Ending Guardianship of a Child

Law

A guardian of a child may want to give up that guardianship. See the sections below to learn more about:

  • Determining if you are the guardian of a child
  • What it means to be the guardian of a child (including child support responsibilities)
  • Going to court to end your guardianship of a child

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

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

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

Last Reviewed: March 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information for guardians of children who want to give up (“terminate”) that guardianship.

“Guardianship” is a term defined in Alberta’s Family Law Act. This Information Page has information about using the Family Law Act to end guardianship.

To help you determine whether or not to apply to terminate guardianship, you may wish to learn about guardianship and all of its rights and responsibilities by reviewing the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Tip

Before applying to end guardianship, you may wish to consult a lawyer. This step can have a very long-lasting effect on your relationship with the child.

If you were married, and you are using the Divorce Act to resolve your child-related issues from that marriage, you can start by applying to change custody and access arrangements. For more information, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page. However, you may also want to use the Family Law Act to end guardianship. This is because even if you no longer have custody, keeping guardianship will give you the right to have a say in certain court applications in the future (such as an application to change the child’s name). Also, if you still have guardianship and the person with custody dies without appointing another guardian, it could be possible to take over custody at that time.

Be Aware

Giving up guardianship will not affect child support. Guardianship and child support are separate things. If you are the biological parent of a child, you will still have to pay child support, even if you are no longer a guardian.

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

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

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

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about giving up the guardianship of a child. For information on the process you need to follow to give up guardianship of a child, 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. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

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

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

guardian (of a child)

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

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

Be Aware

 In some of the resources you will see on this Information Page, you may see the word “guardianship” used interchangeably with “custody.” Although these terms are similar (they both describe decision-making powers), they are not the same thing.

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.

Be Aware

In some of the resources you will see on this Information Page, you may see the word “guardianship” used interchangeably with “custody.” Although these terms are similar (they both describe decision-making powers), they are not the same thing.

“best interests of the child”

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

For example:

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

party

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

terminate

To bring something to an end. If you “terminate” guardianship, you will no longer be a guardian of the child.

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.

The laws that may apply to you

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

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

Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

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

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 Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. In Alberta, for matters under the Family Law Act, there is often a choice of courts. Specifically, matters under the Family Law Act can be heard by either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Your choice may depend on what you are asking for.

Applications about the guardianship of children—including applications to give up guardianship—can be heard either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. However, if there is already a court action related to the child in question (such as a child support application), you will likely be making your application to terminate guardianship in the same level court as the other matters were made. This is because the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. So, if there is already an existing court action related to the child in question (such as a child support application), you will be strongly encouraged to make your application to terminate guardianship in the same level of court as the other matters.

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

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

Parents’ rights and children’s rights

As a starting point, under law:

  • both parents generally have guardianship 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 guardianship of the child, or get to see the child. That is not necessarily true. The Alberta court system always places a high value on contact with both parents. It is very rare that a parent will not be granted parenting time (even if the parent is in jail).

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

Parental abduction

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

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

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.

Are you a guardian of a child?

“Guardianship” is the word used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the decision-making power that adults have about a child. See the “What the words mean” section above for a detailed definition of this term.

You need to know if you are a guardian of a child. Being a guardian automatically gives you certain rights and responsibilities. Also, if you are not a guardian, you do not need to apply to end guardianship.

Biological and adoptive parents

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

Biological parents

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

Adoptive parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio/Web Paternity Rights
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

People who were appointed as guardians

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

Determining if you are a guardian

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

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

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

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

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


Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

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

Video In Loco Parentis: The Law Surrounding Parenting and Child Support in Alberta
Balbi and Company Legal Centre
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Ending (“terminating”) guardianship of a child

Under the Family Law Act, guardianship can be terminated by either:

  • a guardian asking the Court to end his or her guardianship of a child; or
  • someone else asking to the Court to terminate a guardian’s guardianship of a child. For example: one parent asking the Court to terminate the other parent’s guardianship. Or, a proposed guardian asking to terminate the guardianship of the existing guardians.

For the Court to give an order that terminates guardianship, the Court must be satisfied that either:

  • the guardian whose guardianship is to be terminated agrees to (“consents”) to the termination; or
  • the Court considers it necessary to terminate the guardianship.

