Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act (non-married & married parents)

Law

Separating parents can use Alberta’s Family Law Act to deal with matters such as:

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

This Information Page contains information about guardianship and parenting time under the Alberta Family Law Act.

This Information Page is mainly for parents who were not in a married relationship and whose relationship is breaking down.

  • The law that applies to parents who were not in a married relationship is the Alberta Family Law Act. This Information Page is all about the Family Law Act.
  • To be clear, if you were not married, Canada’s Divorce Act and Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act do not apply to you. Both of these laws can only apply to people who were married.

This Information Page can also apply to married parents, depending on the choices they are making. This is because, for parenting and support issues, married parents have a choice which law they use when they separate. They can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act.

  • If you were married and you choose to deal with your guardianship and parenting issues using Canada’s Divorce Act (where these issues are called “custody” and “access”), this is the wrong Information Page—see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page instead.
  • If you were married and you choose to deal with your parenting and support issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page, which explains what to consider when choosing.

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

If you are not a parent of the children, but still wish to be involved in the lives of the children, the Family Law Act might be able to help:

  • If you believe that you “stood in the place of parent” (also called “in loco parentis”) you may be able to become a guardian of the child (see the “Are you a guardian?” section below). If you become a guardian, the information on this page will apply to you. Also, more information that is specific to you as a guardian, but not a parent, is on the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.
  • Even if you did not “stand in the place of parent” you still may be able to become a guardian of the child (see the “Are you a guardian?” section below). If you become a guardian, the information on this page will apply to you. This is because non-parents can become guardians, and non-parent guardians are included in the concept of “parenting.” Also, more information that is specific to you as a guardian, but not a parent, is included on the \ Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.
  • Perhaps you do not want to be a guardian, but you wish to spend time with the children. This is called “contact.” In that case, see the Contact for Non-Guardians instead.

In general, the law and 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 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 in Alberta. For information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

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

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

What the words mean

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

This Information Page explains the words used in Alberta’s Family Law Act, which is the law used to decide child-related issues for unmarried parents. It also compares these words to the words used under the Canada Divorce Act.

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).

For more information about guardianship, see the “What is guardianship?” section below.

parenting time

This term describes the time a child spends with each guardian. For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times.

Be Aware

Some of the resources linked on this Information Page may use the term “access.” You may even see it used interchangeably with “parenting time.” The word “access” is used for married parents in Canada’s Divorce Act to describe particular time that is spent with a child. Although the terms parenting time and access are similar, they are different. Because you are using the Family Law Act, the correct term is “parenting time” (and that is the word you will be using in your paperwork).

residency

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

  • “shared” residency means that a child lives (or spends his or her time) equally with more than one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a mother and a father have shared residency, the child will spend between 40-60% of his of her time with each of them. This can also be called a “shared parenting regime.”
  • “primary” residency means that a child lives (or spends his or her time) mostly with one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a child lives mostly with the father, but spends two days every week with the mother, then the father has primary residency. In these cases, the parent who has the children for most of the time is sometimes called the residential parent. And the parent who has the children only occasionally may be called the non-residential parent or the access parent.
  • “split” residency refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one guardian (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other guardian (for example: the father).

contact

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

See the Contact for Non-Guardians Information Page for more information.

Declaration of Parentage

An official document from a court saying that someone is either:

  • a parent of a child; or
  • not a parent of a child.

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

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

“best interests of the child”

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

For example:

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

party

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

application

A court process where one party (the “applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives the Court evidence about why he or she should get it. As part of the process, the “other side” (the “respondent”) can show the Court evidence about why the applicant should not get what he or she is requesting. The respondent may even ask for something different. The applicant could then respond to that request.

Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, but they are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several applications. Court hearings (when the parties appear before a judge) are part of the application process, but not all applications involve going to court hearings: it is possible for the parties to come to an agreement before the hearing.

Applications can deal with:

  • preliminary matters (for example: whether the Alberta courts have the authority to hear a case);
  • temporary matters (for example: how much child support will be paid for now, while one parent looks for a job);
  • procedural matters (for example: what a person should do if they cannot find the other party to give them a copy of all the paperwork);
  • “pre-trial” matters (for example: where the children will live for now, until there is a trial on the bigger of issue of whether one parent can move away with the children); and
  • things that come up after the trial that are still related to the case.

The Court’s decision in an application is called an “order” and is generally not the final decision in the matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead, they just accept the Order(s) granted in applications as a permanent solution, without ever getting a final “judgment.”

applicant

The person who starts a court application to ask the Court to do something. The applicant is one of the “parties” in a court application.

respondent

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

“swearing” or “affirming” something

When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

If you swear that something you wrote is true, it may be called a “sworn” statement.

enforcement

Forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order.

The laws that may apply to you

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

Web 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


Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, 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 resource below lists some of the leading cases in family law.

Alberta’s two-court system

In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. In Alberta, you will have to choose one of two courts. Your choice can depend on what law you use and exactly what you are asking for.

Remember

This Information Page discusses the Alberta Family Law Act. According to the Family Law Act, if you need to go to court, you have to choose between two courts: Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench.

Although you may not end up going to court (for example, if you and the other guardian reach an agreement out of court), you need to consider your court options anyway, because some legal options may only be available in one of the two courts.

  • On the Law tab of this Information Page, if certain options regarding guardianship and parenting time are only available to you in one of the two courts, we will note it below with one of these icons:
Provincial Court

 

Queen's Bench

 

  • 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.

Also keep in mind that this Information Page deals only with guardianship and parenting time. When you are using Alberta’s Family Law Act to address your parenting and guardianship issues there may be other things to consider, such as child support, and partner support. Which court you choose also affects each of these topics, and there may be parts of these topics that can only be dealt with in one of the two courts. Also, you should keep in mind that dividing property can only be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

As a result, if you do decide to go to court, be sure to read about ALL of the topics that you need to address, before deciding which court is best for you.

Be Aware

Wherever possible, the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one level of court.

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
Tip

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

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, there are a few places to start.

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • Know that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • A court can grant orders quickly if necessary. These are called “interim” orders. For information about these, see the “Resolving parenting in court” section below, and the Process tab of this Information Page.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. For more information, see the 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; and
  • the children have a right to see both parents.

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. These are explained in the section below called “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan.”

Parental abduction

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

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

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

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

Child abuse and involving Child Protective Services

Child abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

Web How can I help?
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

 

How to use this website

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

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

More information

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


Web Kids
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 26:30.

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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



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

PDF Making Appropriate Parenting Arrangements in Family Violence Cases: Applying the Literature to Identify Promising Practices
Government of Canada
English
This is a research paper. Although it has important general information, it is long and can be a challenge to read. Start on p. 31.

At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. Perhaps your partner has just told you that he or she is leaving. Maybe it is you who is ready to leave. If there is a child in the relationship, one of your first thoughts will likely be “What do we do about the child?” This can be scary and overwhelming. That is natural. For detailed information on things to consider when family breakdown has just occurred, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the children in mind

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

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

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

Web Parent Guide
Justice Education Society
English

Web Guide de Parents
Justice Education Society
French




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

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

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

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

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

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you an overview of the resources, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Negotiating with your ex: Divorce is only the beginning
Brad McRae
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. Get the full book from a library: The Alberta Library

Both parents have rights

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

You can agree

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

Temporary arrangements are possible

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

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

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

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

You can’t just move away and take the kids

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

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

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

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

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

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

Get any important documents you need

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

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

For more information, see the following resource.

