Family Violence: How Criminal & Civil Law Can Help

Law

There are many ways the law can help victims of family violence. Some of this help comes from the criminal justice system, and some comes from civil law remedies. See the sections below to learn about:

  • The difference between civil law and criminal law
  • Ways the law can protect you and your loved ones from abuse
  • Options for financial help and compensation as a result of abuse
  • Criminal charges against an abuser
  • Dealing with family law matters when you have been a victim of abuse

Choose the Process tab above for forms, contact information, and details about the steps you may need to take.

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

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

Last Reviewed: March 2017
How to be safe on the internet

It is helpful to know how to look at things on the internet safely. You might not want someone else to see what you are looking at. Or you might want to learn how to delete your internet history, which shows which sites you have looked at. You might also not feel safe looking at family violence information, especially if you are in an abusive relationship and are afraid of your abuser.

For instructions on how to look at things on the internet safely and how to delete your browser history, see the Safe Browsing page.

For more information and tips about how to be safe on the internet, see the following resources.

Web Safe Browsing Tips: Computer, Phone and Tablet
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Protecting Your Email
domesticshelters.org
English

How to be safe on the phone

It is also helpful to know how to be safe when using the phone. Sometimes, when you make calls, the call history can be seen on your phone, or someone can hit “redial” to see who you last called. Or, you might just not want someone else to hear what you are talking about or asking for help about. This is especially true if you are in an abusive relationship. You may be afraid that the abuser will find out who you have been talking to. You might not feel safe calling for help—even in your own home.

For more information and tips about how to call for help safely, see the following resources.

Web How to Call for Help Safely
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web How to Spy Spyware on Your Phone
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Apps Help Survivors' Messages Stay Secret
domesticshelters.org
English
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page describes the different ways to get help if you or your children are victims of family violence.

If you are dealing with family violence, you may have questions about:

  • what you can do if a child you know is being abused;
  • how the law can protect you if you leave an abusive relationship;
  • how you might be compensated for damages;
  • how to press charges against your abuser; and
  • how to deal with separation or divorce matters (such as parenting time, child support, partner support, and property division).

There are 2 types of law that can deal with these matters:

  • criminal law; and
  • civil law.

The differences between these 2 types of law are described on this Information Page. You can learn about the different options and decide what might apply to your situation.

You may also have other concerns about your situation.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which describes how criminal law and civil law can help family violence victims. Choose the Process tab above for information about steps you need to take to ask for what you want. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

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.

family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”)

Abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. It is a pattern of behaviours within a relationship of intimacy, dependency, and/or trust.

It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

abuser

A person who uses their power in a relationship to control and/or harm a person with whom he or she has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. Abusers can be anyone, whether a friend, parent, romantic partner, adult child, or caregiver.

victim

The person who is controlled and/or hurt by someone else (the “abuser”). Victims can be anyone who is in a relationship with the abuser, such as a child, an elder, or a romantic partner. Victims may also be called “survivors.”

claimant

A person who brings a “claim” against another person. A claim is a particular kind of court application. The claimant is one of the “parties” in the court application.

In situations of family violence, the claimant is the person who says that family violence has occurred and asks for some sort of protective order. This person does not have to be the victim of the family violence—he or she may be acting on behalf of the victim.

respondent

The person who has a court application brought against him or her. The respondent is one of the “parties” in a court application.

In situations of family violence, the “respondent” is the person who is accused of being abusive, and a “claimant” has asked a court for protection from the respondent.

the accused

A person who has had a criminal charge brought against him or her (but the charge has not yet been proven). In criminal cases, the terms “the accused” and “respondent” can be used to describe the same person.

Criminal Code of Canada

A federal law that lists and describes most crimes and criminal procedures in Canada. Some other crimes are listed in other federal laws (such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), but most crimes are included in the Criminal Code.

For more information about the Criminal Code of Canada, see the following resources.

Web Criminal Code – General FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Criminal Code
The Canadian Encyclopedia
English

federal law

Laws that are made by the Government of Canada and apply to all Canadians, no matter which province they live in. Examples include: the Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, and the Immigration Act.

provincial law

Laws that are made by a provincial or territorial government. In Alberta, provincial laws are made by the Government of Alberta and apply only in Alberta. Examples include: the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, the Alberta Family Law Act, and the Alberta Wills and Succession Act.

criminal law

The system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets.

civil law

The law that involves disputes between individuals, such as family law and personal injury law. Civil law can also include “quasi-criminal” matters—see “quasi-criminal proceeding” below for more information.

criminal proceeding

A court process that deals with matters listed as “crimes” in the Criminal Code of Canada. For example: assault or fraud are both crimes listed in the Criminal Code, so anyone charged with assault or fraud would be involved in “criminal proceedings.”

quasi-criminal proceeding

A legal process that gives a court the right to punish someone for his or her actions even if those actions are not listed as a crime in the Criminal Code. For example: a person who has an Emergency Protection Order or restraining order brought against him or her would be involved in a quasi-criminal proceeding.

civil proceeding

A court process that deals with matters in civil law. It does not deal with matters under criminal law, but it may deal with matters that are quasi-criminal.

Crown prosecutor (also called “Crown counsel” or “the Crown”)

In Canadian criminal law, this term is used to describe lawyers who represent the government in the legal action against a person who is accused of a crime.