Also, if the child in question is over 12 years of age, the child must consent to the termination of the guardianship (unless the Court decides that there is a good reason to not require the child’s consent).

The “best interests of the child” test

In general, if the guardian does not consent, guardianship is only terminated in cases where it is very clear that it is not in the best interests of the child to have this person continue to be a guardian. When deciding to end guardianship, the best interests of the child test will include looking at whether the guardian is “fit” to be a guardian. This is because it is not in the best interests of the child to have a guardian who is not up to the job.

As a result, if you are going to court to request the end of guardianship, it is important to understand the “best interests of the child” test. This “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child, including:

  • 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 general 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

Alternatives to terminating guardianship

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent. If a parent’s guardianship is terminated, then that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child.

It is more common to address decision-making difficulties using a parenting order. Under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. For example: you could have a parenting order that says that one guardian is to make all of the decisions and the other guardian only gets “notice” of these decisions.

Therefore, instead of asking a court to terminate your former partner’s guardianship, you may wish to consider asking for changes to the decision-making powers in a parenting order. For more information, see the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

You will need a court order

You and the other parent/guardian(s) may agree out of court to end one person's guardianship of a child. However, you will still have to go to court to legally end the guardianship. This is a requirement of the Family Law Act.

Specifically, under the Family Law Act, once a person is the guardian of child, he or she continues to be a guardian until one of the following happens (whichever comes first):

  • the guardian dies;
  • the child turns 18;
  • the child gets married or becomes the Adult interdependent Partner of another person; or
  • a court orders that guardianship be terminated.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

The law around terminating guardianship is no different for Aboriginal families than it is for any other families. Your issue will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, regardless of whether Aboriginal children live on-reserve or off-reserve, heritage and cultural considerations are very important in determining the best interests of the child. This means that Aboriginal children have the right to keep a connection to their heritage and culture. If the matter goes to court, this can have an effect on the decision that a court might make.

In addition, 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
Blended family considerations

The law around terminating guardianship is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your issue will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

LGBTQ considerations

The law around terminating guardianship is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your issue will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Polyamorous relationships

The law around terminating guardianship is no different for polyamorous families than it is for anyone else. Your issue will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

If one or more of the parents/guardians are involved in criminal proceedings

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

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

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

Lawyers for children

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

Be Aware

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

When can it happen?

A child could have their own lawyer if:

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

How does a court appoint a lawyer for a child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Where to get legal help for children

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

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

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

More information


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

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


Video Children's Lawyers
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Note that there is no Office of the Children’s Lawyer in Alberta.
Before going 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. All of the parties currently live in Alberta and have never lived anywhere else.
  2. All of the parties moved to Alberta from another province. They still live here. No court action has been started in any other province or country.

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

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

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

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

Going to court to terminate guardianship

Choosing a court

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

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

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

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

 
Be Aware

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

Understanding the court system

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

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

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

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

The “test” applied in court: 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

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 Working with a Lawyer Information Page Information Pages for more information about these options.

Appealing an order

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

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

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

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error in the facts. In addition, be aware that an appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order. For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Process

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

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

Last Reviewed: March 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information for guardians of children who want to give up (“terminate”) that guardianship.

Tip

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

In general, the processes described on this Information Page are about children and parents or guardians who live in Alberta. This is because Alberta’s Family Law Act generally requires that the children and the person trying to terminate guardianship should live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

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

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

Remember

Giving up guardianship will not affect child support. Guardianship and child support are separate things. If you are the biological parent of a child, you will still have to pay child support, even if you are no longer a guardian.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information about the steps you need to take to terminate guardianship of a child. For information on the law about giving up the guardianship of a child, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. In Alberta, for matters under the Family Law Act, there is often a choice of courts. Specifically, matters under the Family Law Act can be heard by either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Your choice may depend on what you are asking for.

Applications about the guardianship of children—including applications to give up guardianship—can be heard either the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. However, if there is already a court action related to the child in question (such as a child support application), you will likely be making your application to terminate guardianship in the same level court as the other matters were made. This is because the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. So, if there is already an existing court action related to the child in question (such as a child support application), you will be strongly encouraged to make your application to terminate guardianship in the same level of court as the other matters.

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

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

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

You will now be asked to make a choice.