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

Slow down if you can

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

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

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

PDF Tips for Separated Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Learn

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

If there was a domestic contract (cohabitation agreement)

A cohabitation agreement is a contract created by two people who are living together, or are about to start living together. In this agreement the couple can address many issues. For example, it can include partner support and what the property rights of both partners will be if they separate.

In general, if you and your partner have a cohabitation agreement and you separate, you must follow the terms of that contract to settle the legal issues that come up. In other words, usually you must obey the contract.

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

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

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

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

What is guardianship of a child?

“Guardianship” is the word used in Alberta’s Family Law Act to describe the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that adults have about a child.

If a child has only one guardian, that is called “sole guardianship.” When 2 or more parents/guardians share the decision-making power, that is called “joint guardianship.” See the “Guardianship arrangements” section below for more information.

In Alberta, all children are subject to guardianship. This means that the Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. This is called being a “guardian by statute.” If you meet the definition (see the “Are you a guardian?” section below), you are a guardian by statute, and you do not need to “apply” for guardianship. Someone who is not a guardian by statute may still be able to become a guardian.

You do not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

Be Aware

Some of the resources linked on this Information Page may use the term “custody.” It may even be used interchangeably with “guardianship.” The word “custody” is used for married parents in Canada’s Divorce Act to describe the decision-making powers that adults (usually parents) have about a child. Although the terms guardianship and custody are similar, they are different. For example, the Divorce Act does not set out who automatically has custody in the same way that the Family Law Act sets out who automatically has guardianship. When you use the Family Law Act to work through your separation issues, the correct term is “guardianship” (and that is the word you will use in your paperwork).

See the following resources for more information about guardianship, including how it relates to the idea of “custody.”

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 4-7.

Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Web Considering Custody
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Be Aware

Guardianship does not affect child support. 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. Similarly, a person who stood in the place of a parent may also have to pay child support, even if he or she is not a guardian. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page [FLEnding002].

Are you a guardian?

You need to know if you are a guardian of a child. Being a guardian automatically gives you certain rights and responsibilities. There are various things which can affect whether or not you are a guardian.

Biological and adoptive parents

Under Alberta law, the starting point is that both parents (biological or adoptive) have a legal right to guardianship of their children. This means that neither parent has more of a right to guardianship than the other parent. This is true even if one parent did most of the child care.

However, being a parent is also not necessarily enough to be considered 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. As another example, if a child is born as a result of a sexual assault, the biological father is not a guardian.

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.

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.

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Who is a parent?”

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

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Who Is a Parent?”
Queen's Bench

Sometimes people want or need a court order declaring parentage. For example, they may want to add or change information on a birth certificate. Getting a “Declaration of Parentage” is a specific application process that can only be done in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

If you are making an application about guardianship and parenting time and there is an issue about parentage, you have 2 options.

  • If this is the only child-related application you are making, you will need to apply for a Declaration of Parentage.
  • If you are also making an application for child support, you will not have to apply for a Declaration of Parentage. The Court (either Queen’s Bench or Provincial Court) can decide the parentage issue as part of the child support application. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

People who were appointed as guardians

Even if you were not the biological or adoptive parents of a child, you may still have responsibilities for that child. 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.

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 3:30.

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

Web What is a guardian?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

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.

If you decide that you are a guardian, you will be able to take part in making a parenting plan. If you and the other guardian(s) cannot agree on guardianship and parenting issues, you can ask the Court to decide. This will result in a “parenting order” from the Court.

Sometimes a child only has one guardian. If you are the only guardian of the child, you will be the person making all of the decisions. You might think this would never require a court order, but that might not be the case. This is because many people and organizations are used to a child having at least two guardians. As a result, you may need “proof” that you are the sole guardian (especially if you travel outside of Canada). It is possible to get a court order saying that you are the only guardian (see the Process tab of this Information Page).

If you are not already a guardian

If you determine that you are not a guardian, you may still be able to ask to become a guardian.

However, the Court does not automatically give a guardianship order. In general:

  • you must have had “care and control” of the child for more than 6 months, and
  • the judge must believe that appointing you as a guardian is in the best interests of the child.

For more information on how to become a guardian, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.

Guardianship arrangements

There are different ways to describe how guardianship can be shared, or not shared. The most common are:

  • “sole” guardianship This means that only one parent or guardian has all of the decision-making power about a child. It also means that no one else is a guardian of the child: no one else makes decisions, and no one else needs to be informed about decisions made about the child.

  • “joint” guardianship This means that more than one parent or guardian has decision-making power about a child. For example, both a mother and father may share decision-making power. They may share all of the decision-making powers, or they may each have different kinds of powers.

In Alberta, it is quite rare for courts to grant “sole guardianship.” This is because the courts place a high value on both parents having a say about their children.

Also, under the Family Law Act, the courts can deal with issues about decision-making between the parents in another way. Instead of granting sole guardianship to one parent, the details about guardianship can be laid out in a parenting order. In a parenting order, it is possible to give one guardian certain decision-making powers, and give the other guardian different decision-making powers. It is also possible for an order to say that one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

If parents can’t agree on how the decision-making power will be shared between them, they can ask a court to make the decision for them by requesting a parenting order. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about that.

For more information on the types of guardianship arrangements, and how the decision-making powers can be divided, see the following resources.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 12.

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 3:30.


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

Sometimes, when couples are separating, there are religious issues that they wish to take into consideration. It is important to understand that religious rules and laws, like all foreign law, are not recognized or applied in Canadian law. The following resource points out key differences between Canadian family law and traditional Muslim approaches to child custody and child support. Although the focus is mainly on married couples who are separating, the principles are similar and seeing the comparison may be helpful.

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

“Parenting time” is the time a child spends with each parent/guardian. For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times.

Be Aware

Some of the resources linked on this Information Page may use the term “access” instead of “parenting time.” You may even see it used interchangeably with “parenting time.” The word “access” is used for married parents in Canada’s Divorce Act to describe particular time that is spent with a child. Although the terms parenting time and access are similar, they are different. The word “access” is generally used to refer to the time that the child spends with a parent who sees that child less than 40% of the time. When you use the Family Law Act to work through your separation issues, the correct term is “parenting time” (and that is the word you will use in your paperwork).

As described above, unless ordered otherwise by a court, both parents have a right to parenting time with a child.

This means that neither parent has a legal right to more time with the child than the other parent. This is true even if one parent did most of the child care. However, both parents are not necessarily entitled to equal time with the child. As always, the determining factor is the “best interests of the child.” For information about this, see the section called “The best interests of the child” below.

There are different ways to describe parenting time arrangements:

  • Primary means one parent/guardian has the majority of the parenting time.
  • Shared means the parenting time is split more equally with each parent/guardian (usually at least 40% with each).
  • Split refers to a situation in which there are 2 or more children. Some of the children live mostly with one guardian (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other guardian (for example: the father).

If guardians can't agree on how time with the children will be shared, they can ask a court to make the decision for them by requesting a parenting order. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about that.

It is also possible for a person who is not a parent, or does not have guardianship, to have “contact” with the child. Contact means that he or she can spend time with the child on a regular basis. Such contact can be agreed upon by the adults who have guardianship. However, sometimes the people who have guardianship do not agree. If that happens, the person who wants to spend time with the child may wish to ask a court to make an order allowing him or her to have contact with the child. For more information about applying for a contact order under the Family Law Act, see the Contact for Non-Guardians Information Page.