Be Aware

You may have heard the term “district attorney” used to describe such lawyers—this is an American term and does not apply in Canada.

protective order

A court order to protect a victim of violence, abuse, or harassment. Protective orders can be part of the criminal law or the civil law.

The protective orders available in Alberta include:

  • Emergency Protection Orders under Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act;
  • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders under Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act;
  • Emergency Protection Orders under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act;
  • restraining orders;
  • peace bonds;
  • bail conditions; and
  • no contact orders.

For more information about these, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

remedy (sometimes called “relief”)

A way for a civil court to:

  • enforce someone’s legal right; or
  • compensate someone when they have been injured, harmed, or treated wrongfully.

restitution

A court-ordered payment from a person who caused damages to someone to the person who was harmed. For example, in family violence situations, the abuser may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim.

This payment is meant to make up for financial losses. For example:

  • property damage or loss;
  • physical or emotional harm that led to financial loss; or
  • expenses from having to move out.

Restitution is only ordered if the person who caused the damage is found guilty of a crime. The victim can apply for restitution, and if the judge agrees, it can be included as part of the offender’s sentence.

breach

The act of not following a court order (whether on purpose or by accident). Depending on the order, there are different consequences for breaching a court order.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through and learn more about family violence, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:


Web Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English



Web Family Violence Laws
Government of Canada
English

Web Les lois sur la violence familiale
Government of Canada
French

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

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

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

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

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

The following resource lists some of the leading cases in family law (including cases about Emergency Protection Orders and child protection).

 
Abuse of adults and abuse of children: Differences in the law

Both civil and criminal law can help stop abuse or prevent abuse. This is true for both adults and children.

Many of the laws that govern abuse of adults and children are similar. For example:

  • both adults and children can be protected from an abuser with civil protective orders; and
  • criminal charges can be laid for a crime against an adult or a child.

However, sometimes the laws that govern can be very different. For example, if they are in need of protection, children in an abusive home can be removed from the home and placed into the care of the government. For more information about child-specific laws that protect children from abuse, see the Child Protection Information Page.

Reporting suspected child abuse

Under Alberta law, anyone who has “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe that a child is being abused, or is at risk of being abused, must report it to Child Protective Services. This is part of Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Children rely on adults to keep them safe. Also, if you do not report suspected abuse, you could be fined up to $2,000.

Child abuse can include:

  • neglect;
  • emotional abuse;
  • physical abuse (including medical abuse); or
  • sexual abuse.

For detailed information about what these types of abuse can look like, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

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

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

See the Process tab of this Information Page for detailed information about reporting suspected child abuse and what will happen after a report is made.

Getting the police involved: Calling 911 or making a police report

If you are in a family violence situation, you can contact the police for help. They will connect you with the help you need. This may include civil remedies or criminal remedies.

If you think that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.

Immediate help: Calling 911

If you call 911 to report domestic violence, the police will show up at the place where the violence is happening. The police will likely have questions for you about the abuse that happened. The police might decide to charge the abuser with a crime if they believe that the abuser committed a crime.

For more information about what can happen if you call the police, see the following resources.

Web When They Show Up (Getting the Police Involved)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Domestic Violence: How the Police Can Help
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Contacting the Police.”

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Getting Help from the Police or RCMP
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource Is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Be Aware

In situations of physical violence, it is natural to try to physically protect yourself. This can result in “hitting back.” Although this may be natural, it can cause big problems. Specifically, you could be charged with a crime (such as assault). Even just a slap (as we might see in a movie) can result in an assault charge. If you are charged with assault, it can make your family issues much more complicated and can cause a great deal of difficulty. For more information about this, see the following resources.


Web How Self-Defense Can Go Wrong
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Making a police report

If you or someone you know is being abused, you can make a report to the police. The police will then investigate the situation, and may press criminal charges. They can also refer you to places that can help in your community, such as Victims’ Services.

Be Aware

Some kinds of help require a police report. For example: you may need it to apply for financial compensation. Making a police report does not always lead to criminal charges. For more information, see the “Making a criminal complaint” section below.

For more information about what happens when you report abuse to the police, see the following resources. These resources deal specifically with elder abuse, but the information applies to other kinds of family violence as well.

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Let's Talk: Elder Abuse - Resource Manual
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

PDF Parlons-en : L'abus fait aux ainé-e-s - Manuel de ressources
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French
Voir : p. 19-21.
Criminal law: When is abuse a crime?

Abuse is always wrong. No one ever deserves to be abused.

Sometimes a person can be mean, hurtful, and abusive, but their behaviour is not considered a “crime” under the law. However, many abusive behaviours are crimes as described in the Criminal Code. For information about what is considered a crime in Alberta and Canada, see the following resources.

Web What does the law say about... (different types of abuse)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Introduction to Canadian Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Criminal Law.”

Web It's Not Allowed
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Elder Abuse - Frequently Asked Questions
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Law of Sexual Assault in Canada
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #4.

Presentation Criminal Law and Violence Against Women: Basic Concepts
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Elder Abuse: Failing to Provide the Necessaries of Life to Older Adults is a Crime
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


If you believe the abuse you are suffering is a crime, there are ways the criminal law can help. For example:
  • You may be able to get a protective order under the criminal law to keep the abuser away from you and/or your children. These include peace bonds, bail conditions, no contact orders. See the Protective Orders Information Page for more information about these.
  • Criminal charges may be brought against the abuser. If the abuser is found guilty, he or she could go to jail. Also, the abuser’s sentence may include “restitution” to make up for financial losses you or your children suffered as a result of the abuse. See the “Financial help and compensation” section below.

