  • the judge asks for help from independent parenting experts.

To do this, the judge will make an order that sets out the terms of the intervention, and tells the expert what issues to deal with. The intervention may include psychological testing, counselling, and educational sessions. It will result in a report. The report may make recommendations about how to resolve any further issues, but it will not make recommendations about how the children are to be parented.

For more information on Parenting Interventions, see the following resources.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 20:15.


Web Obtaining Evidence in High Conflict Parenting Disputes – Part 2
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English


PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Start on p. 33. Note that some information is out of date: there are no longer any “home studies” or subsidies available.

Web What is Practice Note 7?
Lorri Yasenik
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
  

Parenting Assessments (Practice Note 8 Assessment)

The second kind of intervention is called a “Parenting Assessment” or “Practice Note 8 Assessment." Again, the judge will make an order that sets out the terms of the assessment, and tells the expert what issues to deal with. The purpose of this assessment may be:

  • to give short-term recommendations (until a trial); or
  • to give long-term recommendations.

The assessment is an objective, neutral evaluation. It may include psychological testing. It may explore individual issues such as the educational needs of the children, or the mental health of any of the children or parents. At the end of an evaluation, the expert writes a report with recommendations as to how the parenting plan should be set out.

For more information on Parenting Assessments, see the following resources.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 21:10.


Web Obtaining Evidence in High Conflict Parenting Disputes – Part 2
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English


Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “Open Assessments.”

PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Start on p. 33. Note that some information is out of date: there are no longer any “home studies” or subsidies available.
 

More information

Generally, Parenting Interventions and Parenting Assessments are paid for by the parents themselves. In most cases, the judge making the order for the intervention or assessment will set out how the cost is to be divided between the parties.

Be Aware

The cost of these interventions and assessments is generally quite high.

For general information about creating parenting plans in high-conflict situations, see the following resource.

Including the views of the children

Many parents wish to include the views of the child in the parenting plan, especially if the child is older. This may or may not be possible—it really depends on the maturity of the child. There is no specific age when a child is old enough to decide which parent they want to live with.

If you are trying to come to an agreement on your own, you can include the views of the child in your agreement.

If you go to court, the judge may listen to the wishes of a child, if the judge feels that the child is mature enough to give their opinion. In general, the older the child is, the more seriously the judge will consider the child’s wishes.

Many courts begin considering children’s opinions by 12 years of age. In some cases, where the child is thought to be mature enough, a court can consider the views of children younger than 12.

However, even if a child does provide an opinion, this does not mean that opinion will determine the issue (no matter the child’s age). Judges must make their decisions based on the legal test of what is in the “best interests of the child.”

Be Aware

Children may have a variety of reasons for saying they do not want to see, or be with, the other parent. For more information on what those reasons might be and what you can do to resolve the issue, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 33.

Video When Your Child Does Not Wish to See One Parent
Feldstein Family Law Group
English

There are different ways that a child’s views can be included in the court process. These are described below.

Brief Conflict Intervention

Brief Conflict Intervention is a program of the Alberta government that allows families who qualify to meet with a specialist who helps them try to resolve their parenting disputes. This can include helping to better understand a child’s views during a separation or divorce. There is more information about this program in the “Resolving custody and access in court” section below.

Views of the Child Reports

A Views of the Child Report (also called a “Practice Note 7 Intervention”) is a report from a psychologist. This report is paid for by the parties. There is more information about this in the “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” section above.

Court paperwork: Statements and Affidavits

Affidavits and Statements are court documents that are “sworn.” This means that the person signing the document promises that what they have said in the document is true. This is called “taking an oath” or “commissioning” a document. There are certain people who are authorized by the government to take an oath. For example: Commissioners for Oaths, Notaries Public, and lawyers. Before taking a child’s oath, these people must be satisfied that the child understands what it means to “swear” to something.

A parent or guardian may be able to put a child’s views in their Affidavit or Statement. In this case, the parent promises that these views are what the child did indeed tell them. The judge can then consider these views when making their decision.

An older child may be able to sign their own Affidavit or Statement. In this case, the child promises that what they have written is indeed what they think and how they feel. The law does not set out a specific age when a child can sign such a document. Often, this means the child should be 12 or over, but not necessarily.