For more information on the rights and responsibilities of separating parents as well as the various kinds of parenting time and contact arrangements, see the following resources.

Web Parenting after Separation
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.Start at “2.2 Parenting schedules."



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

Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “What is parenting time?”

Web Parenting Time For Children Under The Family Law Act
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
Start at “Parenting time.”

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 14-15.

Video When Your Family is Not Neurotypical
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

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

French resources:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Web Custody And Access: How Much Say Does My Child Get?
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
The Parenting After Separation (PAS) course

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

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

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

Family Violence

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

PAS is offered in every region of Alberta, but the rules about whether you must take it are different depending on which court you are going to:

Queen's Bench

If you end up going to court for child-related issues through the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the PAS course will be mandatory. This means you must take it. You will have to prove that you have taken the course before you can make your application (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

Provincial Court

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

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

For more information, see the following resources.

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English


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

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

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


The “best interests of the child”

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

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

For example:

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

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

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 15-16.

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


Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

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

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

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

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

Video Atelier juridique en français sur les ententes parentales
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French
Creating a parenting plan (including travel concerns and tax issues)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 15:40.

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

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

Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Negotiating with your ex: Divorce is only the beginning
Brad McRae
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. Get the full book from a library: The Alberta Library.

Travel

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, see the following resources.

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


PDF Travelling with Children
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

Web Child abduction and custody issues
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

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

A sample letter of consent is in the following resource.


Tax issues

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

Tax benefits

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

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

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



Web Child and family benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web Prestations pour enfants et familles
Government of Canada
French

Interactive Child and family benefits calculator
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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


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

Tax credits

Parents of children are also eligible for certain tax credits. A credit is an expense that is subtracted from tax owed. It does not lower your income. Examples of child-related tax credits are the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and Children’s Arts Tax Credit. These benefits can be affected by parenting plans. You and the other parent will have to address who gets what credits.

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

Audio/Web 

Audio/Web 

Tax deductions

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

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

Web Line 214 - Child care expenses
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

More tax information

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

Web Alberta Tax and Credits
Government of Canada
English

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

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

Web Learning About Taxes
Government of Canada
English

Web Apprenons l'impôt
Government of Canada
French

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

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

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

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

Moving

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

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



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

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

Communication issues

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

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

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

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

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

PDF Tips for Separated Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Supervised access and transfer

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

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

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



Family Violence

 


Web Safe Visitation
Government of Alberta
English


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


Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Getting help from psychologists or other experts

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

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

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

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

PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Start on p. 33. Please note that some things have changed since this resource was written. For example: there are no more “home studies” and no more subsidies for Practice Notes 7 and 8.

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

Family Violence

 


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

If you are heading to court to resolve your child-related issues, there may be expert help available. Different help will be available depending on which court you are using.

Expert help in both Courts

As with any conflict, you can always seek help in the form of mediation or arbitration. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

If those options have not worked, Alberta’s Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) offers a 10-hour program called Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI). You can ask for BCI on your own, or have it recommended by your lawyer, mediator, or another professional. It may also be ordered by a judge.

To use the BCI program:

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

For more information, see the following resource.

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

Queen's Bench

 

 Expert help in Queen’s Bench only

As with any conflict, you can always seek help in the form of mediation or arbitration. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

If those options have not worked, the Court of Queen’s Bench allows parents to hire a psychologist or other “parenting experts” to review the situation.

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

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

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

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

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English


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


PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Please note that some things have changed since the publication of this resource. For example: there are no more “home studies” and no more subsidies for Practice Notes 7 and 8. Start on p. 33.

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

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

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

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

For more information on Parenting Assessments, see the following resources

Video Child Custody and Parenting
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English


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


Web Custody, Access & Parenting Time
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Open assessments.”

PDF High Conflict Intervention Programs in Alberta: A Review and Recommendations
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
Please note that some things have changed since the publication of this resource. For example: there are no more “home studies” and no more subsidies for Practice Notes 7 and 8. Start on p. 33.

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

Be Aware

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

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

Including the views of the children

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

Video When Your Child Does Not Wish to See One Parent
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Brief Conflict Intervention

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

Views of the Child Reports

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

Court paperwork: Statements and Affidavits

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

More information

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



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

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

Web Custody And Access: How Much Say Does My Child Get?
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Views of a Child & Separated Parents: Living With Dad or Mom
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

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


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

Lawyers for children

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

Be Aware

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

When can it happen?

A child could have their own lawyer if:

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

How does a court appoint a lawyer for a child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to get legal help for children

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

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

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

More information


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

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


Video Children's Lawyers
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. Note that there is no Office of the Children’s Lawyer in Alberta.
When guardians disagree or don’t know what to do

Sometimes guardians simply cannot agree on a parenting plan. If that happens, the guardians can ask the Court to make a decision about which guardians get what amount of parenting time.

Sometimes guardians have a major decision to make and are not sure what they should do. Or, there may be more than one guardian, and the guardians disagree about a major decision, such as:

  • a decision involving a serious risk to the health or safety of a child; or
  • any decision that is likely to have serious long-term consequences for the child.

In such cases, any of the guardians can apply to the Court for “advice and direction.” Or, they can apply for a “review” of the decision to have the court provide direction.

If the situation is bad enough, it may even be possible to ask the Court to end someone else’s guardianship. This is not common and there must be a very good reason for a Court to end someone’s guardianship.

For more information about asking the Court:

  • to decide about parenting time;
  • for advice and direction;
  • to review a major decision; or
  • to end someone’s guardianship

see the “Guardians: Completing Statements about guardianship and parenting” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Remember

As always, the Court will make its decision based on the best interests of the child.

 

Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

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

Web First Nations in Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Premières nations de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Sometimes, when the child lives on-reserve, a band council may restrict a non-band member from coming on-reserve to see the child. The parenting plan or court order may need to work around this restriction. For example, alternate visitation sites and off-reserve transfers of the children could be used.

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

For more information on guardianship and parenting time in the Aboriginal context, see the following resources.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blended family considerations

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

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

For more information about standing in the place of a parent, see the “Are you a guardian?” section above.

For more general information, see the following resource.

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

Under Alberta’s Family Law Act, the law around guardianship and parenting is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for anyone else. Your guardianship and parenting issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, there may be some difficulties if you have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning. Whenever you involve the law, you must identify yourself and you must always identify yourself in the same way. This can take some extra work.

For example, your relationship to the child may have developed while you were still using the name and/or gender assigned at birth. Now you are applying for guardianship and parenting using a different name and/or gender than that assigned at birth. You may have to take additional steps to show that you are the same person. You may need to prove that you qualify to make the application.

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

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

Polyamorous relationships

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

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

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

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Polyamorous Relationships and Family Law in Canada
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. See p. 35-37.
Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreements

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

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

More information

See the following resources for a good overview of all of the above non-court options.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 12.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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



Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

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

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

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

Choosing a court

As described in the “Alberta’s two-court system” section above, you will have to choose between two courts: Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information on the differences between the two courts, see the following resource and the Alberta’s Two-Court System Information Page.

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

Understanding the court system

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

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

Educating yourself will be even more important if you are planning on representing yourself in court.
For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page. If you are representing yourself, make sure you also look at the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

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

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

Representation in court

Once you get to court, you can:

  • represent yourself; or
  • be represented by a lawyer.