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

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

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

Provincial Court

Learn more about going to Provincial Court to end your guardianship of a child, including:

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

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

Out of court resolution options

For more information about out-of-court options that you can use to work through whether or not you want to remain a guardian, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Remember

Even if you and the other parent/guardian(s) agree out of court to end one person's guardianship of a child, you will still have to go to court to legally end the guardianship. This is a requirement of the Family Law Act.

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 out-of-court agreements, if possible, or represent you in court.

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

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services. For more information about the help and required programs in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English
Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

 

RCAS staff also:

  • help you review your documents before you file; and
  • provide family court counsellors (FCCs) who help you learn about the court process and present the facts to the judge.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

 

Before you go to court: Get to know the court system

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

Docket court

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

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

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other parties

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

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

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

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

For example, it may be possible to:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Applying to terminate guardianship of a child (your own guardianship or someone else’s)

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

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

Is this the right judicial centre?

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

For example:

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English


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

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


When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there is a specific Statement asking for guardianship to be terminated (see below).

Be Aware

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

Completing the Statement to terminate guardianship

To apply to terminate guardianship, whether you are applying to terminate your guardianship of a child, or someone else’s guardianship of a child, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Statement - Terminate Guardianship (Form FL-36 / CTS3486)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent (as that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child). It is more common to address decision-making difficulties using a parenting order: Under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. For example: it is possible to have a parenting order that says that one guardian is to make all of the decisions and the other guardian only gets “notice” of these decisions. Therefore, instead of asking a court to terminate your former partner’s guardianship, you may wish to consider asking for changes to the decision-making powers in a parenting order. For more information, see the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Completing Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork about terminating guardianship, you may also wish to file Statements about other issues related to your separation. The required forms can be found on the Information Pages for each topic.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the 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.

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Get ready for the response

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

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

Responding to an application to terminate guardianship of a child

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

For example:

  • The Applicant filed in Red Deer and the court file is in Red Deer.
  • You and the child have moved to Calgary.
  • You can file your response in Calgary, but the documents will be sent to Red Deer and the hearing will be in Red Deer.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant filed the application to terminate guardianship, he or she filed a special document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a special document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

Tip

If you agree about your guardianship being terminated, you do not have to complete documents or go to the hearing. Or you can complete the documents and say that you agree. This is helpful, as the judge may want to be certain that you agree, and could still insist on hearing from you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completing the Reply Statement for terminating guardianship

To respond to the request to terminate guardianship (such as if you disagree with the Applicant applying to terminate your guardianship of a child), use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Terminate Guardianship (Form FL-59 / CTS3491)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

If you agree about your guardianship being terminated, you do not have to complete documents or go to the hearing. Or you can complete the documents and say that you agree. This is helpful, as the judge may want to be certain that you agree, and could still insist on hearing from you.

Completing Reply Statements for other matters in dispute

When you were served with the Applicant’s Claim and Statement about terminating guardianship, you may also have been served Statements about other separation-related issues as well. The information about how to respond to those forms can be found on the Information Pages for each topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

Watch for Update Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Consent orders

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by having a court hearing. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order.

However, you cannot just file this consent order with the court. You must first start a court action. There may be a fee. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

In other words, if you have not already done so, you will have to file a Claim and serve the documents. You must also go to court to have a judge grant the order. For the judge to grant the order, you must meet all of the requirements for ending guardianship.

To ask a judge to grant the consent order, you must attend your docket court date in the Provincial Court. Docket court is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people (yours is one case on the list).

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

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

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

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for docket court

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

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

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

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English


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

Family Court Counsellors

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

See the following resources for more information.


Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

 

Duty counsel

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

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

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

 

Other resources to help

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource. 

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

After the docket court hearing is over

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

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

Asking for “costs” in docket court

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

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

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

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to trial

It is possible for issues about ending guardianship to go to trial. This is especially true if a person does not agree with their guardianship being taken away. Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing a court order

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

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

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

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Queen's Bench
Government of Alberta
English

Queen's Bench

Learn more about going to the Court of Queen’s Bench to end your guardianship of a child, including:

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

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

Out of court resolution options

For more information about out-of-court options that you can use to work through whether or not you want to remain a guardian, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Remember

Even if you and the other parent/guardian(s) agree out of court to end one person’s guardianship of a child, you will still have to go to court to legally end the guardianship. This is a requirement of the Family Law Act.

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 out-of-court agreements, if possible, or represent you in court.