If the abuse you are suffering is not considered a crime, there are still options you can try. For example:

Tip

For general family violence information and referrals to supports and services in your area, contact the Family Violence Info Line. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

How civil law and criminal law are different

Family law is generally considered a “civil law” issue. However, in situations of family violence, civil law overlaps with criminal law. Both kinds of law have ways to try to help victims of abuse.

Criminal law is the system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets. It involves matters listed as “crimes” in the Criminal Code of Canada.

Civil law is the law that involves disputes between individuals, such as contract law and family law. Civil law can also include “quasi-criminal” matters.

Quasi-criminal matters are legal processes that give a court the right to punish someone for their actions, even if those actions are not listed as a crime in the Criminal Code. For example: a person who has an Emergency Protection Order or restraining order brought against them would be involved in a quasi-criminal proceeding. (There is more information about protective orders in the “Protection from abuse: Civil and criminal options” section below.)

Both criminal and civil law can help protect against family violence

There are laws that can help victims of violence under both civil and criminal law. These different laws often overlap in family violence situations.

For example, physical abuse may be addressed by both:

  • laying a criminal charge of assault; and
  • applying for a civil protective order.

Civil law

A person who is abused by their partner or family member may have different options for help under the civil law. These include the following.

  • They can apply for a protective order to keep the abuser away. Civil protective orders include Emergency Protection Orders, Queen’s Bench Protection Orders, and restraining orders.
  • They can sue the abuser in civil court for the financial losses caused by the abuse.

These civil remedies can be granted whether or not the abuser has been charged with a crime. They can even be granted if an accused person has been found “not guilty” in a related criminal proceeding.

However, the victims must ask for the civil law to help in these ways. For example: a person must apply for a restraining order. It will not just be ordered by a judge without the victim asking for it. Similarly, a person will not simply be given money to make up for their financial loss. They must sue the abuser.

For more information about these options, see these sections below:

  • “Protection from abuse: Civil and criminal options”
  • “Financial help and compensation: Civil and criminal options”

Criminal law

In addition to the civil remedies described above, the police and the Crown may press criminal charges against the abuser. Civil remedies are not replacements for criminal charges: they can both happen. In other words: there can be both civil and criminal consequences for the same actions or behaviour.

Criminal charges can happen even if the victim doesn’t want the police to press charges. This is because the purpose of criminal law is to protect the public (not just the victim). Part of that protection is making sure that laws are followed.

If criminal charges are laid and the abuser is found guilty, they would be held responsible for their actions in some way—often by paying a fine or going to jail.

Also, if you are the victim of a crime, you may be able to apply for financial restitution (there is more information about that in the “Financial help and compensation: Civil and criminal options” section below).

Be Aware

Not all instances of abuse will result in criminal charges being laid. That decision is made by the Crown, and it depends on a lot of different things.

The differences in the role of the claimant (victim)

The victim in civil proceedings

In civil proceedings about family violence, the parties are:

  • the person making the claim for protection or compensation (the victim); and
  • the person responding to that claim (the person being accused of abuse).

In other words, the parties are the people suing, and the people being sued. Each party may also have a lawyer. The parties make the decisions about how they want the case to proceed.

The victim in criminal proceedings

In criminal proceedings, the parties are:

  • the person being accused of the crime, or simply “the accused” (who can have a lawyer); and
  • “the Crown.” The Crown prosecutor is the lawyer for society—not the lawyer for the victim.

As a result, the police and the Crown:

  • may press criminal charges against someone even if the victim does not want them to; or
  • may not press charges against someone, even if the victim wants them to.

The Crown prosecutor makes the decisions about how to proceed with the case on behalf of the government. The victim does not make decisions about how to proceed. At most, the victim is a witness for the Crown. The Crown may discuss the matter with the victim before making a decision (and often does), but they are not required to do so.

This can also have an effect long after the court hearing is over. For example, the abuser’s bail conditions (also called “conditions of release”) could change without the victim being notified.

As a result:

  • victims may also want to have a civil protective order in place, even if criminal charges have been laid; and
  • victims may want to make sure that they stay in contact with the Crown and/or the abuser’s probation officer. This may help keep the victim aware of any changes.

The differences in the “burden of proof”

When you are asking for protection from abuse, you need to know whether you are asking for protection under civil law or criminal law. This is because a judge makes his or her decisions differently for each kind of law. This is called the difference in the “burden of proof.”

Under criminal law, the Crown must prove to the judge that the facts of the case show that the accused person is guilty of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, there could be no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person that the accused did what he or she is accused of—the facts are such that there is no other reasonable explanation. The judge (or the jury) must be almost completely certain that the accused person is guilty. This is generally true in quasi-criminal matters as well.

Under civil law, the judge must be sure that the facts presented are true “on a balance of probabilities.” This means that the judge must be more sure than not. He or she must think that the facts presented by the claimant are probably true. The Court then makes its decisions based whose evidence it feels is more believable.

This difference in the burden of proof often also affects how police may treat a “breach” of a protective order. A “breach” occurs when a protective order is not followed. Specifically:

  • If the breach will result in a criminal charge, the police will want to be sure they can prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” before they arrest the person accused of breaching the protective order.
  • If the breach will only result in civil penalties, the police will want to be sure that they can prove the breach “on a balance of probabilities.”