Be Aware

If a child submits an Affidavit or Statement to the Court, he or she may later have to speak these wishes in court if the case goes to a trial.

If a child does want their views included in an Affidavit or a Statement, they may first consider getting legal advice. If they want legal advice, they may be able to use a lawyer of their own, or use the lawyer of a parent or guardian. It will depend on the lawyer.

You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca. For information about lawyers for children, see the “Lawyers for children” section below.

For more information about who can help, contact the Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) or Resolution and Court Administration Services. CLERC may also provide legal advice.

Web Ask a Lawyer your Question
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

More information

For more information about including the views of the children, see the following resources.



PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 65.

Web My Parents are Splitting up
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English
See “Do I have any say in the decisions my parents are making about me?”

Web Custody And Access: How Much Say Does My Child Get?
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
 
Web Views of a Child & Separated Parents: Living With Dad or Mom
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Presentation Hearing the Views of Children in Canada
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English


Web Voice and Support: Programs for Children Experiencing Parental Separation and Divorce
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

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.


 
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For Aboriginal families living off-reserve, all of the information above applies. 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. The parenting plan or court order may need to work around this restriction. For example, alternate visitation sites and off-reserve transfers of the children could be used.

Whether Aboriginal children live on-reserve or off-reserve, heritage and cultural considerations are very important in determining the best interests of the child. This means that Aboriginal children have the right to stay connected to their heritage and culture. Naturally, if the matter goes to court, this can affect the parenting time that court might give. The Court may even decide to give contact to a third party, such as an elder or another family member, because that person will keep the child in touch with their heritage and culture.

For more information on custody and access in the Aboriginal context, see the following resources.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blended family considerations

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

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

For more information about standing in the place of a parent, see the “Determining custody” section above.

For more general information, see the following resource.

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

Under the Divorce Act, the law around custody and access is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your custody and access 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 custody or access 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.

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

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

Polyamorous relationships

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 about working with a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

If the applicant is not one of the “married spouses,” such an application must be made using Alberta’s Family Law Act. For information about how to do that, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act 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 spouse is being sponsored by the other for immigration, or if the relationship involves domestic violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are experiencing family breakdown and one or more of you is involved in criminal proceedings, see the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law Information Page, and the following resource.

Web Can Prior Drug Convictions Affect Child Custody? A Divorce Lawyer Explains
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your custody and access 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.

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



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

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

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

Sometimes the situation becomes more complicated. Below are 3 examples.

  1. A court action was started in another province or country, and then one or both parents moved to Alberta.
  2. One or both parents were living in Alberta, but have now left the province, or are planning to move away.
  3. The child has been abducted by one of the parents.

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.

If your children have been abducted by the other parent/guardian, call 911.

Be Aware

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

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



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

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

Web Abduction Information
Child Abduction Legal Information
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 213- Child Abduction with Crystal Dunahee
AdviceScene
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Resolving custody and access in court

Understanding the court system

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

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

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

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

If you are going to court, 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.

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

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

To use the BCI program:

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

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

See the following resource for more information.

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

Once a parenting plan is in place, most parents obey it, because they recognize how important it is to their children. However, some parents don’t obey it, even when the parenting plan is in a court order.

Because of this possibility, parenting plans that are made into a court order can include an “enforcement clause.” An enforcement clause in the court order allows police to take reasonable steps 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.

Be Aware

Judges are very cautious when granting a police enforcement clause, as they do not want such clauses being improperly used by either party. Also, they do not want police involvement to unnecessarily stress or traumatize the children.

For more information on enforcing a parenting plan, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 18.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 24:50.

PDF Access Enforcement Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Access FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Enforcing an Order.”

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

Web How Far Must Parents Go, to Ensure a Kid Complies with a Court Order?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Family Law Access
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at 21:00.

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 LibrarySee Chapter 12.
Changing custody, access, and parenting plans (including moving)

Parenting plans, including those that are put into court orders, are never considered permanent. Things change all the time. This is especially true with growing children. Also, the lives of the parents/guardians may take very different paths now that they are separated.