See the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about these options.

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

If you end up making a court application for child-related issues, the Court may still be able to help you resolve those issues by agreement. Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) offers a 10-hour program called Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI). You can ask for BCI on your own, or have it recommended by your lawyer, mediator, or another professional. It may also be ordered by a judge.

To use the BCI program:

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

For more information, see the following resource.

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

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

Because of this possibility, parenting plans that are made into a court order can include an “enforcement clause.” An enforcement clause in the court order allows police to take reasonable steps to to force a person to follow the court order. Without an enforcement clause, the police cannot make a person obey a court order.

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

PDF Access Enforcement Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Parenting Time For Children Under The Family Law Act
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Varying a parenting order.”

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

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

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

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.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Although the title refers to divorce, much information in this resource applies to unmarried couples as well. Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library. See Chapter 12.
Changing the parenting plan (including moving)

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

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

If you go to court to ask for a change in a parenting order, the Court will want to see that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

Moving with the children

When making changes to parenting orders, a common issue is moving. Parents cannot simply move away and take the children along without the consent of the other parent/guardian(s). If you do try to move away without following the proper procedures, you could get into legal trouble.

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

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

Web Mobility Rights FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

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

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

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



Audio/Web Custody and Access
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Going to trial

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

Appealing an order

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

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

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

Process

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

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

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

This Information Page contains information about the legal process of deciding about guardianship and parenting time.

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.

This Information Page is mainly for parents who were not in a married relationship and whose relationship is breaking down:

  • The law that applies to parents who were not in a married relationship is the Alberta Family Law Act. This Information Page is all about the Family Law Act.
  • To be clear,if you were not married, Canada’s Divorce Act and Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act do not apply to you: both of these laws can only apply to people who were married.

However, this Information Page can also apply to married parents, depending on the choices they are making.

  • For parenting and support issues, married parents have a choice which law they use when they separate: they can use Canada’s Divorce Act, or Alberta’s Family Law Act.
  • If you were married and you choose to deal with your parenting and support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act, this is the wrong Information Page—see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page instead.
  • If you were married and you choose to deal with your parenting and support issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page, which explains what to consider when choosing.

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

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 at least one of the guardians should live in Alberta. It may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta if:

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

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

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

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.

Alberta’s two-court system

Although you may wish to solve your issues by agreement (that is, without going to court), the situation may fall apart. You could find yourself having to deal with court, even though you thought you wouldn’t need to.

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, under the Family Law Act, if you need to go to court, you have a choice between two courts: Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench.

Each of the courts has different requirements, rules, forms, and services. In addition, there are certain things you can only request in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on what your situation requires, the choice of court can be a critical factor. For example: if you need a “Declaration of Parentage” or an Order for “exclusive possession” of the family home, those can only be asked for in the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB).

As a result, if you do decide to go to court, be sure to read about ALL of the topics that you need to address, before deciding which court is best for you.

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.

Remember, there are some things that you can ONLY ask for in QB. These include:

  • a Declaration of Parentage
  • exclusive possession of the home or other property
  • division of property issues
  • some protective orders

 

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 deal with your guardianship and parenting matters under the Family Law Act. See the sections below for information about:

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

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

Making a parenting plan

Regardless of whether you end up resolving your parenting issues on your own or through the court, you will need to make a parenting plan. Even if you go to court, you will have to provide your proposed parenting plan.

General information

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


Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English


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

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

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

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

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

French resources:

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

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


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

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

High conflict situations

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



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

Help available

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

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

Out of court resolution options

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

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

Coming to an agreement on your own

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

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Agreements resulting from out-of-court options

For any of these out-of-court options, the goal is to reach an agreement. This means that everyone involved will have worked out solutions for:

  • the issues you have now; and
  • how you will deal with future problems.

Keep in mind that making agreements can be tricky and complex. There are many things to consider. For more information on the process and requirements of making an agreement, as well as things to watch out for, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

Courthouse staff and Resolution and Court Administration Services cannot help with the drafting or completion of the agreement.

Turning your agreement into a consent order

Having an agreement does not mean that the other party will necessarily follow that agreement. For that reason, once you have an agreement you may wish to have a consent order prepared that sets out the same terms and conditions as your agreement. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Once your agreement is turned into an Order, if you need to apply for enforcement later, you can do so (see the “Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time” section below).

Government programs to help avoid court (but they may be mandatory, if you do go to court)

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

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

Parenting After Separation (PAS)

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict (PASHC)

This program is for parents who:

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

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


Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

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

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English


Parents are not allowed to take the course together. Registration information is available in the following resource.
Web Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS) course
Government of Alberta
English

Caseflow conferencing

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

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

Free family mediation

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

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

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

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

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English

 

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

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

To use the BCI program:

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

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

See the following resource for more information.

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

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

Hiring a lawyer

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

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

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

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services. See the “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services” section below for information about help available in your area.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

RCAS staff also:

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

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

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

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

The rest of this section has information about:

  • Paying fees
  • Docket court
  • Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

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 parenting time). These orders are generally not the final decision in a matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead they just accept the orders granted in applications as a permanent solution. They never go to trial and get a final “judgment.”

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

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
Filing court paperwork for the first time

If you cannot resolve your issues out of court, either you or your former partner can start a court action. This means one of you will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

The information in this section is for the partner who fills out the very first set of paperwork that starts a brand new action. This is called an “initial” application.

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

Remember, there are certain things that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Do you think you might need any of those things? Do you think that your former partner might ask for any of those things? For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench 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.
  • One parent lives and works in Edmonton. That parent can hand in the documents at the Edmonton courthouse, but the documents will be sent up to Grande Prairie. The physical file will stay there, and the matter will be heard there.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

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 are separate Statements for parenting, child support, and partner support. Each kind of relief has its own Statement.

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.

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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

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

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Non-Guardians: Asking for guardianship

If you are not a guardian of the child, but you wish to be, you can file a guardianship application. You would need to do that before you can get “parenting” time. For more information on how to apply for guardianship, see Becoming the Guardian of a Child.

If you are not sure if you are a guardian, please see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Guardians: Completing Statements about guardianship and parenting

The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child (also called a “guardian by statute”). For more information about this, see the “Are you a guardian?” section of the Law tab of this Information Page.

If you meet the definition, and you are a guardian by statute, you do not need to “apply” for guardianship. Some of the related court forms include both guardianship and parenting in one form. On those forms you can simply note that you are a guardian and you are just asking about parenting time.

However, sometimes a person still does have to apply for guardianship or make an application about an issue related to guardianship. In such cases, separate forms may be required. These differences are explained in more detail just below, with links to the required forms.

More than one guardian

Under the Family Law Act, the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship are laid out in a parenting order. Requests are made using the “Statement - Parenting”—a link for the form is below.

For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

As a result, if you agree that both you and the other parent are guardians, 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 - Parenting (Form FL-39 / CTS3476)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

In section 7 of the form, you address the issue of who has which decision-making powers. On this same form, you ask for what each of you wants in terms of parenting time.

For examples of what information to include in your Statement about parenting time, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This booklet talks about “Affidavits,” but the same information applies to “Statements” as well. See p. 20-23.
Tip

You may have been unable to get the consent of the other parent to travel with the child. If so, you would use this form about parenting to ask the Court for an order allowing the travel.