More information

For more information about how civil and criminal law can help victims of abuse, see the following resources.

Web Introduction to Canadian Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Battered Women
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Elder Abuse - Frequently Asked Questions
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
English

Web Restraining and protection orders
Government of Alberta
English

Web Civil and Criminal Cases
Government of Canada
English




Web What is the difference between criminal and civil court?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English

Web Criminal and Civil Law
Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association
English

French resources:

Web Les affaires civiles et les affaires pénales
Government of Canada
French


Web Quelle est la différence entre un tribunal criminel et un tribunal civil ?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
French

Web Droit civil et droit criminel
Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association
French
Protection from abuse: Civil and criminal options

A protective order is a court order to protect a victim of violence or abuse. There are many different types of abuse (such as physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and financial). For more information about the different kinds of abuse and how to recognize it, see the What is Family Violence? Information Page.

In Alberta, there are different types of protective orders available for different situations. The following resource has a chart that describes these different options.

PDF No Contact Orders
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Protective orders are used to protect the victim from future violence. They are not meant to “punish” an abuser for his or her actions.

If you get a protective order:

  • criminal charges may still be laid against the abuser; or
  • criminal charges may not be laid against the abuser (even though you were granted a protective order).

This because the civil law and the criminal law are different processes. For more information about that, see the section above called “How civil law and criminal law are different.”

Be Aware

Even if a court grants a protective order, it does not mean the abuser will necessarily follow the order. Make sure you take practical steps to protect yourself as well. See the Safety Planning & Preparing to Leave Information Page for more information.

Civil protective orders

Civil protective orders may take less time to get than criminal protective orders. Also, the abuser can still be criminally charged, even if the victim gets a civil protective order. See the “How civil law and criminal law are different” section above for more information about this.

There several kinds of civil protective orders in Alberta. These are briefly described just below. See the Protective Orders Information Page for detailed information about these protective orders, and how to apply.

Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs)

Emergency Protection Orders are for family violence situations. They give the claimant and certain family members immediate protection for a short period of time. The claimant can ask for an EPO without telling their abuser about it.

Queen’s Bench Protection Orders (QBPOs)

Queen’s Bench Protection Orders are also for family violence situations. They are intended for non-emergency situations. QBPOs give the claimant and certain family members longer-term protection than an EPO. They can also have broader terms than an EPO. The claimant must tell the abuser that they are applying for a QBPO.

Warrants permitting entry

Warrants permitting entry are a civil remedy granted under Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act. They are not protective orders, but they can lead to protective orders if needed. A warrant permitting entry allows a police officer to go into a specific location to search for and help a victim of family violence. A warrant permitting entry is requested by concerned family members or loved ones who suspect someone is being abused.

Restraining orders

A restraining order is a civil court order that protects a victim of violence by keeping the abuser away from the victim. Restraining orders can be made against family members as well as non-family members (such as a neighbour). The claimant can make an application against anyone who has made him or her feel unsafe. This could include actions (such as violent behaviour) or words (such as threats).

Be Aware

Even if a court grants a protective order, it does not mean the abuser will necessarily follow the order. Make sure you take practical steps to protect yourself as well. See the Safety Planning & Preparing to Leave Information Page for more information.

Criminal protective orders

There are several kinds of criminal protective orders in Alberta. These are briefly described just below. See the Protective Orders Information Page for detailed information about these protective orders, and how to apply.

Remember

These can be ordered even if you have been given one of the civil protective orders described above.

Peace bonds

A peace bond is a criminal court order that requires the abuser to “keep the peace.” In other words, the person named on the peace bond must not get into any trouble or be charged with any crimes for a specific time period (up to one year). Although the order is made in criminal court, there do not have to be criminal charges laid for a peace bond to be ordered. In fact, a peace bond may be ordered instead of a criminal charge being laid.

The Court may add many terms to a peace bond to protect a victim of abuse, such as:

  • ordering that the abuser stay away from specific places (for example, the victim’s workplace);
  • ordering that the abuser have no contact with the victim in any way; and
  • taking any firearms away from the abuser.

Peace bonds are very similar to bail conditions (see below), but they do not necessarily have the criminal charges that lead to bail conditions.

No contact orders

A no contact order is generally not quite as broad as a peace bond. A no contact order results from a criminal proceeding and states that one person cannot have any communication or contact with another named person. This order may be brought against:

  • someone who has only been accused of a crime (but not yet convicted); or
  • someone who has been convicted of a crime (also called an “offender”).

Bail conditions

The term “bail” refers to an accused person being released from jail until their criminal court date. In Canada, the accused will usually be released unless:

  • the Court thinks that they may not attend their criminal court hearing; or
  • keeping the accused person in jail is necessary to protect the public.

However, the Court often adds “conditions” to bail. These conditions can include:

  • reporting to authorities (for example, the police or a probation officer);
  • staying in the province;
  • staying away from a specific person or place; and
  • no contact orders.

More information

For an overview of the different kinds of protective orders, see the following resources.

For detailed information about each of these and how to apply, see the Protective Orders Information Page

PDF No Contact Orders
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Protection Against Family Violence Act – The Basics
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web PAFVA – Les bases
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

Web Keeping the Abuser Away
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Protective Orders
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Legal Issues
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Victims of Family Violence: Information and Rights
Government of Alberta
English

Web Legal Protection Orders
YWCA Canada
English
Making a criminal complaint and “pressing charges”

If you have been the victim of a crime, you can make a criminal complaint about your abuser. The police will investigate your claim, and they may press charges. If they do not press charges, you can try to press charges yourself by talking to a Justice of the Peace.