Just as you could complete the initial parenting plan by agreement, you can also make changes by agreement. Or you may use any of the other out-of-court options listed above.

If you want to change a court order, and you can agree, you can do so by filing a “consent order” with the Court to change the original order. More information on how to do that is available in the Process tab of this Information Page.

If you go to court to ask for a change in a custody or access order (also called a “parenting order”), the Court will want to see that:

  • the child’s circumstances have changed; and
  • the change is large enough that the requested change in parenting is needed.

Courts often refer to this as a “material change in circumstances.” This prevents parents/guardians from going to court simply because they do not “like” the previous order.

If there has been a “material change in circumstances,” the Court will once again apply the “best interests of the child” test—not a “best interests of the parents” approach.

For more information on changing (or “varying”) custody and access agreements or orders, including what is considered a “material” change, see the following resources and the Process tab of this Information Page.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 20.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 23:50.

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

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

Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

Moving with the children

When making changes to custody/access orders, a common issue is moving. Parents cannot simply move away and take the children along without the consent of everyone who has custody. If you do try to move away without following the proper procedures, you could get into legal trouble.

See the following resources for more information about moving with the children.

PDF Moving With Your Children
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Mobility Rights FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 22:00.

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

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 24.



Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


Web Mobility applications in Alberta courts
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Child mobility: when an Alberta custodial parent wants to move
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Factors Alberta courts consider in mobility applications
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Parenting Plan Agreement
Foster LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Whether a parent has a right to move with a child -- the concept of "mobility" in family law
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web To Move or Not to Move – that is the Question
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

Web Can a woman move with her kids when there is custody and access order?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What factors does the Court assess in child mobility cases?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Recent case: Moving with children
Luke's Place
English

PDF Custody and Access Fact Sheet
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF La garde et les droits de visite
Luke's Place
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Going to trial

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

Appealing an order

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

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

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

Process

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

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

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

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

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

This Information Page has information about the legal processes of deciding custody and access for parents who:

  • were in a married relationship; AND
  • are planning on divorcing and resolving their parenting and support issues using Canada’s Divorce 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.

Remember

For parenting and support issues, married parents can choose which law they use when they separate. They can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is about children who live in Alberta. Although the Divorce Act is federal legislation, most issues will be heard in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. It may not be possible for the matter to be heard in Alberta if:

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

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

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on the process that married parents can follow to resolve custody and access issues under the federal Divorce Act. For information on the law that governs your situation, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The topics on this page are listed in the order they are generally considered. The answers of one can affect what happens next and what choices you may need to make.

Alberta’s two-court system

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, there is no single “family court” in Alberta. People ending a married relationship in Alberta have a choice about:

  • which law they will use (the Alberta Family Law Act or the federal Divorce Act); and
  • which court they will use (the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench).

This is a very important decision. Each law and court offer different things, and there are some things you can only ask for in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on your situation, you may have a choice to make. Or your circumstances may mean that you only have one option of which law or court to use.

Tip

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

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

For an introduction on the differences in the two courts and what kinds of things to consider when making your decision about which law and which court to use, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

Making a parenting plan

Regardless of whether you end up resolving your custody and access issues by agreement or through a court order, you will need to make a parenting plan. Even if you go to court, you will have to provide your proposed parenting plan.

General information

To start working on what you would like in a parenting plan, see the following resources.


Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English


PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 81-95.

PDF Parenting Plan Workbook
Government of Saskatchewan
English

PDF Parenting Checklist
Government of Saskatchewan
English

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

PDF Aboriginal Parenting After Separation (Handbook)
Justice Education Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 56-61.

Video Holiday Access
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Make Sure the Holidays Stay Happy
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

French resources:

PDF Échantillon de clauses pour un plan parental
Government of Canada
French

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


Web Plan parental -- Liste de vérification en médiation familiale
Jurisource.ca
French
This resource will automatically download when you click on the link. Only look at this resource on a safe computer.

Web Plan parental - Protocole d'entente
Jurisource.ca
French
This resource will automatically download when you click on the link. Only look at this resource on a safe computer.

High conflict situations

If you are making a parenting plan in a “high conflict” situation, see the following resources.