Sole guardian

If you are the sole guardian, you may wish to get a court order confirming that fact. This can be used to prove that you are the only person allowed to make decisions about the child. The exact form you use will depend on where you are filing your court documents. Each judicial centre has a preference.  To be certain that you are using the correct form, check with Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you are not the sole guardian, but you think you should be and you wish to end (also called “terminate”) your former partner’s guardianship of your children, 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.
Tip

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent. For one thing, that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child. Remember: under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. 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. See the “More than one guardian” section above.

Other guardianship issues

If you are a guardian, and you are asking the Court for advice on what to do about an important matter, 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 - Court Direction for Guardian (Form FL-38 / CTS3488)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

If you want the Court to reconsider a major decision made by another guardian, 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.

Completing Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork about guardianship and parenting, 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. In some locations, your first court date will include the Caseflow Coordinator. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the amount of notice that you need to give the Respondent (see the “Serving the paperwork” section below). You also need to give the other party 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.

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

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 other party will be serving you with his or her response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section below). You will need to read his or her 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 information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in docket court” section below.

Do you need to respond to your former partner’s 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. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your former partner may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Responding to court paperwork for the first time

If you have reached the point where your issues must be resolved through court, either you or your former partner can start a court action. This means either you or your former partner will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

The information in this section is for the parent who responds to the very first set of paperwork.

These “first-time” applications are also called “initial” applications. “Initial” applications are used in situations where the Applicant is asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about variations, see the “Responding to a request for changes to a previous court order” section below.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Perhaps they made a mistake when they chose Provincial Court. Or perhaps you wish to add something that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

For example:

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

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the “Response”

When your former partner filed an initial application, 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, you must use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. For example: if they included a “Statement - Parenting” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Parenting” (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 Reply Statements about guardianship and parenting

There are several choices about which form you should fill out, depending on your situation. Read the instructions below carefully.

If you are not sure who is, and who is not a guardian, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

More than one guardian

Use the following form if:

  • The Application that says that both of you are guardians, and that is correct.
  • BUT you want to divide the decision-making powers in a different way than your former partner suggested.

On this same form you would say whether or not you agreed with the parenting time proposed by your former partner. For more instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Parenting (Form FL-62 / CTS3500)
Government of Alberta
English
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Use the following form if:

  • The Application says that both of you are guardians, and that is correct.
  • You agree with the division of guardianship powers proposed by your former partner.
  • BUT you disagree with proposed parenting time.

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

PDF Reply Statement - Parenting (Form FL-62 / CTS3500)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Sole guardian

If your situation is the following:

  • the Application that says that both of you are guardians;
  • BUT you think that he or she is a not guardian;
  • AND you think that you are the sole guardian,

then the exact form you use will depend on where you are filing your court documents. Each judicial centre has a preference. To be certain that you are using the correct form, check with Resolution and Court Administration Services in the judicial centre where you are filing.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If your situation is the following:

  • the application say that the Applicant wants sole guardianship;
  • AND you agree that the Applicant is and should be a guardian;
  • BUT you disagree that he or she should be the sole guardian and want your status as a guardian confirmed in the Court Order,

then you will need to check off “parenting” as additional relief on the Response form (see above), and use both of the following forms. For instructions on how to complete these forms, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the forms.


PDF Statement - Parenting (Form FL-39 / CTS3476)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

If the Applicant has brought an application for sole guardianship and you disagree that he or she is or should be a guardian at all, you must 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.

Other guardianship issues

If the Applicant has asked the Court to terminate your guardianship, and you disagree, 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.

If the Applicant has asked the Court for some advice on what to do about an important matter, and you wish to respond, 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.

If the Applicant has asked the Court to reconsider a major decision that you made as a guardian (or one made by another guardian), 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.

Completing Reply Statements for other matters in dispute

When you were served with your former partner’s Claim and Statements about guardianship and parenting, you may also have been served Statements about other issues related to your separation. The information about how to respond to those forms can be found on the Process tabs of 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 parenting matters. 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. Responding to court paperwork for the first time.

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 your former partner 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 your former partner 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 your former partner (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 and parenting. Then you will need to let the court know by filling out an Update Statement of your own. The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

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

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

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

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

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to your former partner. 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 your former partner 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
Asking for changes to a previous court order (also called “variations”)

As circumstances change, and your children age, you and/or your former partner may need or want to change the terms of a previous court order. If the order you want to change came from a previous application heard in docket court, you can ask for a “variation.”

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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 Family Justice Services.

Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

Is it an Alberta court order that you are trying to change (“vary”)? Should the application be in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

Is it a Provincial Court order that you are trying to vary? Even if it is, are you asking for something new that the Provincial Court can hear? Or are you asking for something that only the Court of Queen’s Bench can hear? Remember, there are certain things that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench 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. Are you filing this request for a variation in the judicial centre where the child lives?

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

For example:

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

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

When you file a Claim to vary a previous court order, you must also file a “Variation Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there are separate Variation Statements for parenting, child support, and partner support. Each kind of relief has its own Variation Statement.

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.

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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

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

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Completing Variation Statements for guardianship and parenting

Under the Family Law Act, requests for changes in guardianship and parenting are made in a single form. You can change either the guardianship details, the parenting details, or both in 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 - Vary Parenting (Form FL-41 / CTS3477)
Government of Alberta
English
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Tip

You may have been unable to get the consent of the other parent to travel with the child. If so, you would use this form about parenting to ask the Court for an order allowing the travel.

If the “change” you want is to terminate guardianship (yours or someone else’s), 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.
Tip

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent. For one thing, that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child. Remember: under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. 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.

Completing Variation Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork for a variation about guardianship and/or parenting, you may also wish to file Statements to vary 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. In some locations, your first court date will include the Caseflow Coordinator. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the amount of notice that you need to give the other party (see the “Serving the paperwork” section below). You also need to give the other party 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.

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

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 other party will be serving you with his or her Response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). You will need to read his or her 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 information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in docket court” section below.

Do you need to respond to your former partner’s 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. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your former partner may also use an Update Statement to reply to your Update Statement.

Responding to a request for changes to a court order (also called “variations”)

If you have been served with paperwork in which the other parent/guardian (who is known as “the Applicant”) asks for changes to the parenting arrangements, you will need to file documents to respond.

Remember

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

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 your matter be heard in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Perhaps they made a mistake when they chose Provincial Court. Or perhaps you wish to add something that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench. For more information on the differences between these 2 courts, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench 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 since moved, you can simply respond to the application where the child lives now.

For example:

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

In such a case, the judge has 3 options.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the “Response”

When your former partner filed his or her request for variation, he or she filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completing Variation Replies about guardianship and parenting

Under the Family Law Act, changes about who completes the tasks of guardianship are generally made by using a parenting order. Therefore, the Applicant has most likely asked for a change in the guardianship decision-making powers by using the “Statement - Vary Parenting” form. If so, use the following form to reply. You can put your own suggestions about division of guardianship decision-making powers in section 6. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Vary Parenting (Form FL-63 / CTS3501)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

You would also use the form above to reply to a request by your former partner for changes in parenting time.

If the change being requested by the Applicant is that your guardianship be terminated, 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.

Completing other Reply Statements

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

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

If the Applicant is asking for something new in addition to the parenting variation, you will complete a Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Child Support.”

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

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information on how to serve documents, 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 and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the other parent (just as you were served with their paperwork to begin with). “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. 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.