See the Process tab of this Information Page for details about the steps involved with:

  • making a criminal complaint;
  • pressing charges;
  • testifying in court; and
  • what happens after the court process.
Financial help and compensation: Civil and criminal options

Abusive people often control the family’s money and finances. Also, victims of family violence may suffer financial losses related to the abuse. Both civil law and criminal law can help victims of family violence recover from these losses.

Financial help under civil law

There are several ways the civil law may be able to help can help with the financial impact of leaving an abusive situation. These include:

  • Support orders (child support and spousal support)
  • Exclusive possession of the family home
  • Suing for compensation

Support orders

If you were in a relationship with your abuser, or had children with your abuser, you may be able to get a support order from the court to help pay for living expenses. Support orders are usually a monthly amount paid for a certain period of time. However, sometimes support can be ordered as a single, “lump-sum” payment.

For an introduction to your options, see the following resource.

PDF If you Leave...Your Guide to Financial Support Options
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 3.

For information about applying for child support, see one of the following Information Pages.

For information about who is eligible to apply for partner support, see one of the following Information Pages.

Exclusive possession of the family home

If you lived with your abuser, you may be able to apply to court for “exclusive possession” of the family home. This would require your partner to leave and allow you to stay in the home for a certain period of time. You may also be allowed to continue using household goods or the family vehicle.

For more information about applying for exclusive possession of the family home, see one of the following Information Pages.

Suing for compensation

If you or your property were harmed as a result of family violence, you can sue your abuser in civil court for your losses. You can do this whether the abuse was physical or emotional.

However, this is not an easy process. You will likely want to speak with a lawyer. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Be Aware

There are time limits to start a civil action.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Civil Court and Compensation: Suing for Compensation in Civil Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Opening Closed Doors – When should domestic violence victims sue their abusers?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Opening Closed Doors – The downside of suing your abuser
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Financial help under criminal law

If you are the victim of a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, you may be able to apply for financial compensation.

There are 2 kinds of compensation for victims of crime in Alberta:

  1. Restitution for financial losses
  2. Financial benefits for physical or emotional injuries

These are described in detail just below. You may qualify for both of these options.

Tip

If you do not qualify for these benefits, you may still be able to sue for compensation under the civil law. See the information above about financial help under the civil law.

Restitution

This is a court-ordered payment from the abuser to the victim, to pay for the victim’s financial losses. For example:

  • property damage or loss;
  • physical or emotional harm that led to financial loss; or
  • expenses from having to move out.

Restitution is only ordered if the abuser is found guilty of the crime. The victim can apply for restitution, and if the judge agrees, it can be included as part of the abuser’s sentence.

For more information about restitution, see the following resources.

PDF Restitution for Victims of Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Apply for restitution.”

PDF Victims of Crime Handbooks (available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese)
Government of Alberta
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese

 

Financial benefits

This is a payment from Victims’ Services to the victim, to recognize that they were physically or emotionally injured as a result of a crime in Alberta. This benefit does not pay for financial losses related to the crime. Instead, it is a pre-set amount based on how severe your injuries were. Your injuries may be physical or emotional, but they must be verified by a medical professional who treated you (a doctor or counsellor).

You can apply for financial benefits even if the abuser is not criminally charged or convicted.

However:

  • the crime must be reported to the police within a reasonable time; and
  • you will usually need to apply within 2 years of crime. If the victim was under 18 when the crime occurred, they have until they are 28 years old to apply.

For more information about who is eligible for the Financial Benefits Program, see the following resources.

PDF Financial Benefits for Victims of Violent Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Apply for financial benefits.”

Audio/Web Victims of Crime
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Victims of Crime Handbooks (available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese)
Government of Alberta
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese


The full list of eligible offences and injuries is in the Victims of Crime Regulation. See the following resource.
Web Victims of Crime Act (and its associated Regulation)
Government of Alberta
English
See “Victims Of Crime Regulation.”


Be Aware

If the abuse happened outside of Alberta, you are not eligible for the Financial Benefits Program. However, you may still be able to get restitution or other help from the province where the crime happened. For more information about your options, see the following resources.

Web Victim’s right to seek restitution
Government of Canada
English

Web Droit de demander un dédommagement
Government of Canada
French

Web A Guide to Financial Assistance for Victims
Victims of Violence
English

Web Financial Assistance
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
English

Web Aide financière
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
French

 

More information about restitution and Financial Benefits

For more general information about both of these options, see the following resources.

PDF If you Leave...Your Guide to Financial Support Options
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See p. 10.

Web Compensation for Crimes
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Making a claim under the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act

Alberta’s Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act sets up a process for the government to recover property that is said to have been obtained by an illegal act. It allows a “Civil Forfeiture Office” to ask the court to seize property obtained illegally as well as property used to carry out illegal acts.

The victim can apply under this Act even if the accused has not yet been convicted of a crime. However, there must have been an investigation of the illegal act.

Dealing with family law matters as a victim of abuse

“Family law” is a part of civil law. If you want to separate from your abusive partner or spouse, you may have family law concerns, including the following.