Web Modèle de plan parental dans un contexte de haut conflit
Jurisource.ca
French
This resource will automatically download when you click on the link. Only look at this resource on a safe computer.

Help available

If you think you need some help to create a parenting plan, the free Parenting After Separation courses can help.

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

The Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

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

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

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

For more information, see the following resources.

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

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

Out of court resolution options

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

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

Be Aware

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

Coming to an agreement on your own

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

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 turn it into a consent order 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 can only file the agreement if there is already a divorce action started in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chances are, by the time you have an agreement, you will have already started a court action. Remember, you have to involve the courts anyway if you want to get the “divorce” part of a separation.

If you do not yet have a court action started, you can start one: see the “Starting the court action” section below. Once you have a court action started, you can turn your agreement into a Consent Order. For more information on how to do this, 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 become mandatory if you do go to court)

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

Be Aware

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

Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict (PASHC)

This program is for parents who:

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

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


Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

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

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Free family mediation

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

  • one of the parties must make less than $40,000 a year; and
  • there must be at least one dependent child under 18 years old.

This service is offered across the province. Where mediation is possible, it is greatly encouraged.

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

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

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

To use the BCI program:

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

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

See the following resource for more information about BCI.

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

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

Hiring a lawyer

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

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

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

Representing yourself

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

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

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

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.

Getting help from experts

When you separate, you may find that you need to talk to various experts to work out your issues. These experts may include lawyers, accountants, psychologists, or others. To help with parenting issues, parents may consult “parenting experts.” These are usually psychologists or other specifically trained people.

Parents can agree on their own to get help from these experts. They may also be referred by their lawyers, mediators, or other professionals who are helping them through the process of family breakdown. However, some kinds of consultations are also formally recognized by the court. These are known as “Parenting Interventions” (sometimes called “Practice Note 7 Interventions”) and “Parenting Assessments” (sometimes called “Practice Note 8 Assessments”). They are described in more detail on the Law tab of this Information Page (see the “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” section).

Once a court action has been started, one or both parties can ask the judge to order an intervention or assessment. Or the judge can decide to order the parties to take part in an intervention or assessment.

To ask a judge to order one of these interventions or assessments, you would include the request in your Application or Affidavit about parenting (see below). You will also have to explain the background of your situation and the plan going forward, including:

  • why you think an intervention or assessment is necessary;
  • who you think should do the intervention or assessment;
  • what the timeline will be; and
  • who will pay for the intervention or assessment.

A list of psychologists who work with Practice Note 7 Interventions or Practice Note 8 Assessments can be found through the “Referral Search” on the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta website. See the following resource.

Interactive PAA Referral Service | Search
Psychologists' Association 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.

The rest of this section has information about:

  • Starting a court action
  • What are “Applications”?
  • What to expect in court
  • Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”
  • Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

Starting a court action

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

What are “Applications”?

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

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

There is usually a fee for making an application in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

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

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

What to expect in court

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

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

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

Regular chambers is meant for simpler matters that can be heard in 20 minutes (10 minutes for each party to present his or her case).

Special chambers is for more complex matters that need more time.

Tip

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 custody and access). 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.”

Be Aware

Applications for major changes to a parenting arrangement will not be heard in morning chambers. These applications must go to special chambers. For more information, see the following resource and call your local Queen’s Bench court clerks.


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

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

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

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

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

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

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

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

For example, it may be possible to:

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

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

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

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

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

For information about whether you can ask for any of these exceptions, contact the Court of Queen’s Bench in your judicial centre, or 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
The “Desk Divorce”

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

Be Aware

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

In Alberta, there are 2 kinds of desk divorces:

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

Joint desk divorce

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

Remember

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

Uncontested desk divorce

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

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

Be Aware

You can only complete the uncontested desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation). Also, because you are dealing with child custody and access issues, you will have make sure that specific child-related paperwork is included.

