Spousal Support under the Divorce Act (married spouses)

Law

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

  • Who can get spousal support
  • Calculating spousal support
  • The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
  • How spousal support is paid
  • How spousal support affects your taxes
  • Solving spousal support matters out of court
  • Going to court to deal with spousal support issues, including changing spousal support orders
  • Enforcing spousal support

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

This Information Page has information about the law of spousal support (sometimes also called “partner support”) for couples whose relationship is breaking down.

This Information Page is for spouses who were in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing and resolving their spousal support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act.

However, if you were married and your relationship is breaking down, you do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. For support and parenting issues, married spouses 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 want to deal with spousal support using the federal Divorce Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • If you want to deal with spousal support using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the wrong Information Page—see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page instead.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information page for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to:

  • read the information below;
  • understand how it applies to your situation; and
  • know what actions you may need to take.

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

What the words mean

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.

spouse

A person who is legally married to another person.

spousal support

Money paid by one former spouse to the other former spouse, to help with living expenses. Spousal support is sometimes called “spousal maintenance.” The term “spousal support” applies only to spouses who were married or are still married to each other. For partners who were never married, the correct term is “partner support.”

You may have heard this called “alimony”: that is not the term that is used in Canada.

payor

The person paying spousal support to another person.

recipient

The person getting spousal support from another person.

party

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

financial disclosure

The process of giving your financial information to someone else. This information usually includes such things as:

  • tax returns
  • income information (such as pay stubs)
  • a list of property you own (including the current value)
  • statements about investments you have (including the current value)

Depending on the situation, it may include much more information.
When separating or divorcing, parties give each other this information so that fair solutions can be reached. If you are going to court about child support, spousal/partner support, or division of property, this information will be required by the court.

quantum

The amount of spousal support to be paid—the “how much” part of the calculation. The quantum (“how much”) and the duration (“how long”) are closely linked: a larger monthly quantum may mean a shorter duration.

duration

The length of time the spousal support is to be paid—the “how long” part of the calculation. The duration (“how long”) and the quantum (“how much”) are closely linked: a larger monthly quantum may mean a shorter duration.

lump sum payment

A single, larger payment of money, rather than a series of smaller payments made over time (such as a monthly payment).

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

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


Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

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

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

Alberta’s two-court system

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

Tip

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

People who were married generally deal with their separation and child-related issues using the federal Divorce Act. If they need to go to court to resolve their issues, they go to the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). This is because most married couples who are separating wish to divorce, and the “divorce” part of the separation can only be handled by QB. Also, the division of property can also only be handled by QB (that is dealt with by an Alberta law called the Matrimonial Property Act). So if a couple has to go to QB for divorce and property issues anyway, they might as well handle all of their issues there.

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

If you would like to deal with your spousal support issues under the Alberta Family Law Act (where it is called “partner support”), see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page. That Information Page is written for non-married partners, but the concepts will apply to you in the same way.

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

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

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

Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings.

If 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 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.

How to use this website

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

Family Violence

 

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

More information

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

Webinar Spousal Support Basics and Partner Abuse
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

Web Income Support
YWCA Canada
English

Web Legal Protection From Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web A Spotlight on Family Violence and Immigrant Women in Canada
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. 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.

Get any important documents you need

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

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

For more information, see the following resource.

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

You can agree

Although it may not seem like it right now, you can come to an agreement with your spouse. Going to court is not a requirement. You can even agree on spousal support before you actually leave.

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 your life right now, or even in the next month. Temporary, or “interim,” arrangements can be made, and this includes spousal support. If you and your spouse cannot agree on initial arrangements, you can get an “interim” (temporary) order from the Court that makes arrangements for the first few weeks or months. This can be done quite quickly.

For more information about going to court to get interim spousal support, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

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.

The following resources provide information about things to consider.

Audio/Web Your Rights when you Separate
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Video Episode 201- Spousal Support - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

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.

Video How do I protect myself during separation? - Divorce Planning
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Divorce & Your Credit
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.
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.

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

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta LibrarySee Chapter 7.

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

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

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

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

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

  • You or your spouse provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if you can prove that one of you did not understand the contract because of something that was going on when the agreement was made. Or, if one of you did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.

  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, you may have included an agreement that no child support would be paid. This is not allowed. It should not have been agreed to, and it will not be honoured. This is because child support is the right of the child.

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

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

What is spousal support and why is it needed?

Spousal support is money paid by one former spouse to the other former spouse, to help with living expenses.

The law recognizes several reasons for providing spousal support. These reasons form the basis of “entitlement” to spousal support. See the “Who is eligible for spousal support?” section below for more information about entitlement.

Be Aware

Spousal support is not as well regulated as other areas of family law, such as child support. The law described below provides the general approach. However, much of how that law is applied is up to individual judges in individual cases. This is called “judicial discretion.” Spousal support is a very complex area of law.

See the following resources to learn about the legal reasons to provide spousal support.

PDF General Information: Spousal / Partner Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 3.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 18 and p. 21.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 16:30.


Web Fact Sheet - Spousal Support
Government of Canada
English


Web About spousal support
Government of Canada
English

Web À propos des pensions alimentaires pour époux
Government of Canada
French

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Things to know about spousal support in Alberta
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Webinar Financial Support After Breakup: What Women Should Know about Spousal and Child Support
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Spousal Support
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Divorce 101 in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
Start at 7:40.

Web Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Episode 201- Spousal Support - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

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

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta LibrarySee Chapter 7.

 

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

PDF Family Property & Spousal Support: Muslim & Canadian Family Laws
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Who is eligible for spousal support?

To be eligible to ask for spousal support under the Divorce Act, you must have been a married spouse (see the “What the words mean” section above). This is part of what is called showing “entitlement.”

However, just being a spouse does not mean that you will automatically get spousal support. Not every couple that separates will end up with one spouse paying spousal support to the other.

To ask for spousal support, you must also show one of the reasons for entitlement. For example:

  • Is there a claim for compensation?
  • Is there a need for financial support?
  • Is there a previous agreement about financial support?
Be Aware

One spouse making more money than the other is not enough reason to be entitled to spousal support. There must also be one of the reasons for entitlement.