Remember

It is best to serve your former partner 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 your former partner 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 your former partner (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 and parenting. Then you will need to let the court know by filling out an Update Statement of your own. The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

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

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

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

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

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to your former partner. 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 your former partner will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

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

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time

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

For information on:

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

See the “Asking for changes” and “Responding to a request for changes” sections above.

Requesting enforcement

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

To apply for an Enforcement Order, you must already have a court order that gives you time with a child. But that order cannot be made under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, formerly called the Child Welfare Act. In addition, the other parent/guardian must have refused to give you your time with the child in the last 12 months. This includes failing to return the child to your care.

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

The instructions will provide you with detailed information about the various things that you can ask for. These can include:

  • time with the child to make up for the time you missed (this is called “compensatory time”);
  • some kind of security (usually money) from the other parent to help make sure that it does not happen again; and
  • reimbursement of expenses that resulted from not being able to spend time with the child (in other words, paying you back for money you spent).

Requesting reimbursement (paying back of costs) for failure to take parenting time

Sometimes, the opposite can also occur. A parent/guardian may have a court order allowing him or her to spend time with the child. But that parent does not show up to do so. At times, this can result in a cost to the other parent.

For example:

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

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

Varying an enforcement order

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

Replying to requests relating to an enforcement order

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



Consent orders

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by going to court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

However, you cannot just file this consent order with the court. You must first start a court action.

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

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

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

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

Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for docket court

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

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

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

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

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

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

Family Court Counsellors

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

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. 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.

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.

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.

Lawyers for children

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

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


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


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

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

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

Going to trial

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

Appealing a court order

It is possible to appeal a court decision granted in the 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 deal with your guardianship and parenting matters under the Family Law Act. See the sections below for information about:

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

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

Making a parenting plan

Regardless of whether you end up resolving your parenting issues on your own or through the court, you will need to make a parenting plan. Even if you go to court, you will have to provide your proposed parenting plan.

General information

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


Web Parenting Plan Checklist
Government of Canada
English


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

PDF Parenting Plan Workbook
Government of Saskatchewan
English

PDF Parenting Checklist
Government of Saskatchewan
English

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

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

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

French resources:

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

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


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

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

High conflict situations

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



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

Help available

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

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

The Parenting After Separation (PAS) Course

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

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

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

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

Web Parenting After Separation (PAS) course
Government of Alberta
English
Out of court resolution options

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

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

Coming to an agreement on your own

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

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Agreements resulting from out-of-court options

For any of these out-of-court options, the goal is to reach an agreement. This means that everyone involved will have worked out solutions for:

  • the issues you have now; and
  • how you will deal with future problems.

Keep in mind that making agreements can be tricky and complex. There are many things to consider. For more information on the process and requirements of making an agreement, as well as things to watch out for, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

Courthouse staff and Resolution and Court Administration Services cannot help with the drafting or completion of the agreement.

Turning your agreement into a consent order

Having an agreement does not mean that the other party will necessarily follow that agreement. For that reason, once you have an agreement you may wish to have a consent order prepared that sets out the same terms and conditions as your agreement. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

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

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

Once your agreement is turned into an Order, if you need to apply for enforcement later, you can do so (see the “Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time” section below).

Government programs to help avoid court (but they may be mandatory, if you do go to court)

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

Be Aware

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

Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict (PASHC)

This program is for parents who:

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

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


Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS)

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

Presentation Focus on Communication in Separation
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Caseflow conferencing

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
Government of Alberta
English

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

Free family mediation

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

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

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

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

Web Family mediation
Government of Alberta
English
Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

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

Hiring a lawyer

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

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

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

Representing yourself

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

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

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

In some locations, RCAS staff also:

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

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

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

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

The rest of this section has information about:

  • Paying fees
  • Chambers hearings
  • Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”
  • Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

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 parenting time). These orders are generally not the final decision in a matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead they just accept the orders granted in applications as a permanent solution. They never go to trial and get a final “judgment.”

Be Aware

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




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

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

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

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

“Practice Notes” are additional rules issued by the Court, often about court procedures. These rules 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
Getting help from experts

Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI)

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

To use the BCI program:

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

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

See the following resource for more information.

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

Parenting Interventions & Parenting Assessments

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

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

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

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

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

Interactive PAA Referral Service | Search
Psychologists' Association of Alberta
English
Filing court paperwork for the first time

If you cannot resolve your issues out of court, either you or your former partner can start a court action. This means one of you will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

The information in this section is for the partner who fills out the very first set of paperwork that starts a brand new action. This is called an “initial” application.

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

Are you asking for something that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench? Or do you think your former partner might ask for one of those things? If not, have you considered whether there might be a reason to file in Provincial Court instead? For information on the differences between Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, and why you might have to choose one over the other, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Is this the right judicial centre?

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

It may be possible to move your file. You would need to make a court application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer the file, use the following kit.

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

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

When you file a Claim, you must also file a “Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there are separate Statements for parenting, child support, and partner support. Each kind of relief has its own Statement.

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.

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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

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

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

This is especially important if the request is for something unusual, or something that the Court might normally reject. There is more information about Statements below.

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Asking for a “Declaration of Parentage”

As part of making an application about guardianship and parenting, you may need to prove that a parent is the biological parent of the child.

For example:

  • if you think that you are the biological parent of the child and the other parent claims that you are not; or
  • if you think that someone is a biological parent of a child and that person denies being the biological parent.

An application about guardianship and/or parenting may be the only child-related application you are making. In this case, use the following form to ask for a Declaration of Parentage. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Statement - Parentage (Form FL-55 / CTS3506)
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 are also making an application for child support, you will not need to apply for a “Declaration of Parentage.” You can include the parentage issue in the paperwork about child support. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Non-Guardians: Asking for guardianship

If you are not a guardian of the child, but you wish to be, you can file a guardianship application. You would need to do that before you can get “parenting” time. For more information on how to apply for guardianship, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.

If you are not sure if you are a guardian, please see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Guardians: Completing Statements about guardianship and parenting

The Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child (also called a “guardian by statute”). For more information about this, see the “Are you a guardian?” section of the Law tab of this Information Page.

If you meet the definition, and you are a guardian by statute, you do not need to “apply” for guardianship. Some of the related court forms include both guardianship and parenting in one form. On those forms you can simply note that you are a guardian and you are just asking about parenting time.

However, sometimes a person still does have to apply for guardianship or make an application about an issue related to guardianship. In such cases, separate forms may be required. These differences are explained in more detail just below, with links to the required forms.

[highligher id='Be Aware']There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Statements and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the Court. 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

More than one guardian

Under the Family Law Act, the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship are laid out in a parenting order. Requests are made using the “Statement - Parenting”—a link for the form is below.

For example: you can ask that one guardian have certain decision-making powers and the other guardian have different decision-making powers. Or, both guardians can share all of the decision-making powers. It is also possible to ask for a parenting order where one guardian will make all of the decisions and the other guardian will only get “notice” of these decisions.

As a result, if you agree that both you and the other parent are guardians, 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 - Parenting (Form FL-39 / CTS3476)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

In section 7 of the form, you address the issue of who has which decision-making powers. On this same form, you ask for what each of you wants in terms of parenting time.

For examples of what information to include in your Statement about parenting time, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This booklet talks about “Affidavits,” but the same information applies to “Statements” as well. See p. 20-23.
Tip

You may have been unable to get the consent of the other parent to travel with the child. If so, you would use this form about parenting to ask the Court for an order allowing the travel.