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember

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

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

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

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

Completing the Statement of Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

To use the Divorce Act, either you or your spouse can start a court action. Unless you are applying for a joint desk divorce (see “Desk Divorce” section above), this means that: 

  • either you or your spouse will have to file the first set of paperwork; and
  • the other will file the first response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you were served with documents for an Application

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

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

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

Filing the paperwork for a first-time “Application”

This section has information about:

  • What are “Applications”?
  • Determining which court to file in
  • Considerations if there was family violence
  • Filing the Application at the same time as the Statement of Claim
  • Completing a “Notice to Disclose”
  • Completing Application forms
  • Issues around parentage
  • Steps to take before you file your paperwork
  • Steps to take after you file your paperwork

What are “Applications”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

Is this the correct judicial centre?

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

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

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

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

If you are starting an action at the same time

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

As a result, if:

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

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

If the action has already been started

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

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

For example:

  • The pleadings were filed in Fort McMurray. The court file is in Fort McMurray.
  • You live in Grand Prairie.
  • Your Application documents would still have to be filed in Fort McMurray.
  • If you want to transfer the file, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to ask to have the file transferred to Grande Prairie. That hearing will be in Fort McMurray. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

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

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

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

If you have questions about any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

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

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

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

Completing a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

When you are filing your Application for custody and access, you may also wish to file a “Notice to Disclose.”

A Notice to Disclose requires your spouse to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. You would need this financial information if you plan to have the Court make an order about child support. This often goes along with deciding custody and access. You can also just ask your spouse for their financial information. But if they are not providing it, using a Notice to Disclose makes sure that you will get it.

A Notice to Disclose can be filed:

  • on its own; or
  • together with the paperwork for an Application about any other issues related to your divorce action. For example: custody, access, and child support.

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

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

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

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

However, as noted above, a Notice to Disclose can also be filed at the same time as the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues. If you are filing a Notice to Disclose together with the paperwork for a first Application, the matters can be combined into one hearing. The hearing will usually be scheduled after at least 30 days, so that your spouse has time to provide the financial information. If you receive the financial information from your spouse before the date of the combined hearing, you can simply let the judge know. Then the hearing will go ahead on the same date as planned, but without the need to disclose financial information.

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

PDF Notice to Disclose / Application (Form FL-17 / CTS3835)
Government of Alberta
English
Instructions are included on the form.
 

Once you have served the Notice to Disclose on your spouse, you must file an Affidavit of Service to “prove” that you served it. To do that, you will need to complete the following form. If you are asking for only financial information, indicate that. If you are filing the Notice to Disclose along with the paperwork for another Application, list all of the documents served.

 

When you serve a Notice to Disclose, you must give your spouse the same financial information about you. To do so:

  • use the “Responding to a Notice to Disclose” form;
  • serve it on your spouse; and then
  • file an Affidavit of Service with the Court to prove that you gave your spouse the information.

The forms you will need are below.


 

Examples

If you only want financial information from your spouse:

You file a Notice to Disclose on its own. You serve it on your spouse on September 30. Your spouse has until October 30 to give you their financial information. The hearing is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30 as well. You serve your financial information on your spouse. Usually you will do this at the same time as you serve the Notice to Disclose on your spouse. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you call the Court to cancel the hearing.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31.

If you want financial information AND other issues dealt with in court:

You file a Notice to Disclose together with an Application for any other issues you want dealt with in court. For example: custody, access, child support, or spousal support. You serve all of the paperwork on your spouse on September 30. Your spouse has until October 30 to give you their financial information. The combination hearing is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30 as well. You serve your financial information on your spouse. Usually you will do this at the same time as you serve the Notice to Disclose on your spouse. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you can let the judge know 2 things. First, that the “financial disclosure” part of the hearing is no longer needed. Second, that the other matters in your application still need to be heard.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31. You must be prepared to talk about all of the issues, including financial disclosure.

Completing Application forms

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

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

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

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Which kit do you need?

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

Tip

All of these kits also include an application to travel without consent, an application to obtain a passport without consent, and an application for enforcement. They are there in case you need any of those things.

If you are making an Application for custody and access only, use the following kit.

If you are making an Application for access only, use the following kit:

PDF Court of Queen's Bench: Application for Access
Government of Alberta
English

If you are making an Application for custody, access, and child support, use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about the law related to Child Support under the Divorce Act.

If you are making an Application for custody, access, child support, and spousal support, use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about the law related to Child Support under the Divorce Act and Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Be Aware

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

 

What should you include in your paperwork?