For more information about being eligible for spousal support, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Spousal / Partner Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 2.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 18-26.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 18:50.


Audio/Web Child and Spousal Support
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Fault and Spousal Support
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you a preview of each article, and you can find the full articles at libraries across Alberta. Please note that these articles are sections in whole books. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Determining Entitlement (article included in "Spousal Support Fundamentals")
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.

Book Creating a New Lexicon for Spousal Support (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.
How is spousal support calculated? How much, how long, and retroactive support

Once it is clear that an spouse is entitled to ask for spousal support, a judge will look at various factors to decide: 

  • how much spousal support should be given (this is called the “quantum”); and
  • how long spousal support should be given (this is called the “duration”).

The factors considered

The factors that judge considers in deciding the “how much” and “how long” include:

  • how long the spouses were together;
  • the roles of the spouse during the relationship (for example: did one stay home to take care of the children?);
  • the standard of living during the marriage (what was the budget and monthly expenses?);
  • how much each spouse earns and whether this income is likely to continue;
  • any other ways that the spouses have of earning money and their financial resources in general;
  • the reasonable financial needs of both spouses;
  • the plans the spouses made before and during the relationship for their own retirement, education, business, and other goals;
  • the conditions of the spouses (such as their ages and health and anything else that may be of importance); and
  • any agreements about spousal support between the spouses (express or implied).
     
Be Aware

On its own, bad behaviour by one of the spouses during the relationship (also called “misconduct”) is not considered as one of the factors in figuring out spousal support. The only time it will be considered is if the bad behaviour causes or increases the need for support.

There are a few more things to keep in mind about these factors:

  • The “how much” and “how long” are closely linked: a larger monthly quantum may mean a shorter duration.
  • It is generally thought that if the payor can afford it, the recipient should have enough support to continue to live in a standard similar to how he or she lived during the marriage.
  • In interim (temporary) spousal support orders, the main focus is to meet the basic needs of the recipient, and durations are kept relatively short, so that the matter can be better examined later. Any consideration of the compensatory factors is more common in final orders.
  • A spouse is not expected to pay support from an asset divided as part of the division of the property from the marriage. An example would be where a payor would have to pay spousal support from pension income—as that pension was already divided upon separation. This is called “double recovery,” and courts are clear that it should be avoided.
  • When making support orders, the court must give priority to child support over spousal support. If there is not enough money to pay both kinds of support, then it is the spousal support that must be reduced. However, in those cases, it may be possible for a court to increase spousal support after the children have grown up and are no longer in need of support.

The “how much”

The amount of spousal support to be given is hard to determine, and hard to guess at in advance. Spousal support is not as well regulated as other areas of law, such as child support. The law provides general concepts, but much of how that law is applied is up to individual judges in individual cases. This is called “judicial discretion.” And the issue of “how much” is the first area where the judge must apply his or her discretion.

The starting point is income. Also, the court must consider the assets and debts of each spouse. This is where all of those factors listed above are weighed against each other. For example: even if a person has the “means” to pay, that ability might be affected by other factors, such as:

  • whether he or she lives with another income-earner; 
  • whether there are financial obligation to anyone else; and
  • whether the person is “under-employed” on purpose.

In making its decision, the court will want to consider how other courts have applied their discretion in similar circumstances. If you are representing yourself, you may want to research other cases that had circumstances similar to your own. For more information about researching case law, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

The “how long”

Again, figuring out the duration of the support depends on the exact facts of the case, and the judge has a large amount of discretion. Also, remember that the “how much” and “how long” are closely linked: a larger monthly payment may mean a shorter amount of time.

There are also various options that a judge must consider. For example:

  • Should the spousal support be “time-limited”? This means that it will end on a specific date.
  • Should it be “indefinite”? This means that there is no specific end date.
  • Should it be “reviewable”? This means we are not sure when it will end, but we will have to re-examine the issue at a later date. If so, should the court set that date of review right now?
Be Aware

Under the Divorce Act, unless your agreement or order says otherwise, spousal support ends when the recipient dies. This is true even if the award was given for “compensatory” reasons. If the payor dies, any arrears that are owed at the time of death become a debt of the estate. However, the usual rule with ongoing payments is that the support obligation dies with the payor, unless the support order or agreement says otherwise. However, the recipient can apply to court to ask that the support obligation continue and be paid from the payor’s estate. Therefore, if you want to make sure spousal support payments will continue after the death of the recipient or payor, it must clearly say so in the agreement or court order.

“Retroactive” spousal support

It is possible to get a lump sum of “retroactive” spousal support for the time in the past when you should have received support. For more information about retroactive spousal support, see the following resources.

Web Retroactive Support and the SSAG
Government of Canada
English


Web Grounds for Retroactive Spousal Support
Birenbaum, Steinberg, Landau, Savin & Colraine, LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Spouse Can Get Retroactive Support
Milne Selkirk
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

More information

Below you will find resources that discuss in detail:

  • Calculating spousal support
  • Financial disclosure and imputing income
  • How bad behaviour affects spousal support
  • How remarriage affects spousal support
  • How death impacts spousal support under a domestic contract

For more general information about calculating spousal support, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Spousal / Partner Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-7.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 22-25.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 22:20.

PDF Family Law in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13-15.

Video Spousal Support
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Spousal Support vs Child Support
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What You Need to Know Before Using an Online Spousal Support Calculator
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

Video Episode 201 Spousal Support: Web Extra with Justice Stanley Sherr
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 201- Spousal Support - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web How does child support affect calculation of spousal support in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Presentation Pension alimentaire pour conjoints/époux
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Finer Points on Court-Ordered Interim Support
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more hereNote that this resource discusses interim (temporary) support orders.

 

For more information about financial disclosure and imputing income, see the following resources.

Web What financial documents are needed to calculate support payments?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web What is the imputation of income for support payments?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Imputation of Income When Parent or Spouse is Intentionally Unemployed or Underemployed
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Worried About Having Your Income Grossed-Up for Support Purposes? Here’s Some Court-Inspired Insight
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Financial Disclosure in Family Law Cases, Don’t Hide; It’s Best to Provide!
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Financial Disclosure to the Ex: Do I Have to Report All Self-Employment Income?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

For more information about how bad behaviour (or “misconduct”) is considered (and not considered) when granting spousal support, see the following resources.