  • Guardianship, custody, and parenting time
  • Safe visitation and monitored exchange
  • Child support
  • Partner support or spousal support
  • Exclusive possession of the family home
  • Enforcing your court orders

The rest of this section will briefly describe these family law issues and what steps you can take to resolve them.

Family violence often affects what legal steps you will take first, and how you follow the “rules” of going to court. For information about this, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

Tip

For all of these matters, there are people that can help you decide how to proceed. For more information, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

These matters can be dealt with in court using either the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act.

  • If you were not married, you do not have a choice about which law to use. Your matters will be dealt with under the Family Law Act.
  • If you were married, you will have to choose which law you want to use. This can depend on many things. To help you decide, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Guardianship, custody, and parenting time

The Court will always make its decisions about children based on what is in “the best interests of the child.” It is generally assumed that it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents. It is very rare that a parent will not be granted parenting time—even if the parent is abusive, or is in jail.

For more information about how to resolve your parenting matters and keep your children safe, see the Information Page that applies to you:

Be Aware

If a parent removes and hides a child under the age of 14 from the other parent, without that parent’s consent, it is a crime. This is called “parental abduction.” Even if the child is over 14, the parent could still be in legal trouble. For more information about this, see the Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Safe visitation and monitored exchange

You may have concerns about the safety of your children when they are spending time with a parent or another person who has contact.

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

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

For more information about these programs, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Child support

If you had children with your abuser, you can apply in court for child support. Support orders are usually a monthly amount paid for a certain period of time. However, sometimes support can be ordered as a single, “lump-sum” payment.

For information about applying for child support, see the Information Page that applies to you:

Partner support or spousal support

If you were married to your abuser, or lived with your abuser, you may be eligible for partner/spousal support. Support orders are usually a monthly amount paid for a certain period of time. However, sometimes support can be ordered as a single, “lump-sum” payment.

For information about who can apply, see the Information Page that applies to you:

Exclusive possession of the family home

If you lived with your abuser, you may be able to apply to court for “exclusive possession” of the family home. This would require your partner to leave and allow you to stay in the home for a certain period of time. You may also be allowed to continue using household goods or the family vehicle.

For more information about applying for exclusive possession of the family home, see the Information Page that applies to you:

Enforcing your court orders

“Enforcement” means forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order. Family court orders are enforced in different ways, depending on what the order is for.
 

Custody, access, and parenting time orders

Many people think that parenting orders can always be enforced by police. This is not true.

To be enforced, the court order must have an “enforcement clause.” An enforcement clause is a part of the court order that allows police to force a person to follow the court order.

Without an enforcement clause, the police cannot force a person to follow a family court order.

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

For more information about enforcement clauses, see the following resources.

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

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

PDF Access Enforcement Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

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

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


Web Police Enforcement of Custody and Access Orders
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If someone breaches a family court order, there can be long-term consequences. Judges do not view such behaviour very well, and it may affect future orders. Also, the person who breached the Order may be found in “contempt of court.” This can lead to fines and/or time in jail.

For more information about following court orders and contempt of court, see the following resources. Note that these resources are from a private source outside Alberta, but the same concepts apply in Alberta too.

Web What is “Contempt of Court” in Family Law, Anyway? – Part I
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

Web What is “Contempt of Court” in Family Law? — Part II
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

Web Who has to Prove Contempt of Court? – Part III
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

Web Can a Parent be in Contempt When Kid Disobeys a Court Order?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English

See the following Information Pages for more information about other options to help enforce family court orders when there are problems.

Child support and partner/spousal support

Support orders are enforced through Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the following Information Pages for detailed information about the Maintenance Enforcement Program, and how to register.

Process

The law can help protect you and help you recover from abuse. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Reporting suspected child abuse
  • Contacting the police and making a police report
  • First steps for getting a protective order
  • Applying for financial compensation for victims
  • Making a criminal complaint against your abuser

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

Last Reviewed: March 2017
How to be safe on the internet

It is helpful to know how to look at things on the internet safely. You might not want someone else to see what you are looking at. Or you might want to learn how to delete your internet history, which shows which sites you have looked at. You might also not feel safe looking at family violence information, especially if you are in an abusive relationship and are afraid of your abuser.

For instructions on how to look at things on the internet safely and how to delete your browser history, see the Safe Browsing page.

For more information and tips about how to be safe on the internet, see the following resources.

Web Safe Browsing Tips: Computer, Phone and Tablet
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Protecting Your Email
domesticshelters.org
English

How to be safe on the phone

It is also helpful to know how to be safe when using the phone. Sometimes, when you make calls, the call history can be seen on your phone, or someone can hit “redial” to see who you last called. Or, you might just not want someone else to hear what you are talking about or asking for help about. This is especially true if you are in an abusive relationship. You may be afraid that the abuser will find out who you have been talking to. You might not feel safe calling for help—even in your own home.

For more information and tips about how to call for help safely, see the following resources.

Web How to Call for Help Safely
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web How to Spy Spyware on Your Phone
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Apps Help Survivors' Messages Stay Secret
domesticshelters.org
English
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page describes the steps you can take if you or your children are victims of family violence.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which describes how to use criminal law and civil law processes to help with family violence. Choose the Law tab above for information about how criminal law and civil law can help family violence victims. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Reporting suspected child abuse

If you have a reason to believe that a child is being abused, you have a duty to report it. If you fail to report child abuse when you had reason to believe it was happening, you may be fined.

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

When you report child abuse, Child Protective Services will investigate the situation.