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

Representing yourself

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

In some locations, RCAS staff also:

  • help you review your documents before you file; and
  • provide family court counsellors (FCCs) who help you learn about the court process and present the facts to the judge.

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

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

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

Chambers

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

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

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

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

Be Aware

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


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

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

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

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other 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
Applying to terminate guardianship of a child (your own guardianship or someone else’s)

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

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

Is this the right judicial centre?

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

 

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

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

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

Completing the Statement to terminate guardianship

To apply to terminate guardianship, whether you are applying to terminate your guardianship of a child, or someone else’s guardianship of a child, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Statement - Terminate Guardianship (Form FL-36 / CTS3486)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent (as that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child). It is more common to address decision-making difficulties using a parenting order. Under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. For example: it is possible to have a parenting order that says that one guardian is to make all of the decisions and the other guardian only gets “notice” of these decisions. Therefore, instead of asking a court to terminate your former partner’s guardianship, you may wish to consider asking for changes to the decision-making powers in a parenting order. For more information, see the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

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

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

Completing Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork about terminating guardianship, you may also wish to file Statements about other issues related to your separation. The required forms can be found on the Information Pages for each topic.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

“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.

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Do you need to respond to the Response?

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

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

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

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
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Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

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

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

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

 

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Be Aware

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Responding to an application to terminate guardianship of a child

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

Be Aware

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

Completing the “Response”

When the Applicant filed the application to terminate guardianship, he or she filed a special document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a special document called a Response.

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

Tip

If you agree about your guardianship being terminated, you do not have to complete documents or go to the hearing. Or you can complete the documents and say that you agree. This is helpful, as the judge may want to be certain that you agree, and could still insist on hearing from you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completing the Reply Statement for terminating guardianship

To respond to the request to terminate guardianship (such as if you disagree with the Applicant applying to terminate your guardianship of a child), use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Terminate Guardianship (Form FL-59 / CTS3491)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Be Aware

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

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

Completing Reply Statements for other matters in dispute

When you were served with the Applicant’s Claim and Statement about terminating guardianship, you may also have been served Statements about other separation-related issues as well. The information about how to respond to those forms can be found on the Information Pages for each topic. There is a complete list on the Family Law Topics page.

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

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

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

Remember

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything in a court hearing. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. For the judge to grant the order, you must meet all of the requirements for ending guardianship.

If you have already started a court action (in other words, if you have already filed a Claim and any Statements for your matters), you may have to take your draft consent order to chambers to have a judge grant the order. This does not have to be done on any particular day, and you do not have to wait until your scheduled court date if you had one.

Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people. Before the judge starts to hear the cases on the list, he or she will ask if there are any preliminary matters. At this time, people who want a consent order can ask for one.

Be Aware

In some judicial centres, you may just be able to hand the draft consent order to the court clerk, who will present it to the judge in his or her office. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see what the procedure is in your judicial centre.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you have not yet started a court action, you can start the court action with the Consent Order. To do so, you must first get your draft Consent Order signed by a judge. The process for doing that depends on your judicial centre.

For example:

  • You may have to take the draft Consent Order to morning chambers. Once you have done that, you take the signed Consent Order to the filing counter and the clerks will open a court file with the Order; or
  • You may be able to give the draft Consent Order to the court clerks directly, who will get it to a judge for review and let you know whether the judge approved it. Once the Consent Order is signed, the clerks will open a court file with the signed Order.

Either way, there will be a filing fee. For more information about which process you need to follow in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the consent order, remember to make sure that it is filed with the Court and served on the other party.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

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

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people (yours is just one on the list). Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

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

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

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

Family Court Counsellors

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

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

 

Duty counsel

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

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

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

 

Other resources to help

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

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

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

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


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

 

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins. The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters—this is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

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

Be Aware

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

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

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

After the chambers hearing is over

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

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

Asking for “costs” in chambers

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

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

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

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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


highlighter id='Be Aware']Judges can grant costs if the parties do not follow the rules about hearings (for example: rules about the paperwork restrictions and the deadlines). For more information about these rules, see the following resource.

Lawyers for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to trial

It is possible for issues about ending guardianship to go to trial. This is especially true if a person does not agree with their guardianship being taken away. Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing a court order

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

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

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

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Appeal
Government of Alberta
English
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