Video Does adultery affect spousal support? - Spousal Support for Cheating Spouses
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 201- Spousal Support - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

For more information about the effect of remarriage on spousal support payments, see the following resource.


 

For information about how death impacts spousal support under a domestic contract, see the following resource. This 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 Impact on Death (article included in "Domestic Contracts")
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.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

It can be complex to figure out spousal support. To help with this, the federal Department of Justice has created a calculation tool called the “Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines” (SSAGs). This tool uses several formulas to provide a range of spousal support alternatives.

This can be especially helpful for former spouses who are trying to come to their own agreement about spousal support. However, the SSAGs deal only with the “how much” and “how long” parts of spousal support. They do not deal with eligibility for spousal support in the first place.

To calculate an estimate of spousal support using the SSAGs, special software is required. To complete the calculation, you must talk to a lawyer. Staff at Resolution and Court Administration Services cannot complete these calculations. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Be Aware

The SSAGs are not law. Courts do not have to follow them (unlike the Child Support Guidelines), and they often don’t. Although courts have been willing to consider the SSAGs, they have also made it very clear that they continue to base their decisions on the specific facts of the case in front of them. As a result, the use of the SSAGs in court varies.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Spousal / Partner Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-7.

Web The role of the federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


 

You can also read the entire Guidelines in the following resource.

Web Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
Government of Canada
English

How is spousal support given and how does that affect your taxes?

Regular payments or one lump-sum payment?

Spousal support is often ordered as a fixed amount that is paid on a regular basis, generally every month (this is called “periodic” payments). This is the most common form of support.

However, in rare cases, spousal support can be paid in a one-time lump sum. This is not common, as people do not usually have the whole amount to give at once.

Family Violence

Lump sum payments may be appropriate in some cases, such as when it is a good idea to limit future contact between the spouses. However, you should discuss whether this is a good option with your lawyer. They can describe the disadvantages and advantages of accepting monthly payments or a lump-sum payment.

For more information about lump sum spousal support, see the following resources.

Web The Factors That Influence Lump-Sum Spousal Support Awards
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Lump Sum Spousal Support: Refining A Blunt Instrument
Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP
English
This is a private source and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Tax considerations

When deciding what to ask for and how the spousal support is paid, an important thing to consider are the tax issues.

  • If the support is a fixed amount paid on a regular basis, the payments are tax deductible for the payor and taxable for the recipient.
  • If the support is paid in a lump sum, the payor loses any tax deduction associated with the amount, but the amount is still taxable for the recipient.
Be Aware

In order to be tax deductible, the fixed amount of support must be identified in a written agreement or court order. Also, the agreement or order must clearly identify the support as spousal support. If it is not clear, the support will be assumed to be child support, which is treated differently for tax purposes.

For more information on the tax issues around spousal support, see the following resources.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 22:40.

Video Two necessary evils – know your obligations re: income tax and spousal / child support
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Support Payments
Government of Canada
English

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


Web Spousal Support Qualifiers and Tips
Barriston Law LLP
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Accounting and legal fees
Government of Canada
English

Web Frais juridiques et comptables
Government of Canada
French

Web Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support
Community Legal Education Ontario
Chinese, English, French, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Are Alberta support payments tax deductible?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Spousal support after the payor dies (including using life insurance as security)

In general, any ongoing spousal support payments end if the payor dies, unless an agreement or court order says that the payments are to continue after death. This is called having spousal support payments “binding on the estate of the payor.”

Many agreements and court orders do say that spousal support payments are binding on the estate of the payor. Even if they don’t mention being binding, there are exceptions to the general rules, and an estate may end up owing spousal support nonetheless. Also, although ongoing payments may end, arrears are binding on the estate.

As a result, a payor’s estate may owe spousal support. However, sometimes the estate does not have enough money to pay the spousal support that is owing (which may be arrears, ongoing payments, or both). The recipient may even suspect or know that this is likely to happen. If that is the case, the parties can arrange to have life insurance set up to make sure that spousal support payments and arrears will be taken care of if the payor dies.

For example:

  • Alex has life insurance that says that Terry will get $300,000 if Alex dies.
  • Alex is terrible with money, often has trouble paying bills on time, and has serious health issues.
  • Alex and Terry decide to separate.
  • When they separate, Alex wants to cancel the life insurance.
  • Alex has to pay Terry spousal support.
  • Terry is concerned that Alex will not pay spousal support on time (resulting in spousal support arrears).
  • Terry and Alex decide to keep the life insurance policy, with Terry to get the money if Alex dies.
  • As part of their agreement or court order, Alex and Terry will decide who will pay the premiums on the life insurance.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Life Insurance After Divorce
State Farm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The Impact of Divorce on Your Life Insurance
Western Direct Insurance
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Spousal (and Child) Support – Life Insurance
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Whose life insurance is it anyway?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Life Insurance: Protecting Support Obligations after Death
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Life insurance and support obligations on marriage breakdown
Manulife Financial
English
This is a private source and can be a challenge to read. Learn more hereStart on p. 4.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

The Indian Act affects the enforcement of spousal support orders when the payor is a status Indian who lives on reserve.

If the recipient is not a status Indian:

  • the Indian Act limits the ability to enforce a support award; and
  • on-reserve property or income cannot be used to pay the support.

If both the payor and the recipient are status Indians:

  • the Indian Act does not limit the ability to enforce a support order; and
  • on-reserve property or income can be used to pay the support.

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

Blended family considerations

Under the Divorce Act, the law around spousal support is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your spousal support issues will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Depending on your exact situation, a topic that may be important to you is whether living with another adult who earns income can affect your spousal support order.

For more information, see the “How is spousal support calculated?” section above and the “Changing spousal support orders” section below.

LGBTQ considerations

Under the Divorce Act, the law around spousal support is no different for LGBTQ couples than it is for anyone else. Your spousal support 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, if you got married while still using the name and/or gender assigned at birth. Now you are making a court application for spousal support 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.

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

Under the federal Divorce Act, it is impossible for a person to have more than one legal spouse—it is illegal to be married to more than one person at a time. Only a person who is the legally recognized spouse can apply for spousal support.

