Understanding the Court System & Processes

Law

If you are going to court, or if you think you may end up in court, you will need to understand the court process. There are important rules about documents, procedures, and deadlines. These rules must be followed by everyone who goes to court.

See the sections below to learn about:

  • Determining if you have a legal issue
  • Considering possible alternatives to going to court
  • Deciding whether to represent yourself or use a lawyer
  • An introduction to your court options
  • An introduction to the rules and procedures in the Alberta Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench
  • An introduction to the steps in a court action
  • How to behave in court (courtroom etiquette)

Choose the Process tab above for more detailed information about the steps involved with a court action.

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

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

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

This Information Page describes the court rules and processes for dealing with a family issue in both:

  • the Provincial Court of Alberta; and
  • the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

If you are going to court, you will need to know about these rules and processes. This is true whether you are representing yourself or being represented by a lawyer.

Be Aware

This Information Page does not describe the rules for going to court on other civil matters. This Information Page is only about family law processes.

You may also want to learn about these processes when you are deciding whether or not to go to court. Court actions are often complex, time-consuming, and expensive. There are many ways to resolve legal issues without going to court. For more information about these options, see the following Information Pages.

If you are involved in a family breakdown and have come to this page early in the process, this is not the Information Page to start with. When a family relationship breaks down, many people feel angry and they may want to “take their partner to court.” Others may think that going to court is the only way to deal with family law issues. It is not. For more information about the things to consider before taking your issue to court, see the following Information Pages.

You will also need to know whether you have a choice about which court to use: the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Court of Queen’s Bench.

  • In some cases, you may have a choice about which court you can use.
  • In other cases, you will not have a choice.

If you do have a choice between the 2 courts, you will want to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each court, and the differences between them. For more information about that, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

There may be certain things you can only ask for in one of the two courts. When this is the case, we will note it below with one of these icons.

Provincial Court

 

Queen's Bench

 

This Information Page has general information about court rules and processes that can apply to every family case. More detailed information about specific topics is on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

Family Violence

For information specific to family violence and how family violence can affect the legal process, see the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which describes the laws and rules that apply to court processes in the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The Process tab above has more detailed information about the steps involved when you are taking a legal matter to those courts. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

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.

party

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

In a legal dispute, the party who starts a court action can be a “plaintiff,” “applicant,” or “claimant.” It depends on the type of action being started. The person who is being sued can be a “defendant” or a “respondent.”

For more information about when these words are used and what they mean, see the “Proper words to describe the parties” section below.

remedy (sometimes called “relief”)

A way for a court to:

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

There are several kinds of remedies, including the following.

  • Giving money. For example: to pay back a loss, or to make up for some damages caused. These are called “legal remedies.”
  • Stopping someone from doing something that can harm another (this is called an “injunction”), or forcing someone to do something they promised to do. These are called “equitable remedies.”
  • Declaring someone’s rights under a law or a contract. For example: a right to a divorce under the Divorce Act. These are called “declaratory remedies.”

On this Information Page, we use the word “remedy” to refer to what the parties are asking for from the court. Asking for a remedy is often called “suing” someone.

action

A dispute between 2 or more parties that is taken to court.

To start an action, one of the parties must have a “cause of action” (see below).

An action begins when a person files a document with a court, explaining their cause of action and what remedy they are asking for.

Be Aware

An “action” is different from an “application.” Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, where one of the parties asks something of the Court.

For more information, see the “Proper words to describe court actions” section below.

cause of action

A set of facts that allows you to ask a court for a decision (an order or judgment) that will help solve the problem. The decision being asked for is called a “remedy” (see above).

application / interim application

A court process where:

  • One party (the “Applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives evidence about why they should get it.
  • The other party (the “Respondent”) can give evidence about why the Applicant should not get what they are 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) may be part of the Application process. However, not all Applications result in court hearings. Instead, the parties may come to an agreement before a hearing.

Applications are called “interim applications” when the remedy being asked for is something that is only temporary, and the parties plan to decide the issue more permanently later.

For more information, see the “Proper words to describe court actions” section below.

statutes (also called “acts” or “laws”)

Written rules passed by the government that affect the rights and responsibilities of people and organizations.

In general, the laws that apply in Alberta are passed by either:

  • the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (these apply only in Alberta);
  • the Parliament of Canada (these apply across Canada); or
  • “bylaws” passed by Alberta “municipalities” (cities, towns, villages, or counties), and which only apply in those municipalities.
Be Aware

Many people and resources talk about “the law” in general. This usually refers to the whole legal setting. It includes the “laws” (statutes) themselves, regulations, bylaws, and “case law” (see below).

regulations

The practical details about laws that allow the laws to be enforced. Regulations may include details such as what information to include in forms, or how much it will cost to file a document. Regulations are easier to change than laws, but they are just as much “law” as those passed by the Legislative Assembly or Parliament.

Not all laws have regulations, but all regulations are attached to a particular law. The law will state who has the authority to make regulations about that particular law.

legislation

Written laws that includes statutes, regulations, and bylaws.

common law

A body of law that is created by court decisions. Common law develops when no written law about a certain topic has been passed by the government. To help decide an issue related to that topic, judges can consider decisions from previous cases that are similar. In this way, a set of rules is created by these court decisions over time. This is known as the “common law.” For example: much of the law about contracts is common law.

Be Aware

Both “common law” and “case law” (see below) are created based on the decisions in previous court cases. Both may be called “judge-made law” or the “law of precedent.” But they are not exactly the same thing.

case law

This term refers to court decisions that are made about a written law. This often happens as the judges work with the written laws to make sure they understand what is meant. It also happens when the written law is not straightforward or clear, or needs further clarification.

Judges hearing cases can decide:

  • the exact meaning of the words in the laws (this is called “interpretation”); and
  • how that meaning applies to the people in specific cases (this is called “application”).

These decisions can then be considered by judges in deciding future cases dealing with that same law.

Be Aware

Both “common law” and “case law” are created based on the decisions in previous court cases. Both may be called “judge-made law” or the “law of precedence.” But they are not exactly the same thing—see the definition of “common law” above.

judgment

The final decision of a judge in a legal action. Not every decision a judge makes is a “judgment.” A judge may also issue an “order” in a legal action, which is different:

  • “Orders” are decisions made by judges in “applications” (see definition above). These are usually smaller parts of a larger court action. Orders are not intended to be permanent solutions, but some parties may choose to follow orders and never get a final “judgment.”
  • “Judgments” are final decisions made by judges in the legal action itself. These are intended to be permanent.

However, a judgment can still be changed in certain situations. For example, a judgment that includes a decision about child support may have to be changed if the income of the payor changes. Also, it may be possible to appeal a judgment.

For information about when a judgment can be changed, see the section below called “Overview of the court process.”

court order (also called an “order”)

A written document that describes a judge’s decision in a court application. Everyone who is mentioned in the order must follow what it says.

Not every decision a judge makes is an “order.” A judge may also issue a “judgment” in a legal action, which is different:

  • “Orders” are decisions made by judges in “applications” (see definition above). These are usually smaller parts of a larger court action. Orders are not intended to be permanent solutions, but some parties may choose to follow orders and never get a final “judgment.”
  • “Judgments” are final decisions made by judges in the legal action itself. These are intended to be more permanent.

For example, a person may start a divorce action and have to deal with many issues, including child custody, child support, and division of property. They may make an “application” to court for a temporary child custody arrangement. The judge’s decision in that application is an “order.” If the whole divorce action goes to a trial, then the judge’s decision about all the matters presented at trial is the “judgment.”

appeal

The act of asking a higher court to review and change a decision from a lower court.

You cannot appeal a decision simply because you do not like it. You must have a valid legal reason to appeal a decision. These reasons are called “grounds to appeal.” To appeal a decision, the person must show that the judge:

  • made a legal error in deciding the case; or
  • made a significant error about the facts of the case.

In rare cases, the parties have an automatic right to appeal.

consent order

An agreement between the parties that is turned into a court order. The parties present their agreement to the judge, and the judge will sign it if it meets the legal requirements for that type of action. It is then binding on the parties, just like any other court order.

Formal Offer to Settle

A court process under the Alberta Rules of Court that is meant to encourage the parties to settle the action without going to court. It must be in a very specific form, and served on the other party on a specific timeline. A party who rejects a Formal Offer to Settle and then loses in court later will have to pay some amount of costs to the other party.

Be Aware

This “Formal Offer to Settle” process is different from informal offers between the parties. On their own, the parties may come to an agreement and settle their issues themselves at any time. That can be done in various ways and does not require a court process.

jurisdiction

The right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things. This term describes either:

  • a particular government’s right, power, or authority to make laws; or
  • a particular court’s authority to deal with an issue.

trial court

A court of law where you begin your court action. Trial courts deal with both “hearings” and “trials” (see above).

There are 2 levels of trial courts in Alberta:

  • The lower court is the Provincial Court of Alberta.
  • The higher court (or “superior” court) is the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Provincial Court of Alberta

A lower trial court that only deals with certain types of cases, including:

  • some family matters (but not divorce or division or property);
  • all criminal matters begin in Provincial Court;
  • some civil matters (if the total amount you are suing for is less than $50,000);
  • traffic matters; and
  • all criminal matters for youth.

This may be the only court that a person goes to. Or, it may be the first court a person goes to before they go to a higher court.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

A higher trial court than Provincial Court. This court is also called a “superior court.” For some legal issues, you can only go to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

For example, you must go through the Court of Queen’s Bench for:

  • divorce;
  • division of property;
  • exclusive possession of a home or household goods;
  • declarations of parentage;
  • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders; and
  • restraining orders.

The Court of Queen’s Bench is also a court of appeal for the Provincial Court and some administrative tribunals and boards.

judge

A person appointed by the government to hear and decide cases in a court of law.

A judge may be called different things depending on which court you are in.

  • In the Provincial Court of Alberta, this person is still called a “Judge.”
  • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, this person is either a “Master” or a “Justice” (see below).
Be Aware

In some laws, the term “judge” includes Masters. In others, it does not. Also, a Master’s powers are more limited than those of a Judge in Provincial Court or a Justice in the Court of Queen’s Bench. As a result, some of the resources linked below do not include “Masters” in their definition of “judge.” It is important to pay attention to the context to know what is meant. On this Information Page, the term “judge” can include a Master, while “Judge” (with a capital letter) means a Judge in Provincial Court.

Master

A type of judge in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Masters only have the power to make decisions for certain types of civil law matters, such as:

  • “procedural matters” (see definition below); or
  • temporary decisions before the parties go to trial.

If you have an Order that was granted by a Master, you may be able to ask a Master to “vary” (change) the Order if:

  • there is a change in circumstances; or
  • new information becomes available.

However, if you have an order that was granted by a Judge in Provincial Court or a Justice in the Court of Queen’s Bench, then you cannot request a variation from a Master.

Justice

A judge in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Unlike a Master, a Justice is able to hear any type of legal issue.

preliminary matters (also called “pre-trial applications”)

Issues that can be dealt with before a trial, or that need to be addressed before a trial can happen. Preliminary matters are dealt with in “docket court” or “chambers” (see above).

For example:

  • To make a decision about child support, the court will need financial information about the person who is being asked to pay child support. Sometimes this person may not provide this information to the other party or the court. The judge may order this person to provide the missing information.
  • A separating couple may be going to trial to determine how their property will be divided. One person may try to sell or give away some of the property before the trial. The other person may request a hearing to ask for an Order that stops the other person from doing this.

procedural matters

Issues related to the “rules of court.” These are the formal rules and requirements that set out how things must be done when you are involved with the court in any way. For example: The rules say that a person must give paperwork to the person they are taking to court. If they cannot find the other party to give them a copy of the paperwork, they may go to court to find out what to do next.

trial

A court proceeding where the judge makes decisions about something that 2 or more people disagree about. Written evidence (such as affidavits) are used in trials, but the judge also hears oral evidence from the parties. This is different from “hearings” (see below), where the judges usually do not hear oral evidence.

hearing

A court proceeding, other than a trial, where the parties appear before a decision-maker (usually a judge). That person will then decide about something that the parties disagree about.