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

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 20-23.
 

You may also wish to apply for division of property, including short-term exclusive possession of property. In this case, you will need to complete entirely different paperwork. For more information, see the Property Divison for Married Spouses Information Page.

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

Regarding parentage

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Temporary orders are often required for parenting issues, because people need to know what to do while they work out their separation issues. Sometimes, you may even have more than one temporary order.

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Get ready for the response

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

There are 2 ways your spouse can respond.

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

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

If your spouse responded with only an Affidavit

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

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Responding to Application forms

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

This section has information about:

  • What are “Applications”?
  • Checking that the Application was filed in the right court
  • Time limits to respond
  • Considerations if there was family violence
  • Responding to a “Notice to Disclose”
  • Responding to Application forms
  • Issues around parentage
  • Steps to take before you file your paperwork
  • Steps to take after you file your paperwork

What are “Applications”?

An “application” is used by divorcing parents to either:

  • temporarily solve their divorce-related matters before coming to a final agreement, or before their case is permanently decided at a trial; or
  • permanently solve their divorce-related matters so the parents can avoid going to trial.

You have been served with forms telling you that there has been an Application made under the Divorce Act. In these forms, you have been notified of the date of the court hearing.

  • If you agree with everything that is in those documents, you do not have to do anything.
  • If you disagree with anything that is in those documents, you will need to complete a Response.

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

When you were served with notice of the first Application, you may also have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” You can respond to both the Statement of Claim and the Application, but be aware that the response times will probably be different.

  • For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Responding to the Statement of Claim” section above.
  • For more information about how to respond to the notice of Application, continue reading this section.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

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

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

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

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

If the Applicant is starting an action at the same time

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

As a result, if:

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

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

If the action had already been started

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

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

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

For example:

  • The pleadings were filed in Fort McMurray. The court file is in Fort McMurray.
  • You live in Grande Prairie.
  • The Application documents would still have to be filed in Fort McMurray.
  • If you want to transfer the file, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to ask to have the file transferred to Grande Prairie. That hearing will be in Fort McMurray. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

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

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

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

If you have questions about any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

If for any reason you cannot file your Response within the time limits, you may still be able to file the documents late and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that your ex-spouse will ask for, and that the judge will grant, an “adjournment” (a delay of your court date). This would be because your ex-spouse did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. Or the judge may give your ex-spouse what he or she has asked for without taking your documents into consideration because they were not filed in time.

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

 

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

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

Responding to a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

When you were served with your spouse’s Application, you may also have been served with a “Notice to Disclose.”

A Notice to Disclose is the court document that requires you to provide your spouse with detailed financial information within one month. You would need this financial information to respond to any Application about support. A child support Application often happens at the same time that the Court is making a custody and access order.

A Notice to Disclose can be filed on its own, or along with the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues (such as custody, access, and child support).

When a Notice to Disclose is filed, there is a hearing date included. This hearing can:

  • deal only with financial disclosure (if a Notice to Disclose was filed on its own); or
  • deal with financial disclosure and other matters (such as custody, access, and child support).

You should carefully read your documents so that you know about your deadlines and the hearing date(s).

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

  • may be cancelled (if it was a hearing only about financial disclosure); or
  • may go ahead with the other matters, but the issue of financial disclosure will be removed from the list of things that need to be heard.

To respond to a Notice to Disclose, use this package of forms:

PDF Court of Queen's Bench: Responding to a Notice to Disclose / Application
Government of Alberta
English
Instructions are included on the form.

Once you have served the Responding to a Notice to Disclose on your spouse, you must file an Affidavit of Service to “prove” that you served it. To do that, you will need to complete the following form. If your spouse asked for only financial information, and that is all that you are providing, indicate that. If you are responding to the Notice to Disclose along with a request for another Application, list all of the documents served.

Be Aware

Your spouse will now have to provide you with their financial information before the court hearing as well.

Examples

If your former spouse only asked for financial information:

Your spouse filed a Notice to Disclose on its own. He or she served it on you on September 30. You have until October 30 to give your spouse your financial information. The hearing is scheduled for October 31.