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. 38.
Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

One or both spouses may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

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

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

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

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

Immigration sponsorship can also impact spousal support. When the immigrating spouse was sponsored, the sponsor agreed in writing to support his or her spouse for 3 years. That sponsorship agreement is between the sponsor and the Government of Canada. In other words, the sponsor would owe the government money if the sponsored person becomes a burden on the social system (for example: by needing income assistance or having many medical bills). That said, the sponsorship agreement can be used as evidence in an application for spousal support, to show why the sponsored spouse might need support. However, it does not mean that the sponsored spouse will automatically get the support, as he or she must make “every reasonable effort” to support himself or herself.

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

Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Spousal Support and Sponsorship Agreements
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.


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 spouses are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or both of the spouses is/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
  • when and how to schedule court hearings.

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

Out of court resolution options

You do not have to go to court to solve your spousal support 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.

However, before coming to any agreement, it is important to understand your rights and what you might be entitled to. Also, remember that spousal support is separate from child support and division of property.

Coming to an agreement on your own

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

Mediation

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

Arbitration

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

Negotiating through lawyers

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

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

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

Collaborative Family Law

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

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

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

More information

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

PDF Breaking up: Without court
Canadian Bar Association
English

PDF Se séparer sans l’aide des tribunaux
Canadian Bar Association
French

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #1.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English

Before you go to court: Is an Alberta court the right court?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolving spousal support in court

Understanding the court system

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

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

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

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

Paying fees

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

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

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

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.

Enforcing spousal support: The Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)

“Enforcing” an order means making sure that what the court ordered is actually done. When a judge makes an order, the parties are expected to do what the judge has decided. However, the ability to enforce an order is not automatically included in the court order. Instead, you will have to follow a process to make sure you can enforce it.

What is the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)?

To make sure that former spouses are given the spousal support that they are entitled to, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

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

How does MEP work?

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

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

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

Who can register with MEP?

For information about who is eligible to register with MEP, see the following resource.

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Am I eligible?
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how to register with MEP, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

If the recipient lives in Alberta

If the recipient lives in Alberta, you are eligible to register with MEP if you have:

  • a court order for child or partner support; or
  • a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (see the “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements” heading at the end of this section).

If the recipient lives in another Canadian province or territory

If the recipient lives in another Canadian province or territory, you must register with the support enforcement program in that province or territory. That enforcement program will then collect, deliver, and enforce the support. See the following resource for a list of enforcement programs in Canada.


If the recipient lives outside of Canada

If the recipient lives outside of Canada, your enforcement options depend on where the parties live and whether the court order was granted in an area has a “reciprocity agreement” with the province of Alberta.

Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If the recipient lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page for your options for enforcement.

If the recipient lives in an area that is not a reciprocating jurisdiction (for example: Mexico), you can only register with MEP in Alberta if the payor lives in Alberta. If the payor does not live in Alberta, your situation is more complicated. You may want to get the advice of lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

What happens after you register?

Once an order is registered with MEP, the payor will pay the support to the Director of Maintenance Enforcement. The money is then directly deposited to the recipient.

In order to carry out collection and enforcement, MEP has very broad powers, including:

  • deducting the support payments directly from the payor’s wages (this is called a “garnishee”);
  • taking support amounts owing directly from bank accounts, mutual funds, rent, or contract fees;
  • taking support amounts owing directly from income tax refunds, GST rebates, Canada Pension Plan income, and Employment Insurance payments;
  • preventing the payor from selling any property;
  • suspending the payor’s driver’s licence, registration, or licence plates;
  • canceling the payor’s driver’s licence if payments are more than 60 days late;
  • taking away the payor’s passport; and
  • publicly identifying the payor as being in arrears (this is done on the MEP website).

See the following resources for more information about what MEP can do. There is even more information in the resources at the end of this section.

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

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

Arrears: What happens if a payor can’t make their payments?

Sometimes, there are unavoidable reasons why a payor might delay or miss payments. These missed payments are called “arrears.” If this happens, the payor can try to make a different payment arrangement with MEP.

If it is not possible to make a different arrangement with MEP, the payor can request a “Stay of Enforcement” from the Court. This “pauses” MEP’s enforcement actions for a short period of time. However, there are only certain things that a Stay of Enforcement can do. For example:

  • A Stay of Enforcement can stop or change the amount of a wage “garnishee.” This is when MEP takes money you owe directly from your paycheque.
  • A Stay of Enforcement can stop MEP from taking any further steps to enforce the support order.
  • A Stay of Enforcement cannot get you your driver’s licence back.
  • A Stay of Enforcement cannot stop federal enforcement steps that have already started (such as a garnishee of your Employment Insurance payments).
Be Aware

Before a court will grant a Stay of Enforcement, the payor must show that they tried to make a different payment arrangement with MEP, and an arrangement was not possible. To help with this, MEP will give payors a written explanation if a payment arrangement is not possible.

For more information about Stays of Enforcement, see the following resources.


Web Limit the collection of your support payments
Government of Alberta
English

Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English
See “Stay of Enforcement on Arrears.”

 

For information about applying for a Stay of Enforcement, see the section called “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

If a payor is unable to pay spousal support arrears, he or she can ask the Court that the arrears be reduced or cancelled. This is not an easy argument to make. See the “Spousal support arrears” section below for more information.

Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements

Queen's Bench

 

Many people agree with each other on support and do not want to have to go to court just to get an order that can be registered with MEP. They would like to register their agreement instead. To register a support agreement with MEP, it must be in a specific format: the Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (MESA).

To make a MESA, you must:

  • meet the eligibility requirements;
  • follow the instructions; and
  • file the proper paperwork in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

For more information about how to do this, see the following resources.


More information

For information about how to register with MEP, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For general information about enforcement of support in Canada, see the following resources.

Web Enforcing Support
Government of Canada
English

Web Exécution de pensions alimentaires
Government of Canada
French

Web Resolve Enforcement Issues
Government of Canada
English


 

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

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

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

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


Web Maintenance Enforcement Program
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Am I eligible?
Government of Alberta
English

PDF MEP information sheets
Government of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Glossary
Government of Alberta
English

 

For information for employers of people registered with MEP, see the following resources.