Hearings often take place in a courtroom, but can also happen in other places. They are generally shorter and less formal than trials. Usually, only written evidence is used (not oral evidence).

To have a hearing, usually one of the parties must make an “application.” However, making an application may or may not result in a hearing. For more information, see the definition of “application” above.

docket court

A type of court hearing held in the Provincial Court. This type of hearing may consider oral evidence, but usually looks at sworn written evidence to reach a decision.

Docket court hearings are held in a courtroom that is open to the public. In this court, Judges will hear many cases on the same day. When you go to docket court, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. This list is called a “docket.” The Judge may or may not deal with the cases in the order that they appear on the list.

chambers

A type of court hearing held in the Court of Queen’s Bench. This type of hearing usually only looks at sworn written evidence to reach a decision. There are different kinds of chambers, including Masters’ Chambers, Civil Chambers, and Family Chambers. For more information about these, see the Process tab of this Information Page (Queen’s Bench option).

Chambers hearings are usually held in a courtroom that is open to the public. Or, more rarely, they may be held in “private chambers.” Private chambers hearings happen in the Justice’s or Master’s office. As a result, the word “chambers” may also refer to a judge’s office. If the hearing is in a courtroom, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. The judge may or may not deal with the cases in the order that they appear on the list.

    filing

    Providing documents and forms to a court that are necessary for a court to hear a dispute. When you “file” a document with the court, you will provide multiple copies. The court clerk will keep at least one copy and stamp the other copies to show that the document has been received by the court.

    the pleadings

    The information contained in:

    • the documents filed by the party starting a court action; and
    • the documents filed in response by the other party.

    For example, the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim and the Defendant’s Statement of Defence are the “pleadings” in a court action. They describe what both parties are asking for from the court.

    starting documents

    The documents that start a court action. This can be:

    • a Claim. For example, this is used under the Family Law Act;
    • a Statement of Claim. For example, this is used under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
    • an Originating Application. For example, this is used for some kinds of protective orders.

    For Claims and Originating Applications, documents that provide evidence will be filed at the same time and are part of the starting documents. For example, Statements or Affidavits.

    For Statements of Claim, documents that provide evidence can be filed at the same time, or can be filed later as part of an “Application.”

    Be Aware

    The Alberta Rules of Court calls these documents “commencement documents.”

    corollary relief

    The legal issues associated with a divorce, which are covered by the Divorce Act. “Corollary relief” includes:

    • custody,
    • access,
    • child support, and
    • spousal support.
    Be Aware

    The division of property is not covered by the Divorce Act. Therefore it is not part of “corollary relief.” In Alberta, the division of property is covered by the Alberta Matrimonial Property Act.

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

    evidence

    Information that is given in court to help prove or disprove a case.

    Evidence may be given through:

    • written statements (called “affidavits”);
    • spoken statements (called “oral evidence” or “viva voce evidence”); or
    • documents or other objects.

    A person who gives written or spoken evidence must “swear” or “affirm” that what he or she is saying is true.

    solicitor-client privilege

    The right of a lawyer’s client to have certain communication between themselves and their lawyer kept private. This includes verbal, written, or other methods of communication.

    The client can give up (“waive”) the right of privilege. This would then allow the client or the lawyer to share the information that was discussed between them.

    record

    Any kind of information that is stored or recorded in a way that can be viewed or heard. This includes paper documents, electronic documents, and sound recordings.

    oral evidence (also called “viva voce evidence”)

    Spoken statements from a witness or one of the parties in a case that give a court information about a dispute. Before you give oral evidence, you must “swear” or “affirm” that what you are saying is true.

    affidavit

    A written statement that is sworn to be true, and used as legal evidence in legal proceedings. If you swear or affirm that something you wrote is true, it may also be called a “sworn” statement.

    deponent

    The person who completes an affidavit.

    service

    A formal process of delivering documents to another party in a court action. There are important rules about serving documents that must be followed.

    Affidavit of Service

    A written, sworn statement by the person who served the court paperwork on another party. This statement describes:

    • what they served;
    • who they served; and
    • when and how the service was done.

    habitual residence (also called “ordinary residence”)

    The place where a person lives his or her daily life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

    When deciding if a person is a “habitual” or “ordinary” resident, a court will consider different factors. These may include:

    • where a person was born;
    • where a person has spent, and continues to spend, most of his or her life; and
    • where a person has ties to family and the community.

    unjust enrichment

    A type of common law cause of action that can arise where one party is the legal owner of property, but both parties contributed in some way to getting that property. In such a case, the party who is not the legal owner may be able to claim an interest in that property. The cause of action is based on the fact that in some cases it may be unfair (or “unjust”) to allow the legal owner to benefit from (be “enriched” by) the other party’s contributions.

    Property division claims for unmarried partners are often based on unjust enrichment. For detailed information on this topic, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

    Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

    The term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” relationship.

    A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

    • for 3 years; or
    • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
    • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

    A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

    • share one another’s lives;
    • are emotionally committed to one another; and
    • function as an economic and domestic unit.

    The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”).

    Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP)

    A person who is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship with another person (see above).

    The laws that may apply to you

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

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

    Web Alberta Rules of Court
    Government of Alberta
    English

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

    Web Family Law Act General Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English


    Web Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Alberta Child Support Guidelines
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Note that these are not actually laws, but they contain important rules that apply to family law actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

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

    Web Federal Child Support Guidelines
    Government of Canada
    English


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

    Web Limitations Act
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Alberta Evidence Act
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Canada Evidence Act
    Government of Canada
    English

    Web Judicature Act (and associated Regulations)
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Interpretation Act (and associated Regulations)
    Government of Alberta
    English

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

    Do you even have a legal issue? What is a “cause of action”?

    The first step in deciding whether to go to court is determining whether you have a legal issue. You may have been treated unfairly in a situation, but that does not automatically mean you can go to court.

    You can only go to court if you have a “cause of action” that is recognized in law.

    A “cause of action” is a set of facts that allows you to ask a court for an order that will help solve the problem. This is called a “remedy.”

    For example:

    • Casey and Peyton have been dating for some time.
    • They did not live together, share assets, or have children.
    • Casey ends the relationship, shortly after receiving an expensive gift from Peyton.
    • Peyton may have hurt feelings because of the end of the relationship, especially after giving an expensive gift. But there is no cause of action that would allow Peyton to go to court.
    • This is because there is no remedy that a court can provide. Courts cannot make people stay in romantic relationships, punish people for leaving them, or return a gift that was freely given. There are no laws that would allow for that.

    Determining your cause of action is important because it can affect:

    • which court you can apply to;
    • the types of remedies you can ask for; and
    • the process you will have to use.

    A cause of action may be based on “legislation” or the “common law.” For information on what these are, see the “What the words mean” section above and the Our Legal System Information Page.

    In family law, 2 examples of legislation that create a cause of action are:

    • The Divorce Act. When someone who is married wants to get a divorce and deal with related issues (such as child support), they can apply to court under the Divorce Act.
    • Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act. This Act allows married couples to ask the court to decide on a fair division of property when a marriage breaks down.

    Most family law causes of action are found in legislation. However, there are some “common law” causes of action that may apply. An example of a common law cause of action is “unjust enrichment.” This may apply to a situation where:

    • a couple is not married; and
    • they have both contributed to getting property; but
    • that property is legally owned by only one of them.

    In Alberta, there is no legislation like the Matrimonial Property Act that allows unmarried partners in such a situation to apply to court for a share of the property. Only this common law remedy applies.

    Before thinking about going to court, you will need to know whether you have a cause of action in family law that will allow you to go to court. For more information, see the “Family law causes of action” section below.

    Family law causes of action

    There are many reasons why a person may have to go to court to deal with family law issues. This section has information about family law causes of action that arise when a family relationship breaks down.

    Tip

    For information about family law issues at the beginning of a relationship, see the Starting new family relationships page. For information about other issues that can affect families (that do not involve a relationship breakdown), see the Issues in ongoing family relationships page.

    Your particular situation will determine your cause of action. This cause of action can then affect which court you use and the remedies you can ask for.

    Here are 2 examples of how your family situation can affect how you start your court action:

    • If you want to get a divorce, you must involve the court system. Even if you agree about everything, the divorce itself can only be granted by the Court of Queen’s Bench.
    • If you are not married and need to involve the courts to deal with your child support issues, then you must use the Family Law Act. But you will likely be able to choose either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    To understand what causes of action you might have, you will need to understand the law that applies to your situation. The rest of this section is a short overview of the information found in the Breakdown in family relationships category of this website. There is a lot of information you will need to know on those Information Pages. If you have not already done so, you should plan on spending a lot of time there before returning here to learn about the court process.

    As you read about the law that applies to your situation and consider a possible court action, it is important that you understand the following.

    • Some matters can only be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example: property division and divorce.
    • The Alberta courts prefer that all matters relating to one family be dealt with at the same level of court. Therefore, if your cause of action includes matters that can only be addressed in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will likely have to use that court for all of your matters, even if you would normally have the option of using Provincial Court for some of your matters.
    Be Aware

    You should learn about all of the causes of action you may have. When you first start your court action, you will want to make sure you include all the matters you want addressed. If you do not include everything you want to ask for when you start a court action, you may not get the remedies you need from the courts.

    Causes of action if you are married

    If you are married and your relationship breaks down, there are many issues that can be “causes of action.” These include:

    • the divorce itself (in other words, legally ending the marriage);
    • custody of children, and access to children;
    • child support;
    • spousal support; and
    • division of property.

    The division of property is dealt with in an action under the Matrimonial Property Act.

    The rest of these issues can be included in an action under the Divorce Act.

    Actions under the federal Divorce Act and Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act can only be started by someone who is or was married. If you were not married, see the section below called “Causes of action if you are not married.” If you are not sure if you were married, see the  Getting Married Information Page.

    Be Aware

    Some people may think that when a marriage breaks down, divorce is the only way to address those issues. That is not the case. You may have reasons why you do not want to get a divorce, at least not right away. You do not have to start an action under the Divorce Act to deal with child custody, child support, and spousal support. You can choose to deal with those matters under the Family Law Act. These situations are described just below.

    Getting a divorce

    To end a marriage, you will have to start an action under the Divorce Act. You will need to understand the requirements of that Act, including the grounds for getting a divorce. For detailed information, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    If you are going to ask for a divorce as part of your court action, then other divorce-related issues (such as child support, spousal support, and property division) can all be addressed in a single, combined action using the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act.

    Queen's Bench

    Actions under the Divorce Act can only be started in the Court of Queen’s Bench, so you will need to learn about the processes for that court.

    Child custody and access

    The Divorce Act allows you to deal with child custody and access issues as part of a divorce action. So if you are planning on getting a divorce as well, you can include child custody and access matters in your court action. For detailed information, see the Custody and Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    If you are dealing with child custody and access issues, you will also have to learn about child support. The payment of support depends on the type of custody arrangement you have.

    Some people may not wish to get a divorce, or they may wish to delay getting a divorce. But they may still have to deal with issues relating to child custody and access. In this case, married parents can start an action to deal with these issues under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Although this law is similar to the Divorce Act, one key difference is in the language used. Under the Family Law Act, the terms “guardianship” and “parenting” are used instead of “custody” and “access.” For detailed information, see the Guardianship and Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    If you choose to deal with guardianship and parenting under the Family Law Act, you may be able to choose whether to start your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information about what to consider when making this choice, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Child support

    The Divorce Act allows you to deal with child support as part of a divorce action. So if you are planning on getting a divorce as well, you can include child support matters in your court action. The amount of support will be determined the Federal Child Support Guidelines. For detailed information, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    The payment of child support depends on the type of custody arrangement you have, so you will also need to learn about child custody and access.