For more information on reporting child abuse and what will happen after the report, see the following resources.

Web Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Recognizing and reporting child abuse in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

Web What happens when I call?
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Abuse and Neglect: When to Seek Help
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Responding to Child Abuse in Alberta: A Handbook
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Reporting Child Sexual Abuse: Guide for Parents
Leduc & District Victim Assistance Society
English
  
Web Child Protection
Edmonton Police Service
English

Audio/Web Child Abuse
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?
Government of Canada
English
See “How do I report abuse?”
 
Web Suspect Child Abuse
Government of Alberta
English
Getting the police involved: Calling 911 or making a police report

If you are in a family violence situation, you can contact the police for help. They will connect you with the help you need. This may include civil remedies or criminal remedies.

If you think that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.

Immediate help: Calling 911

If you call 911 to report domestic violence, the police will show up at the place where the violence is happening. The police will likely have questions for you about the abuse that happened. The police might decide to charge the abuser with a crime if they believe that the abuser committed a crime.

For more information about what can happen if you call the police, see the following resources.

Web When They Show Up (Getting the Police Involved)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Domestic Violence: How the Police Can Help
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Contacting the Police.”

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Getting Help from the Police or RCMP
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English


Web Surviving the System Handbook: Advice on Using the Legal System if you are a Survivor of Sexual Violence
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English


Be Aware

In situations of physical violence, it is natural to try to physically protect yourself. This can result in “hitting back.” Although this may be natural, it can cause big problems. Specifically, you could be charged with a crime (such as assault). Even just a slap (as we might see in a movie) can result in an assault charge. If you are charged with assault, it can make your family issues much more complicated and can cause a great deal of difficulty. For more information about this, see the following resources.


Web How Self-Defense Can Go Wrong
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Making a police report

If you or someone you know is being abused, you can make a report to the police. The police will then investigate the situation, and may press criminal charges. They can also refer you to places that can help in your community, such as Victims’ Services.

Be Aware

Some kinds of help require a police report. For example: you may need it to apply for financial compensation. Making a police report does not always lead to criminal charges. For more information, see the “Making a criminal complaint” section below.

For more information about what happens when you report abuse to the police, see the following resources. These resources deal specifically with elder abuse, but the information applies to other kinds of family violence as well.

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Let's Talk: Elder Abuse - Resource Manual
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

PDF Parlons-en : L'abus fait aux ainé-e-s - Manuel de ressources
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French
Voir : p. 19-21.
Getting a protective order

For detailed information about how to apply for civil or criminal protective orders, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

In Alberta, there are several organizations that help victims of family violence get certain kinds of protective orders. You do not need to apply for a protective order on your own. These organizations can explain your legal options to you and may be able to help with the paperwork and court hearings. For example:

  • During business hours, Legal Aid Alberta’s Family Law Office offers free help through its Emergency Protection Order Program (EPOP).
  • For emergencies and after business hours, you can contact the police. They can also help you apply for an Emergency Protection Order.

For information about other organizations that can provide different kinds of help, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page and the following resources.

Web Victim Service Units
Alberta Police Based Victim Services Association
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Find Supports and Services
Government of Alberta
English

PDF What you need to know about... Emergency Protection Orders
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
 
Suing your abuser in civil court

If you or your property were harmed as a result of family violence, you can sue your abuser in civil court for your losses. You can do this whether the abuse was physical or emotional.

Be Aware

There are time limits to start a civil action.

However, this is not an easy process. You will likely want to speak with a lawyer. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information, see the following resources.


Web Civil Court and Compensation: Suing for Compensation in Civil Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Opening Closed Doors – When should domestic violence victims sue their abusers?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Opening Closed Doors – The downside of suing your abuser
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Applying for financial compensation

As a victim of abuse, you may qualify for financial compensation under civil or criminal law.

Applying for restitution

Restitution is only ordered if the abuser is found guilty of the crime. The victim can apply for restitution, and if the judge agrees, it can be included as part of the abuser’s sentence.

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

PDF Restitution for Victims of Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Apply for restitution.”

Applying for the Financial Benefit Program

You can apply for financial benefits even if the abuser is not criminally charged or convicted.

However:

  • the crime must be reported to the police within a reasonable time; and
  • you will usually need to apply within 2 years of crime. If the victim was under 18 when the crime occurred, they have until they are 28 years old to apply.

For more information about how to apply for the Financial Benefits Program, see the following resources.

PDF Financial Benefits for Victims of Violent Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Apply for financial benefits.”
Making a criminal complaint and “pressing charges”

Contacting the police to make a criminal complaint

If you want to make a criminal complaint against your abuser, you will first need to contact the police. Once you involve the police, they will investigate your claim that a crime has been committed.

Remember

Under criminal law, there is a much stricter “burden of proof” that the police need to meet. When deciding whether to lay charges, the police will consider whether this burden can be met. For information about this, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

For information about what to expect when you involve the police, see the following resources.

Web When They Show Up (Getting the Police Involved)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Domestic Violence: How the Police Can Help
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Contacting the Police.”

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Domestic Violence
Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.



Pressing charges

The abuser can be charged with a crime in 2 ways.

  • The police can press charges after investigating your claim.
  • You press charges on your own if the police decide to not press charges after investigating your claim. However, this is very rare.