Spousal support arrears

Sometimes, the payor gets behind on their spousal support payments. When this happens, the debt builds up and the payor is still responsible to pay the amount owing. The debt of unpaid spousal support is called “arrears.”

A payor can ask a court to reduce or completely cancel their arrears. Even if the arrears are not reduced or cancelled, the payor can ask that payment of those arrears be postponed or paid over a longer period of time.

Be Aware

This is not an easy application to make. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information.

Changing spousal support orders

Once a spousal support order is given, if the situation changes, either spouse can apply to change the order. Both spouses will need to disclose their income information in order for the Court to determine the amount and type of order it will make.

In order to change a spousal support order, there must be a significant change in one or both of the spouse’s:

  • condition (for example: an illness or disability);
  • means (for example: an increase or decrease in income);
  • needs (for example: becoming unemployed); or
  • other circumstances (for example: an increase in household income due to a new partner).

This can include evidence that was not known before, but has come to light since the first hearing.

If the order or agreement that you are trying to change has an end date, and you are asking to get support after that date, you will have to show that:

  • the change is needed to relieve financial hardship;
  • this financial hardship arose from the change in circumstances;
  • the financial hardship and/or the change in circumstances are in some way related to the former relationship; and
  • if, at the time the order or agreement was made, the spouses had known that the change in circumstances would occur, that order or agreement would have been different from what it was.
Be Aware

You may not be able to get a consent order to reduce or cancel support arrears, or even change ongoing support, if the recipient has ever been on income assistance.

For more information on changing spousal support orders, see the following resources.

PDF General Information: Spousal / Partner Support
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 9-11.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 26.

Video Child and Spousal Support
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 25:00.


Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English



Web Changing Final Orders in Family Matters
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Orders about spousal support”.

Web Spousal Support Agreements – Are They Always Air-Tight?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
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Web What do I need to change a spousal support order in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web LawNow: Where There's a Will, There's a Way
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 55-57.

Video Spousal Support and Voluntary Retirement
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web If My Ex Starts Living with Someone Else, Can I Stop Paying Spousal Support?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
.
Going to trial

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

Appealing an order

It is possible to appeal a court decision. To appeal a court order, you 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 in the facts. In addition, be aware that an appeal can only be made within 30 days of the order. For more information, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Process

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

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

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

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

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

This Information Page has information about spousal support (sometimes also called “partner support”) for couples whose relationship is breaking down.

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 for spouses who were in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing and resolving their spousal support issues using Canada’s Divorce Act.

However, if you were married and your relationship is breaking down, you do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. For support and parenting issues, married spouses 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 want to deal with spousal support using the federal Divorce Act, this is the correct Information Page.
  • If you want to deal with spousal support using Alberta’s Family Law Act, this is the wrong Information Page—see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page instead.
  • The choice of which law to use is extremely important. If you are not sure which law you want to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for a brief introduction. For more detailed information about what to consider when choosing, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

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

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

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

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

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

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want. For information on the law that governs your situation, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

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

Alberta’s two-court system

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, there is no single “family court” in Alberta. People ending a married relationship in Alberta have a choice about which law they will use (the Alberta Family Law Act or the federal Divorce Act) and which court they will use. This is a very important decision. Each law and court offer different things, and there are some things you can only ask for in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on your situation, you may have a choice to make. Or your circumstances may mean that you only have one option of which law or court to use.

Tip

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

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

For an introduction to the differences in the two courts and what kinds of things to consider when making your decision about which law and which court to use, see the “Alberta’s two-court system” section on the Law tab of this Information Page. For more detailed information, see the Ending a Married Relationship Information Page.

Out of court resolution options

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

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

Be Aware

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

Coming to an agreement on your own

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

When coming to an agreement, it is also important that you understand the law around spousal support. See the Law tab of this Information Page for detailed information.

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 take steps to make sure that your agreement can be enforced. Having a court order makes it a little easier to take action to enforce your agreement if you need to.

There are 2 ways to make sure that a spousal support agreement can be enforced:

  1. You can prepare a consent order setting out the terms of your agreement. However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.
  2. You can complete a “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement” (MESA). By itself, a MESA is not a court order. However, it is a specific kind of Agreement that has a mandatory template form and required steps. For more information about how to complete and file Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreements in Queen’s Bench, see the “Consent orders” section below.

After you have your Consent Order: Registering your Order

Once you have your court order, you must register it with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). For more detailed information about MEP’s requirements and processes, see:

  • the “Enforcing spousal support” section on the Law tab of this Information Page; and
  • the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” section below.
Government programs to help avoid court (but they may become mandatory if you do go to court)

When children are involved in family breakdown, the Alberta Courts has programs to help keep the family out of court, if possible. A family does not necessarily have to already be involved in a court action to use these resources. If you have children and qualify for these resources, the issue of spousal support can also be addressed.

If you do end up taking these matters to court, some of these resources and processes could become MANDATORY. This means you must use them.

Therefore, if you have child-related matters to resolve in addition to spousal support issues, be sure to review the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page and the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page for more information about the kinds of resources that can help you.

For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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 and why. A lawyer can help you reach an out-of-court agreement, or represent you in court.

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

Representing yourself

Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS)

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). You can contact RCAS to see what help they recommend.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
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

More information

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

The following resource has helpful information about bringing a spousal support application to Queen’s Bench. Although the title mentions special chambers applications specifically, there is good general information as well. This 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 How to Make (or Refute) a Spousal Support Application in Special Chambers – or At Least Go Down Trying (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
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.
Before you go to court: Get to know the court system

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

Paying fees

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

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

Starting a court action

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

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

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

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

What are “Applications”?

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

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

What to expect in court

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

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

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

Regular chambers is meant for simpler matters that can be heard in 20 minutes (10 minutes for each party to present his or her case). Special chambers is for more complex matters that need more time. 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 spousal support). 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 divorcing couples can resolve their issues in chambers. They move forward without ever needing to go to trial. Other parties need to go to trial to resolve their issues (sometimes all of their issues, sometimes only some of them).

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

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

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

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

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

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

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

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

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

For example, it may be possible to:

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

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


 

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

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

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

 
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.