    Some people may not wish to get a divorce, or they may wish to delay getting a divorce. But they may still have to deal with the payment of child support. In this case, married parents can start an action to deal with child support under Alberta’s Family Law Act. For detailed information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    If you choose to deal with child support under the Family Law Act, you may be able to choose whether to start your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information about what to consider when making this choice, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Spousal support

    The Divorce Act allows you to deal with spousal support as part of a divorce action. So if you are planning on getting a divorce as well, you can include spousal support matters in your court action. Spousal support is a complicated issue and you will need to learn about the possible grounds to support your claim. For detailed information, see the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    Some people may not wish to get a divorce, or they may wish to delay getting a divorce. But they may still want to ask for spousal support. In this case, a married person can start an action to deal with spousal support under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Under the Family Law Act, this kind of support is called “partner support.” For detailed information, see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    If you choose to deal with spousal support under the Family Law Act, you may be able to choose whether to start your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information about what to consider when making this choice, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Property division

    If you want to go to court to deal with dividing your property, you will have to use Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act (not the Divorce Act). Even though the division of property is dealt with using a different law than the divorce itself, you can combine the issues into one action.

    Queen's Bench

    You will have to start your action in the Court of Queen’s Bench, as the Provincial Court cannot hear matters about the division of property.

    For detailed information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

    More information

    For introductory information about all of these causes of action and what you will want to think about before you start a court action, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

    For more detailed information about all of these causes action, see the Information Pages linked above.

    Causes of action if you are not married

    If you are not married and your relationship breaks down, there are many issues that can be “causes of action.” These include:

    • guardianship and parenting of children;
    • child support;
    • partner support; and
    • division of property.

    Most of these issues can be dealt with under Alberta’s Family Law Act. That law allows unmarried partners to ask the courts to provide remedies similar to those available to married couples who are divorcing.

    However, the division of property cannot be dealt with under the Family Law Act. In fact, there is no law in Alberta that provides a cause of action for property division for unmarried partners. Instead, an action for property division must be based on the common law. For more information about this, see “Property division” just below and the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

    Be Aware

    Unlike a divorce, there is no specific legal action or paperwork that is required to legally end a non-married relationship. For detailed information, see the Ending a Non-married Romantic Relationship Information Page or the Ending a Non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship Information Page.

    Guardianship and parenting of children

    The Family Law Act allows you to deal with guardianship and parenting issues. These are similar to the concepts of “custody” and “access” under the Divorce Act. For detailed information, see the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Under the Family Law Act, you have the option of starting your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information, see the section called “Do you have a choice of court?” below, or see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    If you are not a parent of a child but still wish to be involved in the child’s life, you have 2 options:

    Be Aware

    If you are dealing with guardianship and parenting issues, you will also have to learn about child support. The payment of support depends on the type of parenting arrangement you have.

    Child support

    The Family Law Act allows you to deal with child support issues. The amount of support will be determined the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. For detailed information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    If you are dealing with child support issues, you will also have to learn about guardianship and parenting. The payment of support depends on the type of parenting arrangement you have.

    Under the Family Law Act, you have the option of starting your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For detailed information, see the section called “Do you have a choice of court?” below, or see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Partner support

    If you were not married and you want to ask for partner support under the Family Law Act, you must have been in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship.” To learn more about whether you might be entitled to partner support, see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Be Aware

    Being in an Adult Interdependent Relationship does not mean that you will automatically get partner support. Not every couple who separates will end up with one former partner paying partner support to the other.

    Property division

    People often think that once they live together, all of the same rules will apply to them as if they were married. This is not the case.

     You may have heard of a law called the Matrimonial Property Act. This is the law in Alberta that deals with the division of property for people who were married, and whose marriage is now coming to an end.

    If you were not married, the Matrimonial Property Act does not apply to you. This means that you cannot assume that property you got while you were living together will be shared equally when you break up.

    Instead, the only rules about dividing your property are:

    • from the “common law” (see the “What the words mean” section above); and
    • from the general laws about property ownership.
    Be Aware

    There are some specific types of property, like pensions under the Canada Pension Plan, that allow for unmarried couples to divide the property in the same way that married spouses do.

    An example of a common law cause of action is “unjust enrichment.” Generally, property belongs to the person who paid for it and who is registered as its owner. Sometimes, however, it may not be fair to let one partner keep all the property that is in his or her name. This is especially true in situations where:

    • the partners lived together for a significant amount of time; or
    • the other partner contributed to the relationship in a way that did not involve money and property, and now that partner has little property in his or her name.

    If the situation makes it unfair to use the standard common law rules, it may be possible to ask the Court to divide the property in a different way. This is called making an application for “unjust enrichment.” For more information, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

    Be Aware

    There are many forms of property and property ownership, and you will need to learn about the laws that apply. For example, partners can own a home together as “joint tenants,” and they can apply under Alberta’s Law of Property Act to divide that property. This is a complicated topic and it will take you some time to learn about it. You will need to learn about it so you know what you can claim in a court action. For more information, see the Financial Issues between Family Members Information Page.

    More information

    For introductory information about all of these causes of action and what you will want to think about before you start a court action, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

    For more detailed information about all of these causes action, see the Information Pages linked above.

    Do you have to “go to court”?

    For most legal situations, you do not have to involve the courts.

    However, in family law, there are some situations where you must involve the courts. For example:

    • If you want to get a divorce. That is because legally ending the marriage requires a “divorce judgment” and a “divorce certificate” from the Court of Queen’s Bench. Without these, you will never be “divorced.”
    • If you are not the guardian of a child and you want to become a guardian.

    However, even these topics can sometimes be addressed without actually having to go before a judge in court. For example, if all of your other separation-related issues have been resolved (such as custody, child support, and spousal support), you can get what is called a “desk divorce.” This does not require you to “go to court.” Instead, a judge can review your paperwork in their office and grant the divorce if it meets the legal requirements. For detailed information about getting a desk divorce, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    For most other family law issues, you do not have to involve the courts at all if your relationship breaks down. Even though you may have a “cause of action” under the Divorce Act or Family Law Act (such as custody and child support), you can deal with those matters outside of court.

    A court action can be costly, stressful, and time-consuming. Even just starting an action to apply for temporary relief (for example, to deal with immediate child custody issues) can be complicated and expensive.

    There are many options available to avoid going to court. For more information about these options, see the following Information Pages.

    Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

    If you go to court, you can choose to:

    • be represented by a lawyer; or
    • represent yourself. If you do this, 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:

    • give you legal advice;
    • help you reach an out-of-court agreement;
    • help you with only parts of your case (this is called “unbundled legal services” or a “limited scope retainer”); or
    • represent you in court.
    Tip

    If you meet the income requirements, you may qualify for free or low-cost legal help from organizations in your community.

    For more information about your options for legal representation and other legal help, see the following Information Pages.

    Representing yourself

    If you are thinking about representing yourself in court, you will need to spend a lot of time learning about the laws that apply to your situation. You will need to know about your rights and obligations under family law rules so you know what to ask for from the courts.

    You will also need to learn all of the rules and processes that apply to actions in Alberta courts. This can be as time-consuming and complicated as learning about family law itself.

    • Do you have the time and energy to learn about the law and legal procedures? These are very complex topics. Learning about them can be difficult and time-consuming.
    • Are you able to fill out the necessary forms and follow the instructions properly? Court paperwork can be long and complicated.
    • Are you able to take time off to appear in court or to file documents at the courthouse? A lawyer can represent you in court without you there.
    • Are you willing and able to prepare for a court appearance? Court processes and etiquette can be very different than anything you have been involved with.
    • Will you feel comfortable dealing with the other party (or their lawyer) on your own? This can include anything from serving documents on the other party to meeting them in or out of court. A lawyer may help the negotiation and settlement process by being a buffer between you and the other party.
    • Are you able to clearly share your concerns and reasons to a judge in an understandable way? A lawyer with courtroom experience can tell a judge what you want and why.
    • Will you be able to keep your emotions under control? Dealing with legal issues is stressful and can be very emotional for the parties involved. This can interfere with legal arguments and presentation.
    • Are you prepared to deal with deadlines and time pressure? Legal proceedings can happen very quickly, and you may only have one chance to get things right.

    If anything mentioned above concerns you, you may want to think about working with a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    For more information about representing yourself, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

    Before you begin: Know and be clear about your cause of action

    When you go to court, you will need to know your cause(s) of action. This will determine the following.

    • Which laws will apply (Divorce Act, Family Law Act, Matrimonial Property Act)
    • Whether you have a common law cause of action
    • Whether you have a choice of court
    • The type of remedy you can ask for

    It is also very important that you be clear about your cause(s) of action in your court paperwork. You must know what you are going to ask for from the court. If you do not include everything you are asking for when you start your action:

    • you may not be able to add it later; and
    • you may not be able get the order you need.

    For an introduction to family law causes of action, see the “Family law causes of action” section above.

    Once you understand what you are going to ask for, you will need to know how the court process works. This will mean learning about the rules. For information about these rules, keep reading this Information Page.

    Before you begin: Understanding “jurisdiction” and residency

    Before you can make a decision about going to court, you will need to know whether you are even allowed to start an action in an Alberta court. You will need to know whether Alberta courts have “jurisdiction” over the matter. The word “jurisdiction” refers to a court’s authority to deal with an issue.

    In general:

    • courts can only use the laws that apply in the geographic area where those courts are located;
    • courts cannot make orders that apply laws that are not in their jurisdiction; and
    • courts cannot hear a matter about a person who is not in their jurisdiction, or property that is not in their jurisdiction.

    The first step in determining jurisdiction is to determine the “residency” of the parties. The rest of this section has information about:

    • How your residency affects which laws you can use to deal with your family law matters
    • How to begin dealing with situations where another jurisdiction is involved

    For more detailed information about the concept of jurisdiction, and how it applies to Alberta courts, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    “Residency” and jurisdiction

    The Alberta courts generally do not have the authority to make orders for families that live outside of Alberta. This means you will need to know each party’s “residency.” In other words, do the people involved “live” (or “reside”) in Alberta?

    This can be a complicated matter.

    For example:

    • If a person has only just moved to Alberta, should the Alberta courts have jurisdiction? Can that person prove that they really live here? What if all of their legal documents (such as driver’s licence and last year’s tax return) show that they live outside of Alberta? What if they are just visiting and claiming to live here?
    • What if one member of the family lives in Alberta, but another party lives in another province? How do we know which courts have jurisdiction?
    • What if everyone lives in Alberta now, but they want to change a court order that was given where they used to live? An Alberta court cannot just change an order if it has no jurisdiction to do so.

    For detailed information about these issues, see the Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

    Different laws have different rules about the residency of the parties. These are described just below.

    Remember

    If Alberta is the proper jurisdiction for your action, you may have a choice about which Alberta court to use. For more information, see the section below called “Do you have a choice of court?”

    Residency requirements under the Divorce Act

    To use the Divorce Act in Alberta, at least one spouse must have been “ordinarily resident” in Alberta for at least one year.

    “Ordinary residence” refers to where a person lives his or her day-to-day life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

    Sometimes, it may not be clear if one or more parties are “ordinarily resident” in Alberta. In these situations, the Alberta courts:

    • may not have the right to hear the matter; or
    • may want to hear some of the details before they decide if they can hear the matter.

    Also, if any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already), it may not be possible for your matter to be heard in Alberta.

    If at least one spouse is ordinarily resident in Alberta, that spouse could apply to start an action for a divorce in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. As part of that divorce, the spouse could ask for custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support. These things are called “corollary relief.”

    However, when you are deciding whether to start the Divorce Act action in Alberta, you must keep in mind where the children live. If the children live outside of Alberta, the Alberta court may not accept or keep jurisdiction. This is because the courts generally prefer that matters be dealt with in the jurisdiction where the children have the “most substantial” connection.

    Specifically:

    • If a Divorce Act action has been started, a party can ask that any applications about custody and access be transferred to the jurisdiction in Canada where the children have the most substantial connection. This is allowed under section 6(2) of the Divorce Act.
    • If there are custody and access matters being heard using the Divorce Act, a party can request that all of the divorce proceedings (custody, access, child support, spousal support, and the divorce itself) be transferred to the jurisdiction where the children have the most substantial connection. This is allowed under section 6(1) of the Divorce Act.