If the police press charges

If the police decide there is enough evidence to press charges:

  • They may arrest your abuser. In this case, the abuser will have a bail hearing within 24 hours. They may or may not be released at that bail hearing. There will be a later court hearing where your abuser will be required to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.
  • They may not arrest your abuser. In this case, your abuser will be required to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.

For more information about what happens when the police press charges, see the following resources.

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Getting the Police Involved.”

PDF Domestic Violence: How the Police Can Help
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “What is ‘laying charges’?”

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See p. 4-5.



Web Domestic Violence
Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Arrest, Booking, and Bail Procedures
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is my role if the police charge my partner?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If the police do not press charges

If the police decide not to press charges, it may still be possible to press charges yourself. This is called “laying a private information.”

To do that, you will have to make an appointment with a Justice of the Peace in the Provincial Court. You will give them a statement about what happened. The Justice of the Peace will consult the Crown prosecutor. If the Justice of the Peace thinks there is enough evidence for a criminal charge (including the evidence from the police report), they can order a court hearing about the matter.

Be Aware

Laying a private information is very rare. It is also difficult to get. As a result, you may wish to consider focusing on your other options (such as protective orders). If you do want to try to lay a private information, you may wish to consult a lawyer first. For more information about your options for legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For more information about this process, see the following resources.

Web Private prosecutions
Government of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

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

Web Legal Proceedings to prevent further Family Violence
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Assault
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Legal Options Available to the Victim.”

Web Harassment
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Private Information - What you need to know.
Smordin Law
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Policy in Certain Types of Litigation: Chapter 26 - Private Prosecutions
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Politique applicable à certains types de litiges : Chapitre 26 - Les poursuites privées
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

The court process

At the first court appearance, your abuser will state whether they plead “guilty” or “not guilty.”

  • If they plead “guilty,” a new court date will be set where the judge will sentence your abuser.
  • If they plead “not guilty,” then a trial will be scheduled to hear the evidence. At the trial, you will likely need to tell your story to the court.

There are many things to learn about going to court, and ways to prepare for court. The Crown prosecutor will discuss some of these with you. You may have questions about:

  • The basic structure of a trial
  • The people involved in a trial
  • Preparing for the trial
  • Testifying in court and being a witness
  • What happens if you don’t show up to court
  • How long the process takes
  • Possible outcomes of the trial

For information about the basic steps of a trial, see the following resources.

Web Who to Expect (Who Will be in the Courtroom?)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The Criminal Complaint Process
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “The Structure of a Trial.”

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See p. 7-8.

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “The First Court Appearance (Docket Court)” And “The Trial.”

PDF The Criminal Court Process
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF When Elder Abuse Involves the Police
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Lorsque l’abus fai aux ainé-e-s necessite l’intervention de la police
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French


Web A step-by-step guide to a criminal case
McElroy Law
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The criminal trial
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about preparing for trial, giving testimony, and being a witness, see the following resources.

Web What to Expect (Going to Court)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web The Criminal Complaint Process
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “The Trial.”

PDF The Criminal Court Process
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Women's Rights for a Safer Tomorrow
Medicine Hat College Public Legal Education (via Leduc & District Victim Assistance Society)
English
This resource is easier to read if you can print it and fold it into a booklet.

Web The criminal trial
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The court process
Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse
English

Web Domestic Violence Guideline
Government of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Surviving the System Handbook: Advice on Using the Legal System if you are a Survivor of Sexual Violence
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English

Video Radiant Goes to Court (for Children 4-11 Testifying as Victims or Witnesses)
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Web What's My Job in Court?
Government of Ontario
English

Web Je vais témoigner!
Government of Ontario
French

After the trial is over

After the trial is over, your abuser may be:

  • found guilty (“convicted” of the crime); or
  • found “not guilty.”

If your abuser is found guilty

The judge will sentence the offender. This could happen at the end of the trial, or at a later hearing. Victims’ Services will help you fill out a Victim Impact Statement. This will help the judge decide on an appropriate sentence that will keep you safe in the future. For more information about the Victim Impact Statement, see the following resources.

PDF Victim Impact Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Complete a Victim Impact Statement.”

PDF Victims of Crime Handbooks (available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese)
Government of Alberta
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese

Webinar Victim Impact Statements: A role in the justice system for women survivors of domestic and sexual assault
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The sentence may include a fine, probation, or jail time. It can also include a “no contact” order to keep the abuser away from you.

Remember

After your abuser is convicted, you may be granted “restitution” from him or her. To get this, you must have filled out a Request for Restitution Form before the trial. The police or Victims’ Services would have given this form to you, and then sent your request to the Crown prosecutor. For more information about this, see the “Applying for financial compensation” section above.

If your abuser is found not guilty

You can still take steps to protect yourself. For an overview of your civil law options, see the “Protection from abuse” section above. For detailed information, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

You can also ask for financial benefits for the injuries you have suffered. These injuries may be physical or emotional. Your abuser does not have to be convicted for you to be eligible to apply for this benefit. For more information about this, see the “Applying for financial compensation” section above.

More information

For information about sentencing and what happens after a trial, see the following resources.

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See p. 8.

Web Help for victims of crime
Government of Alberta
English
See “Support for victims during the court process” and “Get information after the court process.”

PDF The Criminal Court Process
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Criminal Complaint Process
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Possible Outcomes Of A Trial.”

Web Domestic Violence
Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey
English



Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #4.

Web The Criminal Justice System - Basic Legal Information for Women Experiencing Violence
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The criminal trial
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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