The “Desk Divorce”

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

Be Aware

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

In Alberta, there are 2 kinds of desk divorces:

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

Joint desk divorce

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

Remember

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

Uncontested desk divorce

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

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

Be Aware

You can only complete the uncontested desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation).

Remember

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

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

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

Even if you agree on everything about your separation, if you also want a divorce, you will still have to start a court action in Queen’s Bench.

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

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

Remember

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

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

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

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

Completing the Statement of Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

To use the Divorce Act, either you or your spouse can start a court action. Unless you are applying for a joint desk divorce (see “Desk Divorce” section above), this means that either you or your spouse will have to file the first set of paperwork, and the other will file the first response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you were served with documents for an Application

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

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

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

Filing the paperwork for a first-time “Application”

What are “Applications”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

Is this the correct judicial centre?

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

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

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

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

If you are starting an action at the same time

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

As a result, if:

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

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

If the action has already been started

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

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

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

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

Completing a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

When you are filing your Application for spousal support, you may also wish to file a “Notice to Disclose.”

A Notice to Disclose requires your spouse to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. You would need this financial information if you plan to have the Court make an order about spousal support. You can also just ask your spouse for his or her financial information. But if he or she is not providing it, using a Notice to Disclose makes sure that you will get it.

A Notice to Disclose can be filed:

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

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

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

 
Be Aware

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The forms you will need are below.



 

Examples

If you only want financial information from your spouse:

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

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

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

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

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

The fines for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large. They can sometimes be hundreds of dollars per day, each day that you are late. Also, the court may consider these fines as unpaid spousal support, if one of the parties asks. If that happens, these fines can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This can lead to further actions being taken against the person who does not disclose the financial information. For more information about the things MEP can do, see the “Enforcing spousal support” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Completing Application forms

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

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

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

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

  • If you are making an Application for only spousal support, you will need to use this kit:
  • If you are making an Application for child support and spousal support, you will need to use the following kit. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.

 

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

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 16-19.
Be Aware

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


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

The kits above mention what “income information” you will need to provide. This includes:

  • your income tax returns for the last 3 years;
  • your Notices of Assessment for the last 3 years;
  • proof of your current income from this year (such as pay stubs);
  • a list of monthly expenses; and
  • a list of assets and debts.

A tax return is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return. Your Notice of Assessment explains if you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes.

For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resource.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

 

If you also wish to apply for division of property (including short-term exclusive possession of property), you will need to complete entirely different paperwork. For more information, see the Division of Property for Married Couples Information Page.

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Interim orders may be needed for support issues, because the Court is waiting for one of the parties to provide full financial disclosure before giving a more permanent support order.

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once you have decided which of the above sets of paperwork you need, you will need to complete them and properly “swear” them. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (to your knowledge). 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. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Get ready for the response

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

There are 2 ways your spouse can respond.

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

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

If your spouse responded with only an Affidavit

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

Be Aware

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


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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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


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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

Responding to Application forms for the first time

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

An “Application” is used by divorcing spouses to temporarily solve their divorce-related matters before coming to a final agreement, or before their case is permanently decided at a trial.

You have been served with forms telling you that there has been an Application made under the Divorce Act. In these forms, you have been notified of the date of the court hearing. If you agree with everything that is in those documents, you do not have to do anything. If you disagree with anything that is in those documents, you will need to complete a Response.

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

When you were served with notice of the first Application, you may also have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” You can respond to both the Statement of Claim and the Application, but be aware that the response times will probably be different. For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Responding to the Statement of Claim” section above. For more information about how to respond to the notice of Application, continue reading this section.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

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

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

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

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

If the Applicant is starting an action at the same time

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

As a result, if:

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

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

If the action had already been started

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Responding to a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

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

A Notice to Disclose is the court document that requires you to provide your spouse with detailed financial information within one month. You would need this financial information to respond to any Application about spousal support.

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

When a Notice to Disclose is filed, there is a hearing date included. This can be a hearing to just deal with financial disclosure (if a Notice to Disclose was filed on its own), or it can be a “combination hearing” that includes other matters (such as spousal support). If you were served with a Notice to Disclose along with other paperwork, you probably have a combination hearing. You should carefully read your documents so that you know about your deadlines and the hearing date(s).

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

If you provide your financial information to your spouse within one month, the hearing:

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30. You serve your financial information along with all the other paperwork on your spouse. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30. 
  • Your spouse must also give you his or her financial information by October 30 (this may have been done at the time you were served with the Notice to Disclose).
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you will both still go to the hearing to discuss the other issues.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31, prepared to talk about all of the issues, including financial disclosure.
Be Aware

The possible penalties for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large: sometimes hundreds of dollars per day, each day that you are late. If the court considers these penalties unpaid support (which it can do if asked to do so by one of the parties), these sums can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (which can lead to further actions being taken against the person who does not disclose the financial information).

Completing a Response to other Applications

When responding to an Application (other than one that includes a Notice to Disclose), you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents.
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. Or, do this if it is not clear what the Applicant is asking for (for example: if your former spouse asks for spousal support, but does not provide a specific amount).
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you choose to respond to your spouse’s Application with only an Affidavit, the exact Affidavit that you will use will depend on what is being asked for by the Applicant.

  • If the Applicant applied for spousal support only, you will use this Affidavit:
  • If the Applicant applied for child support and spousal support, you will use the Affidavit below and simply leave the custody/access section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Be Aware

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

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

 

The forms above mention what “income information” you will need to provide. This includes:

  • your income tax returns for the last 3 years;
  • your Notices of Assessment for the last 3 years;
  • proof of your current income from this year (such as pay stubs);
  • a list of monthly expenses; and
  • a list of assets and debts.

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return. Your Notice of Assessment explains if you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes.

For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

 

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your spouse’s Application by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section above.

A few things you should know:

  • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by your spouse and the requests you are making in your own Application.
  • Usually it makes sense to choose the same hearing date as the date listed on your spouse’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
  • There are now 2 applications with various time requirements. You and your spouse may need more time to review and file all of the paperwork. So you may need to ask for an adjournment of your hearing. For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.
Be Aware

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

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

Regarding property

You may disagree with the property division or exclusive possession requested by your spouse. If so, you will need to complete entirely different paperwork for that. For more information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Watch for your spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If, in response to your spouse’s Application, you filed only an Affidavit, your spouse may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You cannot file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to your spouse’s Supplemental Affidavit: that is not permitted.