    Matrimonial Property Act

    To apply to the Alberta Courts for a division of matrimonial property, the applicant must show the Court that at least one of the following conditions applies:

    • both spouses (or former spouses) currently live in Alberta;
    • if both spouses (or former spouses) do not currently live in Alberta, their last joint residence was in Alberta;
    • if the spouses (or former spouses) did not live together since the date of their marriage, both of them lived in Alberta at the time of the marriage; or
    • a Statement of Claim for Divorce has been filed in Alberta. (For more information about what this is, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.)
    Remember

    The Matrimonial Property Act applies only to people who are married to each other or are divorced from each other.

    Family Law Act

    The Alberta Family Law Act (FLA) does not specifically state when a court has jurisdiction. As a result, the common law rules of forum non conviens apply. This approach is used by the Court when the law being used does not clearly state when the Court should take jurisdiction, and if there is a more appropriate Court to be used.

    In other words, the Court examines:

    • whether it would be “inconvenient” for the people involved if it took jurisdiction in the matter; and
    • whether there is a more “convenient” Court that should take the matter.

    The Court will look at various things when deciding this, including:

    • where the best evidence is located;
    • where the most evidence is located; and
    • where the parties involved live (including the children, if there are any).

    This has resulted in the following general approach.

    • If a relationship breakdown issue relates to the children of the relationship, the children and at least one of the guardians must be “habitually resident” in Alberta.
    • If a relationship breakdown issue does not relate to children (for example: partner support), both parties must be “habitually resident” in Alberta.

    For more information on how being “habitually resident” is determined, see the “What the words mean” section above.

    In many cases, the issue of residency will be clear. But sometimes it is not as easy to tell. For example:

    • if one party is resident in Alberta and the other is not; or
    • if any of the issues will involve courts in another province (or have already).

    If your residency situation is not clear, 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.

    Dealing with jurisdictions outside Alberta

    If one party lives outside Alberta, the family may need court orders to apply in more than one jurisdiction. In these cases, there are 2 laws that can be used to help with orders about child custody, child support, or partner support. These laws are described just below.

    Be Aware

    In certain situations, matters under the Divorce Act may be moved between provinces and territories. Also, because the Divorce Act applies all across Canada, it is possible to enforce or change Divorce Act orders, no matter where the parties are in the country.

    Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act

    This law deals with situations when the parties live in separate jurisdictions and do not have a support order granted under the Divorce Act. Using this law:

    • A party can apply for a support order (child support or partner support) in a “reciprocating jurisdiction” without having to go there.
    • A party can apply to change an existing support order from a reciprocating jurisdiction without having to go to that jurisdiction.
    • A party in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions can do the same things in Alberta.

    Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act

    This law that allows a party to ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change an order from outside of Alberta about the care and control of children. The order may be from another province/territory or another country. This law can only be used if the order was not made under the Divorce Act.

    For more information about these options, see the Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

    Before you begin: Understanding time limits

    For some court actions, there are time limits for starting an action. If you do not start your action before the end of the time limit, you may not be able to make your claim.

    As a general rule, the time limits that apply to starting an action are set out in laws. These are called “limitation periods.” For example, Alberta’s Limitations Act sets out time limits for starting most civil claims. Civil claims include things like breach of contract and personal injury. Another example of a law that has time limits is Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act.

    For most family law matters, you will be able to start an action as long as the situation that requires the action still exists. For example:

    • If you are still legally married, you can start an action for divorce no matter how long you have been separated.
    • If you had a child together and that child still meets the legal definition of “child,” you will be able to start an action for custody and support no matter how much time has gone by since the end of the relationship.

    However, there are still some time limits that can apply to family law matters. Keep reading this section for an overview.

    This can be a complicated area of law, so you may wish to consult a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about your options.

    Be Aware

    This section only addresses time limits to start an action. There are also time limits for certain steps that have to be taken once an action has been started. For example, if a person has been served with a court document, they will have to respond within a certain time limit. For more information about these time limits after an action has been started, see the “Overview of the court process” section below.

    Claims under the Divorce Act

    There is no time limit for starting an action under the Divorce Act. If you are still married, you can start a court action for divorce no matter how long you have been separated.

    Be Aware

    You can start an action for divorce at any time. However, in most cases you will have to wait for one year since the date of separation before you can get a Divorce Judgment. This is the order that is required to be divorced. There are also other “grounds for divorce” you could use that do not require a one-year separation. For more information, see the “Grounds for divorce” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    There is also no time limit for claims for “corollary relief” under the Divorce Act. Corollary relief refers to child custody and access, child support, and spousal support. As long as the situation that gives you a “cause of action” continues to exist, you will be able to start an action. For example, if there is a child of the marriage that still meets the Divorce Act definition of “child,” then claims for custody, access, and child support may be started.

    For more information about corollary relief under the Divorce Act, see the following Information Pages.

    However, the length of time that has passed may make it harder to get certain kinds of corollary relief. Two common examples of this are:

    • retroactive child support; and
    • spousal support.

    Retroactive child support (also called “back-dated” child support)

    Sometimes, a payor might be paying an incorrect amount of child support. They may have been doing this for only a short time, or a long time. This can happen in the following situations.

    • The payor’s income has increased, and that increase has not been included in the calculations. This can easily happen when a payor refuses to give updated financial information.
    • There is an agreement between the parents, but it is less than the amount required by the Child Support Guidelines.
    • There is no child support order or agreement, and no child support is being paid, but it should have been paid.

    The general rule is that the Court will not go back more than 3 years when awarding retroactive child support. However, in some cases a Court will consider more than 3 years. If this is your situation, you may want to speak with a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

    Be Aware

    You can only apply for retroactive child support if the child is still eligible for support at the time that you apply.

    For information about what is required to apply for retroactive child support, and what the Court will consider in making its decision, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    Spousal support

    There is no time limit to apply for spousal support under the Divorce Act. However, there are many factors that must be considered to decide if a claim for spousal support might be successful.

    By itself, the length of time since the end of the relationship is not directly relevant to determining if spousal support may be payable. However, if a couple has been separated for a long time and both are able to financially take care of themselves, it may be difficult to make a claim for spousal support. This is because one of the reasons for granting spousal support is to ensure that both spouses can be financially independent after separation. If that is already the case, it may be harder to convince a court that a spouse needs spousal support.

    Whether or not you are eligible for spousal support under the Divorce Act is a complicated matter. For detailed information, see the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    You may also wish to talk to a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

    Claims under the Family Law Act

    There is no time limit for starting a claim under the Family Law Act. Claims for guardianship, parenting, child support, partner support, and contact with a child can be started as long as the situation that gives you a “cause of action” still exists. For example, if there is a child of the relationship that is still fits the definition of “child” in the Family Law Act, then claims for guardianship, parenting, and support may be started.

    To figure out what you can ask for, you will need to know your rights and obligations under the Family Law Act. For detailed information, see the following Information Pages.

    However, the length of time that has passed may make it harder to get certain kinds of remedies. Two common examples of this are:

    • retroactive child support; and
    • partner support.

    Retroactive child support (also called “back-dated” child support)

    Sometimes, a payor might be paying an incorrect amount of child support. They may have been doing this for only a short time, or a long time. This can happen in the following situations.

    • The payor’s income has increased, and that increase has not been included in the calculations. This can easily happen when a payor refuses to give updated financial information.
    • There is an agreement between the parents, but it is less than the amount required by the Child Support Guidelines.
    • There is no child support order or agreement, and no child support is being paid, but it should have been paid.

    The general rule is that the Court will not go back more than 3 years when awarding retroactive child support. However, in some cases a Court will consider more than 3 years. If this is your situation, you may want to speak with a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

    Be Aware

    You can only apply for retroactive child support if the child is still eligible for support at the time that you apply.

    For information about what is required to apply for retroactive child support, and what the Court will consider in making its decision, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Partner support

    There is no time limit to apply for partner support under the Family Law Act. However, there are many factors that must be considered to decide if a claim for partner support might be successful.

    By itself, the length of time since the end of the relationship is not directly relevant to determining if partner support may be payable. However, if a couple has been separated for a long time and both are able to financially take care of themselves, it may be difficult to make a claim for partner support. This is because one of the reasons for granting partner support is to ensure that both partners are able to be financially independent after separation. If that is already the case, it may be harder to convince a court that a partner needs partner support.

    Whether or not you are eligible for partner support under the Family Law Act is a complicated matter. For detailed information, see the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    You may also wish to talk to a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

    Claims under the Matrimonial Property Act

    There are time limits for starting an action under the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA). After these limits, you will no longer be allowed to start the application.

    If you and your spouse are separated but have not yet started an action for divorce, annulment, or declaration of irreconcilability, you must make your MPA application within 2 years of the date you separated. Once that time passes, you will have to start a divorce action in order to be allowed to start an MPA action.

    If you and your spouse are separated and you have started an action for divorce, annulment, or declaration of irreconcilability, you must make your MPA application within 2 years of the date of your Divorce Judgment (not the date of the Divorce Certificate). To learn about the difference, see the Process tab of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    If you and your former spouse are already divorced, you must start the MPA action within 2 years of the date of the Divorce Judgment (not the date of the Divorce Certificate). To learn about the difference, see the Process tab of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    If you think that your spouse (or former spouse) is giving or selling property to someone else to avoid the rules of the MPA, you must start the action within one year of the date you first suspected he or she sold or gave the property away.

    If your spouse (or former spouse) has died, you must start your action within 6 months of the grant of probate or grant of administration of the estate. However, you can only do this if you met all of the requirements to start the action just before your spouse’s death. See the “Basic requirements to apply under the Matrimonial Property Act” section of the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

    For detailed information about starting an action under the Matrimonial Property Act, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

    Remember

    You can only start an action under the Matrimonial Property Act if you were married.

    Claims based on the common law

    In family law situations, the main common law claim is for unmarried couples who have property division matters. Property division claims for unmarried partners are often based on the common law concept of “unjust enrichment.” This is because unmarried partners cannot use the Matrimonial Property Act, which only applies to married (or divorced) couples.

    A claim for unjust enrichment can arise where one party is the legal owner of property, but both parties contributed in some way to getting that property. In such a case, the party who is not the legal owner may be able to claim an interest in that property. For detailed information on this topic, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

    There may be a time limit that applies to unjust enrichment claims. Even though this can be a family law issue, in this case there may be time limits similar to the limitation periods that apply to other kinds of civil claims.

    Understanding limitation periods

    Alberta’s Limitations Act sets out time limits for starting most civil claims. Civil claims include things like breach of contract and personal injury. If a claim is not started within the limitation period, you may lose the right to make the claim.

    Determining limitation periods under the Limitations Act can be complicated. In simple terms, the limitation period for starting a claim is:

    • 2 years from the time the person discovered the claim; or
    • 10 years from the time the event causing the claim actually happened.

    The period that applies is whichever of those expires first.

    For example:

    You hire someone to build a deck for your house. They do an improper job of building supports for the deck and it collapses.

    If you wanted to start a lawsuit against the person who built the deck, the limitation periods would apply as follows:

    • You would have 2 years from the date the deck collapsed to file your claim.
    • However, you may have known the deck was unstable. In other words, you had “discovered” the problem. If the collapse happened more than 2 years after you became aware of it, you may not be able to proceed with your claim. Claims must be started within 2 years of becoming aware of the problem.
    • If you had no idea that the deck was built improperly but more than 10 years pass before it collapses, then you may not be able to proceed with your claim. Claims must be started within 10 years of the event causing the claim. In this case, the event causing the claim was the improper construction of the supports for the deck.

    However, there are exceptions for situations where it would be unfair to apply the limitation periods strictly.

    This could happen if the actions causing the claim were purposely hidden from the person. For example, if you invest money with someone who steals it instead. That person may send false investment statements for years to hide the fact the money was gone. That type of fraud could lead to an exception to the limitation period.

    Another example is where the person making the claim was under a disability. A “person under disability” under the Limitations Act means:

    • a “represented adult” under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act;
    • a person for whom a “certificate of incapacity” has been issued under the Public Trustee Act; or
    • an adult who is not able to make reasonable judgments regarding matters that relate to the claim.

    If a person is under a disability, they may not have the capacity or understanding to know about their claim. In such cases, the limitation period may not apply during the period of disability.

    To view a copy of the Limitations Act, see the following resource.