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

If your former spouse asked for financial information AND wants other issues dealt with in court:

Your spouse filed a Notice to Disclose together with an Application for other issues they want to deal with in court (such as custody, access, child support, or spousal support). They served all of the paperwork on you on September 30. You have until October 30 to provide your spouse with your financial information. The “combination hearing” is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30. You serve your financial information along with all the other paperwork on your spouse. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • Your spouse must also give you his or her financial information by October 30. This may have been done at the time you were served with the Notice to Disclose.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you will both still go to the hearing to discuss the other issues.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you will both go to the hearing on October 31. You must be prepared to talk about all of the issues, including financial disclosure.
Be Aware

The possible penalties for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large. For example, it could be hundreds of dollars per day for each day that you are late. Also, the other party could ask the court to rule that these penalties are unpaid support. If that happens, the amount owing can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program. This can lead to further actions being taken against the person who did not disclose the financial information.

Completing a Response to custody, access, and other Applications

When responding to an Application (other than one that includes a Notice to Disclose), you have 3 choices:

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

For example:

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

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

Filing only an Affidavit

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

If the Applicant applied for custody and/or access, use the following form.

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

If the Applicant applied for custody/access, child support, and spousal support, use the following form. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act and Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that). For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

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

A few things you should know:

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

There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling cross-applications. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Regarding parentage

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

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

Be Aware

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

Regarding property

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Watch for your spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

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

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

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

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


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

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

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

  • the Applicant in their Application, and
  • the Respondent in your Application.

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

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

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for changes to a previous court order (including enforcement)

As circumstances change, and your children age, you and/or your spouse may need or want to change the terms of a previous court order. If so, you may need to apply to the Court for a change to a court order. This is also sometimes called a “variation”.

The information in this section is for the spouse who asks to change a court order (also called the “Applicant”). The other parent will have different paperwork to fill out (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below).

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

Is it an Alberta court order that you are trying to vary? If you want to vary:

  • an order made under the Divorce Act in another province or territory; or
  • an order made under a similar law in another country,

see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Is this the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that says that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

As a result, you will have to file your paperwork in the judicial centre where your court file is located. Check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre.

You may want to apply to transfer the file. You must make this application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer your court file, use the following kit.

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

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

If you have questions about any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

 

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

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

Including a Notice to Disclose

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to file a new “Notice to Disclose/Application”—after a first court order, you can do this once per year. To refresh your memory about the Notice to Disclose and to access the forms you need, see the “Filing a ‘Notice to Disclose / Application’” heading in the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section above.

Completing the Application to Change (or “vary”)

To request a change in a court order, you will need several different forms, which are included in “kits” for the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

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

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Which kit do you need?

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

If you are making an Application to change custody and access, use the following kit.

If you are making an Application to change access only, use the following kit.

If you are making an Application to change custody, access, and child support, use the following kit  Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.

If you are making an Application to change custody, access, child support, and spousal support, use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act and Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Tip

All of these kits also include an application to travel without consent, an application to obtain a passport without consent, and an application for enforcement. They are there in case you need any of those things.

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Temporary orders are often required for parenting issues, because people need to know what to do while they work out their separation issues. Sometimes, you may even have more than one temporary order.

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

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

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

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to:

  • factor in the time that you will need to “serve” your spouse with the paperwork (next step);
  • give the other parent (known as the “respondent”) enough time to respond to your application (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below).

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Get ready for the response

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

There are 2 ways your spouse can respond:

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

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

If your spouse responded with only an Affidavit

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

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a result, it is now your turn to file a “response” to the new application (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). Your spouse will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit (as described above).

Be Aware

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


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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Responding to a request for changes (“variations”) to court orders

If you have been served with paperwork in which the other parent (who is known as “the Applicant”) asks for changes to the custody and or access/parenting time arrangements, you will need to file documents to respond.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). An application to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located. You can check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre. Unless the Applicant made an error, you must respond in the same judicial centre where the application was made.

For example:

  • The court file is in Fort McMurray and the Applicant filed this request for a variation there.
  • You are in Lethbridge.
  • You must respond in Fort McMurray. Or, you may want to try to transfer the file. If you do, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to have the file transferred to Lethbridge. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

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

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

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

If you have questions about any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

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.