Sole guardian

If you are the sole guardian, you may wish to get a court order confirming that fact. This can be used to prove that you are the only person allowed to make decisions about the child. The exact form you use will depend on where you are filing your court documents. Each judicial centre has a preference. To be certain that you are using the correct form, check with Resolution and Court Administration Services in the judicial centre where you are filing.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you are not the sole guardian, but you think you should be and you wish to end (also called “terminate”) your former partner’s guardianship of your children, 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.
Tip

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent. For one thing, that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child. Remember: under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. 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. See the “More than one guardian” section above.

Other guardianship issues

If you are a guardian, and you are asking the Court for advice on what to do about an important matter, 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 - Court Direction for Guardian (Form FL-38 / CTS3488)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

If you want the Court to reconsider a major decision made by another guardian, 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.

Completing Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork about guardianship and parenting, 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

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

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

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

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


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

Be Aware

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

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 other party will be serving you with his or her response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section below). You will need to read his or her 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 information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

Do you need to respond to your former partner’s 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. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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 your former partner 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

Your former partner 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 your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. 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 court paperwork for the first time

If you have reached the point where your issues must be resolved through court, either you or your former partner can start a court action. This means either you or your former partner will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

The information in this section is for the parent who responds to the very first set of paperwork.

These “first-time” applications are also called “initial” applications. “Initial” applications are used in situations where the Applicant is asking for something that is completely new. It is not related to any court action already started about a different matter. This is different from asking the court to change the terms in a previous court order—that is called a “variation.” For information about variations, see the “Responding to a request for changes to a previous court order” section below.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

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

You have been served with a Claim form and one or more Statement forms. The check box at the top of the Claim form will tell you in which court the Applicant filed their paperwork. Did they choose the right court? Are either of you asking for something that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench? If not, have you considered whether there might be a reason to file in Provincial Court instead? 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 Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the “Response”

When your former partner filed for the first time, s/he filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

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

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

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

If you agree with everything that the Applicant asked for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, you will fill out a Reply Statement for each of the topics brought up by the Applicant. For example: if they included a “Statement - Parenting” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Parenting” (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 a Reply Statement about parentage

As part of making an application for guardianship and parenting, you may need to prove that a parent is the biological parent of the child.

If your former partner has filed a Claim and a “Statement - Parentage,” he or she is claiming that he or she is the biological parent of the child in question. If you disagree that he or she is the biological parent of the 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 - Parentage (Form FL-77 / CTS3507)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

By filing this paperwork, your former partner is also claiming that you are the other biological parent (and/or guardian). If you believe that you are not the biological parent of the child in question and you do not wish to have guardianship or parenting time, 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 - Parentage (Form FL-77 / CTS3507)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

On the other hand, use the following form if:

  • the forms filed by the Applicant claim that you are not the biological parent; and
  • you believe that you are the biological parent; and
  • you want to ask for a Declaration of Parentage

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

PDF Statement - Parentage (Form FL-55 / CTS3506)
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 your former partner is also making an application for child support, the issue of parentage may not have been addressed with a “Statement - Parentage.” Instead, it may be included in the child support paperwork. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Completing Reply Statements about guardianship and parenting

There are several choices about which form you should fill out, depending on your situation. Read the instructions below carefully.

If you are not sure who is, and who is not a guardian, see the Law Tab of this Information Page.

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. 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

More than one guardian

Use the following form if:

  • The Application that says that both of you are guardians, and that is correct.
  • BUT you want to divide the decision-making powers in a different way than your former partner suggested.

On this same form you would say whether or not you agreed with the parenting time proposed by your former partner. For more instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Parenting (Form FL-62 / CTS3500)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Use the following form if:

  • The Application says that both of you are guardians, and that is correct.
  • You agree with the division of guardianship powers proposed by your former partner.
  • BUT you disagree with proposed parenting time.

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

PDF Reply Statement - Parenting (Form FL-62 / CTS3500)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Sole guardian

If your situation is the following:

  • the Application that says that both of you are guardians;
  • BUT you think that he or she is a not guardian;
  • AND you think that you are the sole guardian,

then the exact form you use will depend on where you are filing your court documents. Each judicial centre has a preference. To be certain that you are using the correct form, check with Resolution and Court Administration Services in the judicial centre where you are filing.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If your situation is the following:

  • the application say that the Applicant wants sole guardianship;
  • AND you agree that the Applicant is and should be a guardian;
  • BUT you disagree that he or she should be the sole guardian and want your status as a guardian confirmed in the Court Order,

then you will need to check off “parenting” as additional relief on the Response form (see above), and use both of the following forms. For instructions on how to complete these forms, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the forms.


PDF Statement - Parenting (Form FL-39 / CTS3476)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

If the Applicant has brought an application for sole guardianship and you disagree that he or she is or should be a guardian at all, you must 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.

Other guardianship issues

If the Applicant has asked the Court to terminate (end) your guardianship, and you disagree 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.

If the Applicant has asked the Court for some advice on what to do about an important matter, and you wish to respond, 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.

If the Applicant has asked the Court to reconsider a major decision that you made as a guardian (or one made by another guardian), 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.

Completing Reply Statements for other matters in dispute

When you were served with your former partner’s Claim and Statements about guardianship and parenting, you may also have been served Statements about other issues related to your separation. The information about how to respond to those forms can be found on the Process tabs of 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 parenting matters. 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 your former partner 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 your former partner 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 your former partner (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 and parenting. 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 your former partner. 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 your former partner 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 your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

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

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. 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
Asking for changes to a previous court order (also called “variations”)

As circumstances change, and your children age, you and/or your former partner may need or want to change the terms of a previous court order. If the order you want to change came from a previous application heard in chambers, you can ask for a “variation.”

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

Is it an Alberta court order that you are trying to change (“vary”)? Should the application be in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

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

Is this the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). If you are trying to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench, you will have to file your paperwork in the judicial centre where your court file is located. Check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre.

You may want to apply to transfer the file. This application must be made in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer your court file, use the following kit.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the Claim

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

Remember

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English


To file a Claim, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.
PDF Claim - Family Law Act (Form FL-10 / CTS3459)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

When you file a Claim to vary a previous court order, you must also file a “Variation Statement” for each topic that you want the judge to decide about. This is also called the “relief” that you are asking for. For example: there are separate Variation Statements for parenting, child support, and partner support. Each kind of relief has its own Variation Statement.

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.

Are you asking for something “temporary”?

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

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

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

This is especially important if the request is for something unusual, or something that the Court might normally reject. There is more information about Statements below.

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Completing Variation Statements for guardianship and parenting

Under the Family Law Act, requests for changes in guardianship and parenting are made in a single form. You can change either the guardianship details, the parenting details, or both in 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 - Vary Parenting (Form FL-41 / CTS3477)
Government of Alberta
English
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Tip

You may have been unable to get the consent of the other parent to travel with the child. If so, you would use this form about parenting to ask the Court for an order allowing the travel.

If the “change” you want is to terminate guardianship (yours or someone else’s), 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
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Tip

It is very rare for a court to agree to one parent terminating the guardianship of another parent. For one thing, that parent would no longer even get notice about matters related to the child. Remember: under the Family Law Act, you can change the details about who completes the tasks of guardianship by using a parenting order. 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.