    Web Limitations Act
    Government of Alberta
    English

    For more information about limitation periods under the Limitations Act, see the following resources.

    Web Limitation of Actions: What Are Limitation Dates?
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Web Before You Sue
    Government of Alberta
    English
    See “Time limits to sue.”


    Web Time's up! Alberta to pass new limitations law
    Alberta Teachers' Association
    English

    Limitation periods and unjust enrichment claims

    Alberta courts have found that limitation periods apply to unjust enrichment claims for unmarried couples dealing with property division matters. In such cases, the general 2-year limitation period begins at the date of separation. However, as described above, the limitation period may be suspended if there has been fraud or if the claimant is under a disability.

    Also, there may be issues about the exact date of separation. For example, the limitation period for an unjust enrichment claim typically starts at the time of separation. However, courts have suggested that the limitation period may start when people in an Adult Interdependent Relationship become former Adult Interdependent Partners. This can happen after one year of separation.

    This is a complicated area of law and you may wish to consult with a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information.

    The following resources discuss some of the issues that may arise in determining limitation periods for unjust enrichment claims.

    Web Unjust enrichment and the issue of limitation periods
    Vogel LLP
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    Web Defending An Unjust Enrichment Claim In Alberta
    Kirk Montoute LLP
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.
    Do you have a choice of court?

    There are 2 main trial courts that can hear family law matters in Alberta. These courts are:

    • the Provincial Court of Alberta; and
    • the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

    For some family law matters, you will have a choice about which court you can use. For other family law matters, you will not have a choice.

    Generally, the court you use will depend on your specific situation, including:

    • whether or not you were married;
    • which law you are using to deal with your family law issues; and
    • the exact kinds of issues you are trying to address (for some issues, you have to go to a specific court).
    Be Aware

    In rare cases, actions under the Divorce Act may be heard by the Federal Court. This happens when married spouses each start an action under the Divorce Act on the same day, but in different provincial courts. If neither action is stopped within 30 days, then the action is transferred to the Federal Court. If this happens to you, you may wish to speak to a lawyer who has experience in these matters. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page. This Information Page does not have information about court processes in the Federal Court.

    If you are married

    If you are married, you may have a choice as to which court use. Which court you choose will depend on your specific situation.

    If you want to get a divorce to legally end the marriage, you must use the Divorce Act. Only the Court of Queen’s Bench can hear matters under the Divorce Act.

    If you want to deal with the division of property, you must use the Matrimonial Property Act. Only the Court of Queen’s Bench can hear matters under the Matrimonial Property Act.

    If you want to deal with the care of children, child support, and spousal support, you can use either the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act.

    • Only the Court of Queen’s Bench can hear matters under the Divorce Act.
    • Both the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court of Alberta can hear matters under the Family Law Act.
    Be Aware

    The Alberta courts prefer that all matters relating to one family be dealt with at the same level of court. Therefore, if your cause of action includes matters that can only be addressed in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will likely have to use that court for all of your matters, even if you would normally have the option of using Provincial Court for some of your matters.

    If you want exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, you can use either the Matrimonial Property Act or the Family Law Act. For both of these, you must use the Court of Queen’s Bench. However, you can only use the Family Law Act if you are also applying for child support or partner support.

    For more information about considering which laws and which court to use, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    If you are not married

    If you are not married, you will address most of your family law issues using the Family Law Act. Some matters may use other laws. These situations are described just below.

    Be Aware

    The Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. As a result, if you are dealing with issues that can only be heard in Queen’s Bench, you will be strongly encouraged to combine all your issues into one action in the Court of Queen’s Bench. This would include the issues that could be heard in Provincial Court.

    Family Law Act matters

    Under the Family Law Act, you will usually have the choice of starting your action in Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    You can use either court if you are applying for any of the following:

    • guardianship and parenting;
    • child support;
    • contact with a child; or
    • partner support.

    However, there are certain issues covered by the Family Law Act that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. You must use the Court of Queen’s Bench if you are asking for any of the following.

    • Exclusive possession of a home and other property. In certain situations where the partners cannot agree on who will live in the home, one partner can ask the Court for “exclusive possession” of a house, apartment, or condo (whether it is owned or rented). Often the order includes goods in the house, and can even apply to a vehicle.
    • A Declaration of Parentage. This is a court order that says someone is the parent of a child, or is not the parent of a child.
    • A Declaration of Irreconcilability. This is a court order that indicates you are separated and not working on getting back together. Married couples can use this in the time before they get a divorce to prove that they are separated. Adult Interdependent Partners can use this document as one of the ways to legally end the relationship.
    • A child support or partner support order where amounts are to be held in trust, or where property is affected.

    Other matters

    You may also be going to court for matters that are not dealt with under the Family Law Act. For example:

    • If you want to go to court to divide property, you will have to use the common law cause of action of “unjust enrichment.” This is because there is no law that governs the division of property between unmarried partners. The Matrimonial Property Act only applies to married (or divorced) couples. Unjust enrichment claims can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.
    • There are some protective orders in situations of family violence that are only available in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

    If there was family violence

    Different laws address family violence in different ways. Some may use the criminal court system, while others use the civil court system.

    In the civil court system, protective orders are made in both courts. Which court you must use will depend on the kind of protective order you are asking for. This is because some protective orders can only be applied in for Provincial Court, and others can only be applied for in the Court of Queen’s of Bench.

    It is always easier and less expensive to keep all matters in the same level of court. Your family law matters may allow you to choose the level of court (Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench). But if you are also getting a protective order, that may be what determines which court you use. Then you can deal with both your protective order and your family law matters in the same court.

    Be Aware

    The Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. As a result, you may be encouraged to handle all of your issues in one level of court.

    For detailed information about applying for a protective order in either court, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

    Differences between the courts: An introduction

    Provincial Court

    The Provincial Court is the lower trial court in Alberta. This may be the only court that a person goes to. Or, it may be the first court a person goes to before they go to a higher court.

    The Provincial Court only deals with certain types of cases. These include family matters (but not divorce or division of property).

    There are some advantages to starting an action in Provincial Court. These include the following.

    • Time: Actions typically move faster, although not always.
    • Location: There are many more Provincial Court locations throughout Alberta.
    • Cost: With quicker and less complex matters, the cost of a court action can be less in Provincial Court.
    • Complexity: Generally, Provincial Court processes and rules are easier to understand and there is more help available if you are representing yourself.

    There are also some disadvantages to starting an action in Provincial Court. These include:

    • Limited jurisdiction: Some matters can only be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench, and courts prefer all issues to be dealt with in the same action.
    • Time: Some Provincial Courts are very busy and there may be no time advantage compared to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
    • Complexity: Even though it is typically easier to conduct an action in Provincial Court, it can still be a complicated process.

    For more detailed information, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Court of Queen’s Bench

    The Court of Queen’s Bench is the higher trial court, or the “superior” court in Alberta. For some legal issues, you can only go to the Court of Queen’s Bench. Superior courts have the power to deal with any type of legal issue unless there is a law that says they cannot deal with a particular issue. Because superior courts are higher courts, they often deal with more serious cases or cases that only they have the power to deal with.

    For example, you must go through the Court of Queen’s Bench for:

    • divorce;
    • division of property;
    • exclusive possession of a home or household goods;
    • declarations of parentage;
    • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders; and
    • restraining orders.

    There are some advantages to starting an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench. These include:

    • Jurisdiction: The Court of Queen’s Bench can deal with all family law matters.
    • Complex matters: The rules and procedures in the Court of Queen’s Bench are better for addressing complicated issues.

    There are also some disadvantages to starting an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench. These include:

    • Time: Actions typically take longer to deal with, although not always.
    • Location: There are fewer locations.
    • Cost: With longer and more complicated processes, it is often more expensive. Also court fees tend to be higher.
    • Complexity: The rules and procedures are more complicated than in Provincial Court.

    For more detailed information, see the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page.

    Rules for court actions: An introduction

    The most important thing to know about going to court is that there are rules that apply to the entire process. These rules cover every aspect of going to court, including:

    • starting and responding to a court action;
    • serving documents;
    • presenting evidence to the court;
    • getting temporary (“interim”) remedies from the court; and
    • conducting a trial.

    The rules that apply to actions in Provincial Court are different from the rules that apply to actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench. There are different forms, processes, and requirements that you will need to understand before proceeding with a court action.

    Most of the rules that apply to court actions are set out in laws. However, there is no single source for all of the rules that you will need to know. You will need to learn about multiple statutes and regulations.

    Learning the rules about court actions is complex and time-consuming. Before starting a court action, you may want to seriously consider consulting with a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    See the following resources for general information about rules that apply to court actions.

    PDF There are Rules? Ten Things to Know about Going to Civil Court in Alberta
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Web Court Procedures and Rules of Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Video Les règles de procédure, qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Family Law NB
    French
    Les règles de justice spécifiques discutées dans cette vidéo ne s'appliquent pas en Alberta. Les Règles de la Cour de l'Alberta ne sont pas disponibles en français. En outre, les formulaires judiciaires de l'Alberta ne peuvent être complétés en ligne.

    If you want to research the rules yourself, you will need to know about the different laws that apply and how to find and follow them.

    These sections below have more detailed information about which rules may apply to your situation.

    • Rules for Provincial Court
    • Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench
    • Rules and processes in situations of family violence
    • Getting help with the rules and forms
    Rules for Provincial Court

    The Provincial Court is less complicated and less formal than the Court of Queen’s Bench. The judges in Provincial Court are usually more forgiving if you make a mistake with one of the rules or procedures.

    However, knowing the rules and procedures is important because:

    • it will help your action move forward smoothly; and
    • there is less risk that an important step will be missed.

    Alberta’s Provincial Court Act is the law that sets out rules about:

    • the authority of the Provincial Court;
    • the appointment of Provincial Court judges; and
    • civil claims.

    You can read the Provincial Court Act in the following resource.

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

    For family law matters in Provincial Court, you may also need to know about the following laws and regulations:

    • Family Law Act
    • Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation
    • Alberta Rules of Court
    • Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation
    • Family Law Act General Regulation
    • Alberta Child Support Guidelines
    • Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation
    • Alberta Evidence Act

    The rest of this section introduces those laws. Some of the laws will apply to all family law actions in Provincial Court. Some may only apply depending on what issue is being dealt with.

    Tip

    In addition to these laws, there are also rules about how you behave in a courtroom and how you speak to judges, lawyers, and witnesses. See the “Courtroom etiquette” section below for more information about these rules.

    Family Law Act

    The Family Law Act will affect the court process in several ways. It will determine:

    • Whether the remedy you are asking for is available in Provincial Court
    • The types of remedies you can ask for in your Claim
    • The type of information you have to provide when you complete the forms
    • Who are considered “parties” to the court action, and who needs to be served with court documents. For example, some applications require serving children separately, or serving Child Protective Services.

    For more information, see the following resources.

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

    PDF Family Law Act Procedure
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation

    One of the most important sets of rules to know about is the Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation. This is a regulation of the Family Law Act that sets out the basic structure and rules of a family law action in Provincial Court.

    This regulation has rules about:

    • Starting a Claim and serving Claim documents on the other party
    • Responding to a Claim and serving Response documents on the other party
    • The ways that documents can be served
    • Requesting financial information from the other party, including the form that must be used

    You can read the Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation in the following resource.

    Alberta Rules of Court

    The Alberta Rules of Court is a regulation that describes the procedures to be followed for court actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal. Although actions started in Provincial Court have their own rules, the Alberta Rules of Court apply to Provincial Court actions in 2 important ways:

    • the forms used in family law actions are included in the Alberta Rules of Court; and
    • if the Provincial Court rules do not have a specific procedure that may be needed, the Provincial Court may use a procedure in the Alberta Rules of Court (modified as needed).

    For example: One party wishes to make an application on a procedural matter, like “compelling” a witness to attend court. This means getting the court to order that a person come to court to give evidence. There is no rule about this for Provincial Court matters, but there is a procedure for this in the Alberta Rules of Court.

    Although some of the rules in the Alberta Rules of Court may apply in Provincial Court, the main source of rules for Provincial Court matters is the Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation.

    You can read the Alberta Rules of Court in the following resource.