Be Aware

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

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

 

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of your own, your spouse is now the Applicant in his or her Application, and the Respondent in your Application.

As the Respondent to your Application, your spouse can file a “response” to your Application. Watch for that response, and be sure to read it when you are served with it.

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

Be Aware

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

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

 

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for changes to a previous court order (also called “variations”)

As circumstances change, you and/or your spouse may need or want to change the terms of a previous court order. If so, you may need to apply to the Court for a change to a court order. This is sometimes called a “variation.”

The information in this section is for the spouse who makes the request to change a court order (also called the “Applicant”). The other spouse will have different paperwork to fill out (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below).

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

Is it an Alberta court order that you are trying to vary? If you want to vary:

  • an order made under the Divorce Act in another province or territory; or
  • an order made under a similar law in another country,

see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Is this the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that says that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

As a result, you will have to file your paperwork in the judicial centre where your court file is located. Check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre.

You may want to apply to transfer the file. You must make this application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer your court file, use the following kit.

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Including a Notice to Disclose

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to file a new “Notice to Disclose/Application”—after a first court order, you can do this once per year. To refresh your memory about the Notice to Disclose and to access the forms you need, see the “Filing a ‘Notice to Disclose / Application’” heading in the “Filing the paperwork for a first-time Application” section above.

Completing the Application to Change (or “vary”)

To request a change in a court order, you will need several different forms, which are included in “kits” for the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In general, each kit contains the following forms:

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

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

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

 

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

  • If you are making an Application to change spousal support, you will need to use the kit below:
  • If you are making an Application to change child support and spousal support, you will need to use the kit below. Do not fill out these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.
  • If you are the payor and you are asking only to have your spousal support arrears reduced or cancelled, you would use the package of forms below. Note that you will also have to serve the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). Also keep in mind that this is a difficult application to make (see the Law tab of this Information Page for more information).

 

If you had a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement and want or need to change the support amount (which can also include reducing or cancelling arrears) and you and your spouse cannot agree on the changes, you will need to make an application to the court. The form to use depends on whether you are the payor of the support, or the recipient of the support:

  • If you are the payor, you must use one or both of the forms below, depending on if you are requesting a change to spousal support, child support, or both.

  • If you are the recipient, you will use one of the standard forms for asking for a change in support (listed immediately above).

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

Be Aware

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

The following resource has helpful information about bringing a spousal support application to Queen’s Bench. Although the title mentions special chambers applications specifically, there is good general information as well. This 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 How to Make (or Refute) a Spousal Support Application in Special Chambers – or At Least Go Down Trying (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
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

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

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

The purpose of these orders is to put things in place while the court action continues. It can take quite a lot of time for the Court to fully consider all of the issues and make more long-term decisions. Interim orders may be needed for support issues, because the Court is waiting for one of the parties to provide full financial disclosure before giving a more permanent support order.

Family Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. 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.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Get ready for the response

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

There are 2 ways your spouse can respond:

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

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

If your spouse responded with only an Affidavit

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

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

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

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

  • keep all of the paperwork together;
  • keep things well organized (for example: in a binder);
  • mark deadlines and court hearings on a ca

As a result, it is now your turn to file a “response” to the new application (see the “Responding to a request for changes” section below). Your spouse will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit (as described above).

Be Aware

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

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Responding to a request for changes (“variations”) to court orders

If you have been served with paperwork in which your spouse (who is known as “the Applicant”) asks for changes to the spousal support arrangements, you will need to file documents to respond.

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

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

To determine this, there are 2 issues to consider.

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

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

Did the Applicant choose the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). An application to vary a court order from Queen’s Bench must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located. You can check the last court document that was filed—it will note the judicial centre. Unless the Applicant made an error, you must respond in the same judicial centre where the application was made.

For example:

  • The court file is in Fort McMurray and the Applicant filed this request for a variation there.
  • You are in Lethbridge.
  • You must respond in Fort McMurray. Or, you may want to try to transfer the file. If you do, you will have to apply in Fort McMurray to have the file transferred to Lethbridge. The judge may or may not allow the transfer.

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

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

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

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Time limits

Once you have been served with documents, you have to complete you response within a “reasonable time” before the application is scheduled to be heard. What is considered “reasonable” is different in the various judicial centres. If you have any questions, contact the court in that area.

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

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

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

Is/was there domestic violence?

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

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

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

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

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

Responding to a Notice to Disclose

When you were served with your spouse’s Application to change a previous court order, you may also have been served with a new “Notice to Disclose”—after a first court order, this can be done once per year. To refresh your memory about the Notice to Disclose and to access the forms you need to respond to it, see the “Responding to a ‘Notice to Disclose / Application’” heading in the “Responding to Application forms” section above.

Completing the Response    

When responding to an Application (other than one that includes a Notice to Disclose), you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents.
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. Or, do this if it is not clear what the Applicant is asking for (for example: if your former spouse asks for spousal support, but does not provide a specific amount).
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you choose to respond to your spouse’s application with only an Affidavit, the exact Affidavit that you will use will depend on what is being asked for by the Applicant.

  • If the Applicant is asking for a change to only spousal support, you will use this Affidavit:
  • If the Applicant is asking for a change to spousal support and child support, you will use the Affidavit below and simply leave the custody/access section blank. Do not complete these forms without first learning about Child Support under the Divorce Act.

 
Be Aware

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

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

 
Be Aware

If your spouse has asked to reduce or cancel support arrears, and/or your spouse has asked for a change to ongoing support that was in a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement, you use the same forms listed immediately above to respond (whichever one applies to your situation).

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your spouse’s Application to Change by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section above.

A few things you should know:

  • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by your spouse and the requests you are making in your own Application.
  • Usually it makes sense to choose the same hearing date as the date listed on your spouse’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
  • There are now 2 applications with various time requirements. You and your spouse may need more time to review and file all of the paperwork. So you may need to ask for an adjournment of your hearing. For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.
Be Aware

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


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

Getting the paperwork checked over

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

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

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

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

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

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

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

“Serving” the paperwork

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

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

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

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

Watch for your spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If, in response to your spouse’s Application to Change, you filed only an Affidavit, your spouse may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You cannot file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to your spouse’s Supplemental Affidavit: that is not permitted.