Be Aware

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


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

Completing Variation Statements for other matters in dispute

When you are filing the paperwork for a variation about guardianship and/or parenting, you may also wish to file Statements to vary 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.

Be Aware

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

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 other parent will be serving you with his or her Response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other parent must respond (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date. A brief summary of the paper exchange process is in the following resource.

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 information on going to court, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

Do you need to respond to your former partner’s 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. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

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

PDF Update Statement (Form FL-79 / CTS3551)
Government of Alberta
English
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Be Aware

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

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

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


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 your former partner 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

Your former partner 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 your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page

Written interrogatories

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

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

Responding to a request for changes to a court order (also called “variations”)

If you have been served with paperwork in which the other parent/guardian (who is known as “the Applicant”) asks for changes to the parenting arrangements, you will need to file documents to respond.

Remember

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

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 your matter be heard in a different province or a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the right judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). An application to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench must be filed in the judicial centre where your court file is located. You can check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre. Unless the Applicant made an error, you must respond in the same judicial centre where the application was made.

For example:

  • The court file is in Fort McMurray and the Applicant filed this request for a variation there.
  • You are now in Lethbridge.
  • You must respond in Fort McMurray. Or, you may want to try to transfer the file. You will have to apply in Fort McMurray to have the file transferred to Lethbridge. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Completing the “Response”

When your former partner filed their request for variation, they filed a document called a “Claim.” Read the Claim carefully. You must respond to this Claim by filing a document called a Response.

To file a Response, you must 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 other parent (known as “the Applicant”) asked for, check the box that says you agree and fill out the rest of form.

  • If you agree with everything that the other parent (known as “the Applicant”) asked for, but you also have things that you want to ask for, check off that you agree in Part 1. Then check off the boxes in Part 2 that say what you will be asking for. This is 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 his or her Claim. For each of these boxes that you check off, you must also complete a Reply Statement (explained below).

  • If you do not agree with everything that the other parent (known as “the Applicant”) asked for, check off in Part 1 that you do not agree. Then fill out a “Reply” form to each of the topics brought up by your former partner. For example: if your former partner included a “Statement - Vary Parenting” and you disagree, you must fill out the “Reply Statement - Vary Parenting” (see below for direct link). If you want to ask for something that has not yet been brought up, check off the appropriate boxes in Part 2 and fill out the forms required for each of these topics

Completing Variation Replies about guardianship and parenting

Under the Family Law Act, changes about who completes the tasks of guardianship are generally made by using a parenting order. Therefore, the Applicant has most likely asked for a change in the guardianship decision-making powers by using the “Statement - Vary Parenting” form. If so, use the following form to reply. You can put your own suggestions about division of guardianship decision-making powers in section 6. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Reply Statement - Vary Parenting (Form FL-63 / CTS3501)
Government of Alberta
English
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You would also use the form above to reply to a request by your former partner for changes in parenting time.

If the change being requested by the Applicant is that your guardianship be terminated, 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
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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. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.

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

Completing other Reply Statements

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

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

If the Applicant is asking for something new in addition to the parenting variation, you will complete a Reply Statement for each topic. For example, if the Applicant filed a “Statement - Child Support,” you would complete a “Reply Statement - Child Support.”

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

If you are making your own requests: Completing Statements

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are involved in the case. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is the same as you were served with their paperwork to begin with. You have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Remember

It is best to serve your former partner 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 your former partner 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.

Audio/Web 
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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 your former partner (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 and parenting. 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
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Be Aware

Update Statements are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case.

If you fill out one of these Update Statements, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.
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.


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 your former partner. 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 your former partner 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 your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. 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 Application tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there. A brief summary of the paper exchange process, including what can happen if you do not respond in time, is in the following resource.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for, or replying to, an Enforcement of Parenting Time

Enforcement orders are a kind of “variation.” In this section you will find only information about the different forms needed to request or reply to an enforcement application.

For information on:

  • things you need to know before you fill in the paperwork (such as: Is this an interim order? Is there domestic violence? And is this the right court?);
  • completing the Claim form or the Response form; and
  • what to do with the completed paperwork (such as: checking over, filing, serving, and proving service)

see the “Asking for changes” and “Responding to a request for changes” sections above.

Requesting enforcement

Sometimes, although you have a court order giving you parenting time with a child, the other parent/guardian might not be letting you have that time. As a result you may wish to apply for an “enforcement order.” (For information on the law related to enforcement orders, see the Law tab of this Information Page.)

To apply for an Enforcement Order, you must already have a court order that gives you time with a child. But that order cannot be made under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, formerly called the Child Welfare Act. In addition, the other parent/guardian must have refused to give you your time with the child in the last 12 months. This includes failing to return the child to your care.

To make the application, use the followingform. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

The instructions will provide you with detailed information about the various things that you can ask for. These can include:

  • time with the child to make up for the time you missed (this is called “compensatory time”);
  • some kind of security from the other parent to help make sure that it does not happen again; and
  • reimbursement of expenses that resulted from not being able to spend time with the child (in other words, paying you back for money you spent).

Requesting reimbursement (paying back of costs) for failure to take parenting time

Sometimes, the opposite can also occur. A parent/guardian may have a court order allowing him or her to spend time with the child. But that parent does not show up to do so. At times, this can result in a cost to the other parent.

For example:

  • Mary and the children live in Edmonton.
  • Paul, the father, lives in Calgary.
  • Paul has parenting time on a Saturday. The parties arrange to have the parenting time in Red Deer.
  • Mary drives the children to Red Deer, but Paul does not show up.
  • Mary has now spent money on gas for parenting time that did not happen.
  • Mary can ask the court to make Paul pay that money back.

To make the application, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

Varying an enforcement order

Once an Enforcement Order is in place, it may later need to be changed. For example, you might need more compensatory time, or there may be a need for more security from the other parent. To request a change in an enforcement order, use the following form. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

Replying to requests about an enforcement order

For all of the above three options regarding enforcement orders, there are also “replies” which the other parent/guardian can use to respond. For instructions on how to complete these forms, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form. Please note that these links only open in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view them in Chrome and Firefox.



Consent orders

Just because a court application has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by going to court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

If you have already started a court action (in other words, if you have already filed a Claim and any Statements for your matters), you may have to take your draft consent order to chambers to have a judge grant the order. This does not have to be done on any particular day, and you do not have to wait until your scheduled court date if you had one.

Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people. Yours is one case on the list. 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 (see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below for more information about how to do that). Once you have done that, you take the signed Consent Order to the filing counter and the clerks will open a court file with the Order; or

  • You may be able to give the draft Consent Order to the court clerks directly, who will get it to a judge for review and let you know whether the judge approved it. Once the Consent Order is signed, the clerks will open a court file with the signed Order.

Either way, there will be a filing fee. For more information about which process you need to follow in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the consent order, remember to make sure that it is filed with the Court and served on the other 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.

PDF Family Law Act Procedure
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For even more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

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.
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 see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

The Children’s Legal & Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) can give children legal information and legal advice. For cases being in heard in Calgary, where the children also live in Calgary, CLERC may be able to represent the child. See the following resource for information.

Web Contact Us
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Parents can also hire a lawyer for their children. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for information about your legal options.

Going to trial

Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing a court order

It is possible to appeal a court decision granted in the Court of Queen’s Bench. This is true of both chambers and trial orders. You would have to appeal to the next highest court: the Alberta Court of Appeal.

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error on the facts. 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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