    Web Alberta Rules of Court
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation

    This regulation under the Provincial Court Act establishes the Caseflow Conference program for certain family law matters. This is a program that is available to parties without a lawyer who have filed their first court application, but have not yet gone before a judge. It is meant to help parties reach an agreement out of court, or to be better prepared when going to court.

    Be Aware

    Caseflow conferencing is only available in some areas. The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in those cities. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see if it is required in your judicial centre.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You can read the Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation in the following resource.

    Web Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Family Law Act General Regulation

    This regulation under the Family Law Act sets out certain rules that apply to anyone asking for partner support. This includes:

    • a detailed list of the information that will be required from both parties;
    • requiring the applicant to provide financial information to the other party and the court when starting their action; and
    • time limits for the other party to provide their information.

    You can read the Family Law Act General Regulation in the following resource.

    Web Family Law Act General Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Alberta Child Support Guidelines

    This regulation under the Family Law Act describes how to calculate child support. It also has several rules about the process for getting a child support order. If you are applying for child support in Provincial Court, this regulation sets out:

    • the information that must be included in a child support order;
    • a detailed list of financial information that must be provided with the application;
    • time limits for providing the financial information; and
    • rules about the duty to provide financial information on an ongoing basis.

    You can read the Alberta Child Support Guidelines in the following resource.

    PDF Alberta Child Support Guidelines
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation

    This regulation under the Family Law Act describes how the Child Support Recalculation Program works. This Program recalculates court-ordered child support every year, based on current income tax information. There are some process rules in this regulation, including rules for:

    • wording about the Program that must be included in a child support order;
    • registering for the Program;
    • withdrawing from the Program;
    • providing information to the Program, including financial information; and
    • objecting to a recalculation decision.
    Be Aware

    Not every child support order or agreement will be eligible for the Program. See the following resource for more information.

    Web Child Support Recalculation Program
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You can read the Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation in the following resource.

    PDF Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Alberta Evidence Act

    This statute sets out rules for giving evidence in Alberta court proceedings. It include rules about:

    • who may be called as a witness;
    • questions that may be asked of witnesses;
    • taking the evidence of a child;
    • swearing an oath or making an affirmation in a proceeding; and
    • using evidence from other court proceedings.

    You can read the Alberta Evidence Act in the following resource.

    Web Alberta Evidence Act
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench

    The Court of Queen’s Bench is more complicated and more formal than the Provincial Court. The judges in the Court of Queen’s Bench usually expect you to be prepared and follow the rules and procedures. They are usually much less forgiving if you make a mistake with one of the rules or procedures.

    Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench Act is the law that sets out rules about:

    • the authority of the Court of Queen’s Bench;
    • the appointment of Queen’s Bench justices and masters; and
    • the authority of masters.

    The rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB) are mostly set out in the Alberta Rules of Court.

    For family law matters in QB however, you may also need to know about the following:

    • Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Notes and Notices
    • Divorce Act
    • Federal Child Support Guidelines
    • Matrimonial Property Act
    • Family Law Act
    • Family Law Act General Regulation
    • Alberta Child Support Guidelines
    • Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation
    • Alberta Evidence Act
    • Law of Property Act

    The rest of this section introduces those laws and court-directed rules. Some of these will apply to all family law actions in Queen’s Bench. Some may only apply depending on what issue is being dealt with.

    Tip

    In addition to these laws, there are also rules about how you behave in a courtroom and how you speak to judges, lawyers, and witnesses. See the “Courtroom etiquette” section below for more information about these rules.

    Alberta Rules of Court

    The Alberta Rules of Court is a regulation that describes the procedures to be followed for court actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Court of Appeal. The Alberta Rules of Court are important because they:

    • describe the procedures to be used in the Court of Queen’s Bench in detail; and
    • set out the forms to be used for family law matters, as well as general civil matters.
    Be Aware

    There is a separate set of rules for family law matters in the Alberta Rules of Court. These are found in Part 12 of the Rules. Some of the rules that apply to general civil matters will also apply to family law matters. When this is the case, it is noted in Part 12.

    You can read the Alberta Rules of Court in the following resource.

    Web Alberta Rules of Court
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Notes and Notices

    Practice Notes” are additional rules issued by the Court, often about court procedures. These rules apply only in the Court of Queen’s Bench (not in Provincial Court). Although these rules are not “laws” like statutes and regulations, they must be followed by everyone (not just lawyers). You must follow them even if you are representing yourself.

    There are 9 Practice Notes that apply specifically to family law matters. These set out rules for the following.

    • The Parenting After Separation Course
    • Family law chambers applications
    • Family law conferences (to discuss settling or moving the matter to trial)
    • The Dispute Resolution Officer Project (Calgary) and Child Support Resolution Project (Edmonton) for applications for interim child support, or to change an existing order for child support
    • Family law actions where there are claims of sexual abuse (Edmonton and area only)
    • International child abduction
    • Interventions (using parenting experts to help the court in high conflict situations)
    • Parenting time assessments (using parenting experts to help the court if the parties cannot agree)
    • Intake, resolution, and caseflow management (Calgary only)

    You can read the Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Notes in the following resource.

    Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
    Government of Alberta
    English

    The Court will also sometimes issue “Notices” that set out requirements for certain court procedures. An example of this is the Notice about using a “Disclosure Statement” in child support applications.

    You can read the Court of Queen’s Bench Notices in the following resource.

    Web Court of Queen's Bench Announcements
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation

    This regulation under the Provincial Court Act establishes the Caseflow Conference program for certain family law matters. Even though it is part of the Provincial Court Act, it applies to some Queen’s Bench locations in Alberta. This is a program that is available to parties without a lawyer who have filed their first court application, but have not yet gone before a judge. It is meant to help parties reach an agreement out of court, or to be better prepared when going to court.

    Be Aware

    Caseflow conferencing is only available in some areas. The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in those cities. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see if it is required in your judicial centre.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You can read the Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation in the following resource.

    Web Intake and Caseflow Management Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Divorce Act

    The Divorce Act sets out the requirements for getting a divorce in Canada. It also allows divorcing parties to apply for “corollary relief” (child custody, child support, and spousal support).

    Generally, the rules for divorce and corollary relief actions in Alberta are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court. However, there are some parts of the Divorce Act that set out rules for processes in certain situations. These include rules about the following.

    • Determining jurisdiction where 2 actions have been started in different jurisdictions
    • Transferring an action involving a child if the child has more of a connection to another jurisdiction
    • Pausing actions if the spouses may be able to get back together (this is called “suspending” an action)
    • Setting the time limit to appeal a divorce judgment
    • Removing religious barriers to remarriage
    • Getting a “Provisional Order.” This is a court order that is temporary until a final decision is reached. For example, this can happen when the parties to an action under the Divorce Act are in different jurisdictions.

    You can read the Divorce Act in the following resource.

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

    Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines

    The Federal Child Support Guidelines are a regulation under the Divorce Act. The Alberta Child Support Guidelines are a regulation under the Family Law Act.

    These regulations describe how to calculate child support. They also have several rules about the process for getting a child support order. If you are applying for child support, these regulations set out:

    • the information that must be included in a child support order;
    • a detailed list of financial information that must be provided with the application;
    • time limits for providing the financial information; and
    • rules about the duty to provide financial information on an ongoing basis.

    Although these 2 sets of Guidelines are similar, there are some key differences about:

    • when child support ends;
    • the child support responsibilities of someone who “stood in the place of a parent”;
    • special expenses; and
    • who has to provide ongoing financial disclosure.

    The Guidelines you use will depend on whether your action is being started under the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act. For more information about the differences, see the “Family law causes of action” section above.

    You can read the Federal Child Support Guidelines in the following resource.

    Web Federal Child Support Guidelines
    Government of Canada
    English

    You can read the Alberta Child Support Guidelines in the following resource.

    PDF Alberta Child Support Guidelines
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Matrimonial Property Act

    This statute allows married couples who are separating or divorced to apply for a division of matrimonial property. This law has several rules about the court process, including:

    • Setting time limits and conditions that have to be met for starting an action
    • Describing the types of remedies you can ask for in your claim
    • Applying for exclusive possession of the home, including making an “ex parte” application (an application without notice to the other party)
    • Requiring each spouse to complete a sworn statement with a list of all their property
    • Allowing a “Certificate of Lis Pendens” to be filed with land titles (this document is a warning to anyone interested in the property that the property is involved in a legal dispute)

    You can read the Matrimonial Property Act in the following resource.

    Matrimonial Property Regulation

    This regulation under the Matrimonial Property Act sets out:

    • the form that each spouse must use when disclosing property to the other; and
    • the form that must be used to file a “Certificate of Lis Pendens” (this document is a warning to anyone interested in the property that the property is involved in a legal dispute).

    You can read the Matrimonial Property Regulation in the following resource.

    PDF Matrimonial Property Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Family Law Act

    The Family Law Act will affect the court process in several ways. It will determine:

    • Whether the remedy you are asking for is available in the Court of Queen’s Bench
    • The types of remedies you can ask for in your Claim
    • The type of information you have to provide when you complete the forms
    • Who are considered “parties” to the court action, and who needs to be served with court documents. For example, some applications require serving children separately, or serving Child Protective Services.

    For more information, see the following resources.

    PDF Family Law Act Procedure
    Government of Alberta
    English

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

    Family Law Act General Regulation

    This regulation under the Family Law Act sets out certain rules that apply to anyone asking for partner support. This includes:

    • a detailed list of the information that will be required from both parties;
    • requiring the applicant to provide financial information to the other party and the court when starting their action; and
    • time limits for the other party to provide their information.

    You can read the Family Law Act General Regulation in the following resource.

    Web Family Law Act General Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation

    This regulation under the Family Law Act describes how the Child Support Recalculation Program works. This Program recalculates court-ordered child support every year, based on current income tax information. There are some process rules in this regulation, including rules for:

    • wording about the Program that must be included in a child support order;
    • registering for the Program;
    • withdrawing from the Program;
    • providing information to the Program, including financial information; and
    • objecting to a recalculation decision.
    Be Aware

    Not every child support order or agreement will be eligible for the Program. See the following resource for more information.

    Web Child Support Recalculation Program
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You can read the Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation in the following resource.

    PDF Child Support Recalculation Program Regulation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Alberta Evidence Act

    This statute sets out rules for giving evidence in Alberta court proceedings. It include rules about:

    • who may be called as a witness;
    • questions that may be asked of witnesses;
    • taking the evidence of a child;
    • swearing an oath or making an affirmation in a proceeding; and
    • using evidence from other court proceedings.

    You can read the Alberta Evidence Act in the following resource.

    Web Alberta Evidence Act
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Law of Property Act

    This statute allows people who co-own a home or some other kind of real estate to apply to court to divide that property. Couples who are married can use the Matrimonial Property Act, but non-married couples cannot. If a non-married couple is separating and they jointly own a home or some other kind of real estate, either party can apply to divide that property under the Law of Property Act. There are rules in the Act about applying to the Court of Queen’s Bench, including who must be served and how much notice must be given.

    You can read the Law of Property Act in the following resource.

    Web Law of Property Act (and associated Regulations)
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Rules and processes in situations of family violence

    This page has information about court processes for separating couples. There are other rules, laws, and processes available for those who have experienced family violence. There are some important differences in these processes. For detailed information, see the following Information Pages.

    Getting help with the rules and forms

    Learning about the rules that apply to court actions can be as complicated and time-consuming as learning about the laws that apply to family law issues. You may wish to spend some time researching the various rules before making a decision about going to court or representing yourself.

    Learning for yourself

    To learn about your family law matter for yourself, you may wish to start on the Information Pages about the topics that apply to your family situation. You can find a list of these topics on the Legal Topics page.

    To learn about the rules that apply to court processes, you will need to spend a lot of time reading the laws listed in the sections above called “Rules for Provincial Court” and “Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench.”

    To learn more about researching the law and how to find legal information, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

    For more detailed information about representing yourself and resources that are available to help you, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

    Working with a lawyer

    You may want to consider working with a lawyer whether or not you want to go to court. If you do end up going to court, the court processes you see on TV are very different from what happens in real life.