 

If for any reason you cannot file within the time limits, you may still be able to file the documents late and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that your spouse will ask for, and that the judge will grant, an “adjournment” (a delay of your court date). This would be because your ex-spouse  did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. Or the judge may give your ex-spouse what he or she has asked for without taking your documents into consideration because they were not filed in time.

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 resources.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

 

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

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

Responding to a Notice to Disclose

When you were served with your spouse’s Application to change a previous court order, you may also have been served with a new “Notice to Disclose”—after a first court order, this can be done once per year. To refresh your memory about the Notice to Disclose and to access the forms you need to respond to it, see the “Responding to a ‘Notice to Disclose / Application’” heading in the “Responding to Application forms” section above.

Completing the Response

When responding to an Application (other than one that includes a Notice to Disclose), you have 3 choices:

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

An example

Your spouse has filed an Application stating that:

  • there has been a “material change in circumstances”;
  • he or she should now have sole custody of the child; and
  • you should now have access only every second weekend.

You have several options about how to respond.

If you agree with everything your spouse said, you do not have to fill out any documents.

If you disagree with something your spouse said, you could file an Affidavit. In that Affidavit, you may:

  • state the facts that show that circumstances have not changed; and/or
  • state that you disagree with what your spouse is requesting.

If you disagree with something your spouse said and want to ask for something of your own, you can file an Affidavit and an Application of your own. This will make sure the court considers your options for the situation.

  • In your Affidavit, you can state that you disagree with what your spouse is requesting.
  • In your Application, you can ask for something of your own. For example, you could ask for joint custody with your spouse and split residency for the child.

Filing only an Affidavit

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

If the Applicant is asking for a change to only custody and/or access, use the following form.

If the Applicant is asking for a change to custody/access and child support, use the following form and simply leave the spousal support section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.

If the Applicant is asking for a change to custody/access, child support, and spousal support, use the following form. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act and Spousal Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a veryspecific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your spouse’s Application to Change by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section above.

A few things you should know:

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

There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling cross-applications. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Watch for your spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

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

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

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

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


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

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

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

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

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

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

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

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by “going to” court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in Queen’s Bench. In other words, you have already filed your Statement of Claim for Divorce.

The Court of Queen’s Bench grants 2 different kinds of consent orders:

  • consent orders for first-time applications; and
  • consent orders that change (or “vary”) a previous court order.

Consent orders for first-time Applications

The Court offers different forms for first-time consent orders. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

If you are only applying for a consent order for custody and access (or “parenting time”), use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

If you are applying for a consent order for custody, access/parenting time, and child support, use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

If you are applying for a consent order about custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support, use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

Consent variation orders

The Court offers different forms for consent variation orders that you can use when you and your ex-spouse are agreeing to change a previous court order. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

If you are only changing custody and access (or “parenting time”), use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

If you are changing custody, access/parenting time, and child support, use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

If you are changing custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support, use the following form. Instructions are included with the form.

What to do with forms for completed Consent Orders / Consent Variation Orders

In most judicial centres, you will take the following steps.

  • You fill out the correct Order form with the terms of your agreement.
  • You sign the form and have it properly witnessed.
  • You go to court to have a judge grant the order. You do that by attending “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people. Before the judge starts to hear the cases on the list, he or she will ask if there are any preliminary matters. At this time, people who want to ask the judge to sign a consent order can do so. For more information about exactly how to do that, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

In Edmonton, Consent Orders can be done as “desk orders.” Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the court Order, remember that you must also file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench and serve it on the other parent. For more information about this step of the process, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

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

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

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

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

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

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

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

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins. The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters—this is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

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

Be Aware

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

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource. 

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

After the chambers hearing is over

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

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

Asking for “costs” in chambers

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

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

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

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Application (if you are the Applicant) or your Affidavit (if you are the Respondent) and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

Judges can grant costs if the parties do not follow the rules about hearings. For example: rules about the paperwork restrictions and the deadlines. For more information about these rules, see the following resource.

Lawyers for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to trial

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

Appealing a court order

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

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

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

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Appeal
Government of Alberta
English

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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