Be Aware

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

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

 

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of your own, your spouse is now the Applicant in his or her Application to Change, and the Respondent in your Application to Change.

As the Respondent in your Application to Change, your spouse can file a “response” to your application. Watch for that response, and be sure to read it when you are served with it.

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

Be Aware

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

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

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

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

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

Questioning on Affidavit

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

Written interrogatories

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

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

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

You may not be able to get a consent order to reduce or cancel support arrears, or even change ongoing support, if the recipient has ever been on income assistance. For more information on steps you will need to take, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

There are two ways to get your agreement turned into a consent order. Which one you choose will likely depend on what has happened so far and where you are in the process.

Option #1: Getting a Queen’s Bench Consent Order

The first option is to have your agreement’s terms entered into Queen’s Bench as a consent order. However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in Queen’s Bench. In other words, you have already filed your Statement of Claim for Divorce.

The Court of Queen’s Bench grants 2 different kinds of consent orders:

  1. consent orders for first-time applications; and
  2. consent orders that change (or “vary”) a previous court order.

Consent Orders for first-time applications

The Court offers different forms for first-time consent orders. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

  • If you are applying for a consent order for only spousal support, use this form (instructions included):
PDF Instructions: Consent Order - Spousal Support
Government of Alberta
English
  • If you are applying for a consent order for spousal support and child support, use this form (instructions included):
  • If you are applying for a consent order about custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support, use this form (instructions included):

 

Consent Orders for variation applications

The Court offers different forms for consent variation orders that you can use when you and your former spouse are agreeing to change a previous court order. The form you must use depends on what topics you are agreeing upon.

  • If you are only changing spousal support, use this form (instructions included):
  • If you are changing spousal support and child support, use this form (instructions included):
  • If you are changing custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support, use this form (instructions included):

 

What to do with completed forms for consent orders and consent variation orders

In most judicial centres, you will take the following steps.

  • You fill out the correct Order form with the terms of your agreement.
  • You sign the form and have it properly witnessed.
  • You go to court to have a judge grant the order. You do that by attending “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people. Before the judge starts to hear the cases on the list, he or she will ask if there are any preliminary matters. At this time, people who want to ask the judge to sign a consent order can do so.. For more information about exactly how to do that, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

In Edmonton, however, Consent Orders can be done as “desk orders.” Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for more information about how to do that.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the court Order, remember that you must also file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench and serve it on your spouse. For more information about this step of the process, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Option #2: Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement

The second option is to complete a “Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement.” This is a specific kind of Agreement that has eligibility criteria, a mandatory template form, and required steps. One of those requirements is to file the completed Agreement with the Court of Queen’s Bench, which will turn the Agreement into a court Order. For more information about how to complete and file a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement, see the following resources.


PDF Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement (Form MEP3388)
Government of Alberta
English
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This option is not available to everyone. You cannot sign a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement if:

  • you already have a court order about support (in other words, you cannot use this to change (or “vary”) a previous court order);
  • you have a signed agreement for child support made under the Parentage and Maintenance Act, the Income Support Recovery Act, or Part 5 of the Income and Employment Supports Act; or
  • you are receiving Supports for Independence (SFI), Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), or other benefits from the Alberta Ministry of Human Resources and Employment (unless your social services worker tells you it is okay to do so).

In addition, a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement deals only with child and spousal/partner support—nothing else can be added. Therefore, if you have agreed to matters other than just support, getting a consent order may be a better option for you.

Tip

If you do complete a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement and later want or need to change the support amount (which can include reducing or cancelling arrears) and cannot agree on the changes with your spouse, you will need to make an application to the court. For more information about how to do that, see the “Asking for changes to a previous court order” section above.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

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

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

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

Preparing for chambers

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

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

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

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


Web Intake Services (Alberta)
Government of Canada
English

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

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

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

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

Asking for an adjournment

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

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

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

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

Be Aware

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


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


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

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

Be Aware

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

 

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

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

After the chambers hearing is over

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

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

Asking for “costs” in chambers

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

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

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

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

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

 

Be Aware

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

Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP)

If you are the Recipient    

Once you have your court order (or a variation order) you will likely want to register your order with MEP.

See the following resources for information about:

  • how to register your spousal support order (including a Queen’s Bench order that you got as part of completing the Maintenance Enforcement Agreement),
  • all of MEP’s powers and abilities, and
  • steps you need to take and forms you may need to complete in order to have MEP enforce your Order.
Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: How to register
Government of Alberta
English

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Making and receiving payments
Government of Alberta
English
See “Receiving payments.”

Web MEP forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Recipient of support.”


PDF Maintenance for Adult Children Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

 
Be Aware

Once your order is registered, you must keep your contact information up-to-date with MEP. For more information, see the following resource.

Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English
See “Contact info.”

If you are the Payor

For general information about MEP, see the following resource.

Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: Making and receiving payments
Government of Alberta
English
See “Making payments.”

Web MEP forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Payor of support.”

 

If you are making payments from outside Canada, see the following resource.


 
Be Aware

Once your order is registered, both payors and recipients are required keep their contact information up-to-date with MEP. Also, payors must keep their employment, income, and other financial information current with MEP. For more information, see the following resource.

Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English
See “Contact info.”

 

If you have not made your support payments and now MEP is taking action to enforce the support order, you have 3 options to try to get some relief. These options are often combined to help avoid similar problems in the future.

  1. You can ask that your support arrears be reduced or cancelled. For more information, see the “Asking for changes” section above.
  2. You can ask that your future support payments be reduced. For more information, see the “Asking for changes” section above.
  3. You can ask for a “Stay of Enforcement” against MEP. This means you apply to have MEP not take action against you for your unpaid support at this time. In other words, it delays MEP taking action against you, but does not cancel your arrears or change the support order itself. For more information about how to do that, see the following resources.

Web Limit the collection of your support payments
Government of Alberta
English

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
 

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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