    If you don’t have a lawyer, you will have to learn the relevant laws (including “case law”). You will also have to learn about the processes and rules of court. These can include things like:

    • when certain paperwork has to be filed;
    • what has to be included in the paperwork you file; and
    • what evidence is acceptable in court. Do not expect to just walk into the courtroom and “tell your story.”

    There are many benefits of working with a lawyer, including:

    • Lawyers are trained to deal with paperwork that can be lengthy and complicated. If you are not working with a lawyer, you will have to take the time to fill out the necessary paperwork.
    • A lawyer can represent you in court without you being there. This may be helpful if you have a busy schedule and cannot easily take time to be in court yourself. Also, court processes and etiquette can be very different than what you are used to. Having a lawyer may save you the trouble of learning them.
    • A lawyer may help the negotiation and settlement process by being a buffer between you and the other party. This is especially helpful if you do not feel comfortable dealing with the other party on your own. Your lawyer can do things like serve documents on the other party and meet with the other party in or out of court.
    • A lawyer with courtroom experience is usually able to communicate effectively with judges and other parties involved in a legal matter. This might lead to a better and quicker outcome than doing it yourself.

    Lawyers can also help you with only some of the steps required for a court action. Some lawyers now offer “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainers.” In this type of arrangement, you and your lawyer will share the work that needs to be done for your case. Your lawyer will do the more complicated legal work, leaving you to do the simpler work.

    For example:

    • Your lawyer might draft a document for you, but instead of your lawyer filing that document at the courthouse for you, you will file it yourself.
    • Your lawyer might prepare legal arguments and do legal research for you, but you will represent yourself in court.

    In this way, you don’t have to pay the lawyer for his or her time to do something that you are willing to do yourself. This type of service is usually more affordable than “full service” representation. It also allows you to be more involved in your own case.

    For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

    Depending on your legal matter and your location, some programs will be mandatory. This means you must take them. Others are optional.

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

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Proper words to describe the parties

    Some of the words used to describe the parties in a court action can be confusing. For example, a “Plaintiff” can also be a “Respondent” in the same court action.

    Understanding the proper words will help you understand the court process. It will also help you when completing forms, and when you talk to court clerks, judges, and lawyers about your matter.

    Tip

    There are other important definitions in the “What the words mean” section above, and in the Glossary.

    This section describes these terms and the differences between them.

    Plaintiff / Defendant

    In most civil law cases:

    • The person who starts the court action is called the “Plaintiff.”
    • The person who is sued by the Plaintiff is called the “Defendant.”

    In family law matters, the word “Plaintiff” is used to describe the person who starts an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench for any of the following:

    • A divorce and related claims (custody, access, child support, and spousal support) under the Divorce Act
    • Property division under the Matrimonial Property Act
    • Certain restraining orders
    • Property division based on a claim for unjust enrichment

    The party who responds is called the “Defendant.”

    If the Defendant wishes to claim something from the Plaintiff, then they can file a “counterclaim” against the Plaintiff. If a Defendant files a counterclaim:

    • The Defendant is also called the “Plaintiff by counterclaim.”
    • The Plaintiff is also called the “Defendant by counterclaim.”

    Different terms will apply to the parties if either one of them applies for an interim remedy. See the “Overview of the court process” section below for an introduction to this process.

    • The party who makes the application is called the “Applicant.”
    • The party who responds is called the “Respondent.”

    Either party may make an application to court. For example, if the Defendant in the overall court action applies for an interim remedy, then the Defendant is the Applicant for that application.

    Applicant/Claimant/Appellant and Respondent

    In ordinary use, the word “applicant” refers to someone who “applies” for something. You will often see the word “applicant” used when reading about the law. And while it used in a general way to describe the person who asks the court for help, it also has a specific meaning in certain court actions.

    You will need to understand how these words are used, because the laws and the forms use these specific terms.

    The word “applicant” is used to describe the party who starts an action under the Family Law Act (FLA). This applies to FLA actions in both the Court of Queen’s Bench and Provincial Court.

    The word “applicant” is also used to describe the party who starts an action by way of Originating Application (see the “Proper words to describe court actions” section below) for the following matters.

    • Dividing property under the Law of Property Act
    • Matters under the Change of Name Act
    • Exclusive possession of the matrimonial home under the Matrimonial Property Act
    • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders
    • Some restraining orders

    The word “applicant” is also used to describe the party who asks the court for an interim remedy by filing an “application.” See the “Overview of the court process” section below for an introduction to this process. Either party may make an application to court.

    The word “claimant” is used to describe the party who applies to court for an Emergency Protection Order under the Protection Against Family Violence Act.

    The word “appellant” is used to describe the party who appeals a court decision to a higher court.

    In all of the cases described above, the other party is called the “respondent.”

    Proper words to describe court actions

    The names for the different kinds of court actions may be confusing. For example, a person may start a “claim” under the Family Law Act but then also make an “application” within that claim.

    Court actions are started when a person files a document with the court. In this document, the person starting the action identifies:

    • the person they are taking to court;
    • the issues they want resolved; and
    • the remedy they are asking for from the court.

    You may see words like “action,” “proceeding,” or “claim” to describe the court process. Generally, these words can all be used to describe the overall court action. However, some words do have specific meanings because they refer to specific processes.

    The following sections explain how these words can be used when talking about court processes.

    Action / Proceeding

    When you “take someone to court,” it means you are suing them. This is also called starting a lawsuit. You are asking the court to make a decision about the issues between you and the other person (or people).

    The words “action” and “proceeding” are often used to describe the overall court process, or lawsuit.

    The word “proceeding” is sometimes used to describe a particular part of an action as well. For example, when a party makes an interim “application,” that is sometimes referred to as a proceeding. However, the Alberta Rules of Court are written so that “applications” are made as part of “proceedings” or “actions.”

    Claim

    The word “claim” is often used to describe a court “action” as well. It refers to the remedy that the person starting the lawsuit is asking for. In other words, what they are “claiming” from the person they are suing.

    However, the word “claim” has a specific meaning as well. It is also used to describe the way a lawsuit is started and the form that is used to start it.

    There are different forms used to start actions, depending on the type of action being started.

    Statement of Claim form

    Most lawsuits are started by the filing of a “Statement of Claim.” This is the term used in both the Court of Queen’s Bench and Provincial Court (“small claims court”) for general civil actions (where one person is suing someone else).

    For family law matters, a Statement of Claim is used to start actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench for any of the following:

    • A divorce and related claims (custody, access, child support, and spousal support) under the Divorce Act
    • Property division under the Matrimonial Property Act
    • Certain restraining orders
    • Property division based on a claim for unjust enrichment

    Claim form

    Actions under the Family Law Act (FLA) are started by filing a Claim form. This applies to FLA actions started in both Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    Queen's Bench

    The Claim form is also used in the Court of Queen’s Bench by any party who wants to apply for an interim remedy. See the information about Applications just below for an introduction to this process. This only applies to actions started in the Court of Queen’s Bench under the FLA.

    Application

    The word “application” is often used when describing court actions in general. You may read about a person “making an application” to court in the resources you use. In this general sense, a court “application” is simply someone “applying” to court for a remedy.

    However, the word “application” also refers to a specific court process. In a Court of Queen’s Bench action, “applications” are used when one party asks the Court for an interim remedy within the overall action. For more information about making applications, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

    The time between starting an action and going to trial can be quite lengthy. Depending on the situation, it can take anywhere from months to years. Often, there will be issues that need to be addressed very quickly. For example, it may be necessary to make arrangements for child custody and child support right away.

    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.

    For these applications, the judge’s decision is called an “order.” This is different from a “judgment,” which is the final decision of the court in an action.

    Queen's Bench

    In the Court of Queen’s Bench, a separate “application” is made for an interim order after an action has been started. These applications are heard in chambers. There are additional rules and procedures that apply to applications that are heard in chambers. There are also differences in the forms used, depending on which law is being used.

    Originating Application

    For some specific legal issues, a person can file an “Originating Application” to ask for a remedy without starting an action with a “Statement of Claim.” The parties themselves do not choose to use an Originating Application. It is only in certain circumstances that an Originating Application can be used. One of these is that a particular law allows it.

    When laws allow Originating Applications, they are generally intended for situations when:

    • there is only one issue to deal with; and
    • that issue can likely be resolved without a trial. In other words, the chambers hearing will be enough.

    Some examples of issues that can be brought to the Court of Queen’s Bench through an Originating Application include the following.

    • A request to change an order under the Divorce Act granted by a court outside Alberta
    • An application for a Queen’s Bench Protection Order
    • A request for a restraining order
    • An application to divide jointly owned property under the Law of Property Act (for non-married couples)
    • Registering, enforcing, or changing a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act
    • A request for an order for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home under the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) if no other MPA action has been started

    If you are unsure about how to start a court action, you may wish to consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Do you have to go all the way to trial?

    In a typical lawsuit (where one person wants to sue another person), you ask the court for help by filing a document to start the action. For example, you may file a Statement of Claim. That document sets out the issues and the remedy you are asking for. This starts a court process that is intended to be resolved at a trial.

    However, some parties can resolve their issues before a trial. For example:

    • There may be “applications” to the court that are made to temporarily resolve issues within the action. (See the “Overview of the court process” section below for more information about applications.) The orders resulting from these applications may sometimes work as permanent solutions for the parties.
    • There are also programs and services that can help people resolve their issues before going to trial. For example: mediation.

    As a result, some legal actions can be resolved before a trial is necessary. However, in general the system is designed to lead to trial.

    That is how the process is designed for family law matters in the Court of Queen’s Bench. It is slightly different for family law matters in Provincial Court. Judges in Provincial Court are more active in exploring and encouraging settlement between the parties, so they do not have to go to trial. This is because the judicial system recognizes that going to trial can take a long time and can be very expensive. Families need solutions more quickly and without great expense.

    When you start a family law action in Provincial Court, you will schedule a date for a hearing in docket court. A docket court hearing is a short appearance before a Judge. In docket court, the Judge can make decisions that:

    • are immediately necessary; and
    • help the action move toward settlement.

    Some people find that temporary arrangements made by a Judge in docket court are enough. These people do not need to return to court. Others may need future appearances in docket court. At each appearance, the Judge will work to resolve the outstanding issues. If a trial becomes necessary, it will be ordered by the Judge.

    In other words, the process for a typical lawsuit (for example, in the Court of Queen’s Bench) is much different than the process for family law matters in Provincial Court.

    • A dispute in a typical lawsuit will go to trial unless it is resolved early.
    • Generally, a family law matter in Provincial Court will only go to trial if it cannot be resolved early.

    See the following resources for information on things you should think about when deciding whether to go to court.

    Video Ready – Set – Go? : Most Family Law Cases Don't Go to Trial
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Going to Court: When Litigation Makes Sense
    Connect Family Law
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    There are many pre-trial options to help parties resolve their issues without the need for a trial. These can be quite effective and it is a good idea to learn more about them (see the “Overview of the court process” section below).

    However, in some cases a trial may actually be the best choice. For example, parties who make multiple applications to court to try to resolve a complicated issue may end up spending more time, effort, and money on those many applications than they would have on a single trial. A lawyer can help you decide 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 options for legal advice.

    Overview of the court process

    Generally, court actions follow the same basic process:

    • Filing court documents to start the action
    • “Serving” court documents on the other parties
    • Responding to court documents
    • Exchanging information
    • Pre-trial processes (including court programs and resolution options)
    • Getting temporary remedies (making “applications”)
    • Trial (if needed)
    • Enforcing judgments and orders
    • Changing judgments and orders
    • Appeals (if requested)

    Each one of these basic processes has specific steps and rules that must be followed. This section is a brief introduction to each step in the basic process.

    Remember

    Just because a court action has been started, that does not mean you must go through the entire process. The parties can settle the issues between them at any time. There are also alternatives to court that can be used. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

    Tip

    There are also differences between those processes in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. There is detailed information about the procedures for both courts on the Process tab of this Information Page.

    For more introductory information about court processes for family law matters in Alberta, see the following resources.

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

    Web Justice process (family law)
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Parenting After Separation (PAS) Parent's Guide
    Government of Alberta
    English
    See p. 55.

    The following resources are from outside Alberta. Many of the processes are similar, but they may not be exactly the same. Also, the names of the courts may be different.

    Interactive Steps in a Family Law Case: About these flowcharts
    Community Legal Education Ontario
    English


    Web Civil and Criminal Cases
    Government of Canada
    English

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

    PDF Litigating in Canada
    McMillan LLP
    English
    This is a private source and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

    Filing court documents to start the action

    In most civil actions, the first document to be filed is called the “Statement of Claim.” In this document, the person starting the action identifies:

    • the person they are taking to court;
    • the issues they want resolved; and
    • the remedy they are asking for from the court.

    For general civil actions and actions under the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act,

    the following terms are used:

    • The document filed to start the action is called a “Statement of Claim”
    • The party starting the action is called the “Plaintiff”
    • The party being sued by the Plaintiff is called the “Defendant”

    For actions under the Family Law Act, the following terms are used:

    • The document filed to start the action is called a “Claim”
    • The party starting the action is called the “Applicant”
    • The party being sued by the Applicant is called the “Respondent”
    Be Aware

    There are also additional forms that must be used when starting an action under the Family Law Act. For detailed information, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

    There are also certain actions that can be started by filing an “Originating Application.” For these types of actions:

    • The party starting the action is called the “Applicant”
    • The other party is called the “Respondent”

    For more information about the correct words to describe the parties and court actions, see these sections above:

    • “Proper words to describe the parties”
    • “Proper words to describe court actions”

    The document starting the action must be served on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that an action has been started. For more information about this important step, see the “Serving court documents” heading just below.

    Court fees

    It costs money to start a court action. Sometimes, you will also need to pay a fee if you are responding to an application that someone else started. The exact amount that you will need to pay will depend on what your legal issues are. Each court has a list for how much certain applications cost.

    Sometimes the fees are higher in the Court of Queen’s Bench. However, applications made under the Family Law Act cost the same for both courts.

    If you cannot afford the fee, both courts can “waive” your court fees if you meet the requirements. This means you would not have to pay them.

    For more information about this, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

    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

    Mediation and other services

    When an action is started, the parties may be required to attend mediation. For more information about mediation, see the following resource and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

    Web Family mediation
    Government of Alberta
    English

    The parties may also be required to attend other services available for family law matters. For example:

    • In Provincial Court, self-represented parties seeking an order for guardianship or parenting are required to attend a Caseflow Conference.
    • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, parents are required to attend the Parenting After Separation Course. See the heading below called “Parents who want to go to court” for more information.

    There is more information about these services just below under the “Pre-trial processes” heading.

    Parents who want to go to court: The Parenting After Separation course

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

    Depending on which court you are using, this course may be mandatory before you can ask the court to grant an order addressing your child-related family law issue.

    Queen's Bench

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

    Provincial Court

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

    For more information about PAS, see the following resource.

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

    Serving court documents

    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 court action has been started. Serving court documents is a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

    There are important rules about serving documents, including:

    • the way documents can be served;
    • time limits for serving documents;
    • what you can do if you cannot locate the person you wish to serve; and
    • what you can do if the other party lives outside of Alberta.

    There are also different rules about serving documents that apply to different types of actions. For example:

    • In an action under the Divorce Act, the Plaintiff cannot serve the Defendant. The documents must be served by someone else. There is no such rule for actions under the Family Law Act.
    • In an action under the Family Law Act, time limits for serving documents are very important. This is because these actions start with a court date already set. This means you have to make sure that the other party gets the notice as soon as possible.

    Once documents have been served, proof of that service has to be filed with the Court. The person who served the court documents will have to complete an “Affidavit of Service,” and this Affidavit must be filed with the Court.

    For more information about the rules that apply to serving court documents, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

    Responding to court documents

    If you have been served with documents that start a court action, you can file and serve documents in response. The documents you file will depend on how you wish to respond. You can:

    • agree with all of what the Plaintiff/Applicant has asked for;
    • disagree with some or all of what the Plaintiff/Applicant has asked for; and/or
    • ask for your own remedy from the court.

    The forms you file will depend on the cause of action and the level of court. For example:

    • If you are named as a “Defendant” in an action under the Divorce Act, you might choose to file a “Statement of Defence.”
    • If you are named as a “Respondent” in an action under the Family Law Act, you might choose to file a “Response - Family Law Act” along with “Reply Statements.”

    You have a limited amount of time to respond, so any response should be done quickly.

    For detailed information about your options for responding, see the Process tab of this Information Page. You will have to choose the appropriate level of court.

    Once you have determined how you wish to respond, your response documents must be filed with the court. Once they are filed, the documents must be served on the party who started the action. See the heading above called “Serving court documents” for more information about this important step.

    Be Aware

    If you do not respond at all, the judge may just give the Plaintiff/Applicant what they asked for.

    These initial documents (the documents starting the action plus the documents filed in response) are important because:

    • they identify the issues between the parties;
    • they describe each party’s position, or point of view, on those issues; and
    • courts will usually only grant a remedy if it has been asked for in these initial documents.
    Queen's Bench

    In the Court of Queen’s Bench these initial documents are called the “pleadings.”

    This is why it is so important to know your cause of action and the remedies available before you begin. For more information, see the “Family law causes of action” section above.

    Exchanging information

    In every court action, both parties must share relevant information with each other. This is called “discovery” or “disclosure.”

    There are rules about what information must be disclosed. However, there are also exceptions to these rules. For example, communications between a party and their lawyer should not be shared. Therefore, it is important that all of the parties involved understand their disclosure obligations.

    There are many reasons why information is shared:

    • it helps the parties see the strengths and weaknesses of their case;
    • it helps reduce the number of issues to be dealt with in court;
    • it can help parties reach a settlement; and
    • it makes the court process more efficient and fair.

    For most family law actions, there are specific forms that are used to request information and provide information. Generally, the focus is on property and financial information. For example:

    • Under the Matrimonial Property Act, both parties are required to file a “Matrimonial Property Statement” and provide a copy to the other party.
    • In an action for child support or spousal/partner support, both parties will be required to provide financial information to each other and the court. There are specific forms that must be used for doing this.
    Be Aware

    The processes for sharing information are also different between actions started in Provincial Court and those started in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information, see the Process tab of this Information Page. You will have to choose the appropriate level of court.

    Pre-trial processes: Court programs and resolution options

    Many people think that “going to court” means “going to trial.” This is not necessarily true. There are many “pre-trial” processes and services available that can help the parties resolve their issues before a trial. You can think of a trial as being one possible outcome of the court process.

    This section introduces you to court processes and programs that may be used in between starting the court action and going to trial. Some of these pre-trial processes will be required in certain situations. Others are optional. It will depend on the facts of the case. More detailed information about these processes is on the Process tab of this Information Page.

    In addition to these processes, the parties may need to apply to court for temporary remedies. This process is called making an “application.” It is a way for the parties to deal with issues in the time between starting an action and going to trial (which could be a long time). Often, the parties find that the court order they get after making an application works well enough that no further court action on that issue is needed. For more information about applications, see the “Getting temporary remedies” heading below.

    Remember

    There are also many forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that can help parties resolve their issues without having to go to court. ADR options can be used at any time, even after a court action has been started. For more information about these options, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services Programs

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

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

    A few examples of the kinds of help available from RCAS are described below.

    Triage services

    Triage is offered in both Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench, but only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. At triage, you will:

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

    Triage is not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

    Intake services

    Intake services are available in some locations across Alberta, for both Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. At intake, RCAS staff will discuss your options with you. This may include a referral to court-supported family mediation when appropriate. In some areas, a formal intake appointment is required if you are using the Family Law Act, and must be completed before any documents can be filed.

    Be Aware

    Intake is not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

    Family Court Counsellors

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

    Family Court Counsellors are available in Provincial Court in most of Alberta. They are also available in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but only in some areas, and only for matters under the Family Law Act.

    See the following resources for more information.

    Web Family court assistance
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Family court counsellor locations
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Judicial Dispute Resolution

    Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties to discuss any matters in dispute. If the parties have lawyers, they would attend too. JDR is intended to avoid dealing with all of the issues in court.

    “Non-binding” JDR

    JDR can be non-binding. This means the parties don’t have to follow what gets decided or what the judge says. This is the most common form of JDR. In a non-binding JDR, the parties present the issues and discuss possible solutions. Ideally, the judge will help the parties reach an agreement.

    • If an agreement is reached, the judge can grant an order right then and there.
    • If no agreement is reached, the judge may let the parties know what decision he or she would have made if this case had been presented in court. Sometimes, hearing this possible decision can help the parties reach an agreement without going to court, even though they could not reach an agreement right at that time.

    “Binding” JDR

    JDR can also be binding. In binding JDR:

    • Both parties present their positions.
    • Their lawyers (if they have lawyers) can make their arguments for their clients.
    • The judge makes a decision.

    Although the judge makes a decision, it is not the same as going to court. There are not the same rules and processes. It is much more informal, and there can even be direct questions and answers with the judge. Binding JDR is less common than non-binding JDR. Only some judges are willing to take part in a binding JDR.

    The JDR process is confidential. Anything you say, or any document that is created, is confidential and “without prejudice.” This means it cannot be used as evidence in any later court proceedings. The judge who takes part in the JDR cannot hear any of your future court hearings related to the dispute (or the trial, if there is one).

    In some areas of Alberta, there are not currently enough judges available to meet the demand for JDR. If you would like to try JDR, talk to your lawyer or Resolution and Court Administration Services. They can help you decide about whether it could work for you and when there might be a date available.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    For more information about JDR, see the following resources.

    Web Judicial Dispute Resolution (Alberta)
    Government of Canada
    English

    PDF Client Guide to Judicial Dispute Resolution
    Field Law
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    PDF Guidelines for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF A Handbook on Judicial Dispute Resolution for Canadian Lawyers
    Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch
    English
    This resource can be a challenge to readLearn more here.

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

    Book Stop the Fighting – Alternative Dispute Processes in Family Law (article included in "Family Law Boot Camp")
    Legal Education Society of Alberta
    English
    This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Access the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

    Interventions and assessments (Court of Queen’s Bench)

    If there are difficult matters involving children, the Court of Queen’s Bench may order an intervention or an assessment. These processes involve experts who evaluate the family’s situation and report to the court. These are covered in Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Note 7 and Practice Note 8.

    For detailed information about interventions and assessments, see the “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” section of the following Information Pages.

    For information about what Practice Notes are, see the “Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench” section above.

    Caseflow conferences

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

    Caseflow conferencing is only available in some judicial centres. The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in the cities where it is available. If you have a lawyer but would still like to use the program, you can request an appointment when filing your application.

    A Caseflow Coordinator will connect the parties with resources available to help them resolve their disputes. If the parties reach an agreement, the Caseflow Coordinator may prepare a Consent Order for them. This will finalize their matter without going before a judge.

    Case management & Family Law Conferences (Court of Queen’s Bench)

    Some court actions may have high conflict or there may just be a lot of difficulty moving the matter forward. In such situations, “case management” or a Family Law Conference may be used.

    Case management

    Case management is a process where one judge takes responsibility for helping the parties manage a court action. The Case Management Judge will:

    • advise and direct the parties on the steps that are required to prepare for trial;
    • explore possible areas of agreement or settlement; and
    • make any procedural orders that are needed.

    The parties can apply for case management or the Chief Justice may order that the matter be assigned to a Case Management Judge.

    The parties may also be referred to Case Management Counsel. These are senior lawyers who are appointed under the Court of Queen’s Bench Act to act in a way similar to a Case Management Judge. They will discuss litigation plans, explore settlement, and generally advise the parties as to how to proceed effectively.

    For more information about case management, see the following resources.


    Web Case Management Counsel in the Court of Queen’s Bench
    Legal Education Society of Alberta
    English

    PDF Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta: Notice to the Profession: Case Management Counsel Pilot Project
    Government of Alberta
    English
    This resource describes the project in its early stages. It is now no longer just a pilot project. All of the information still applies. Also, this program is now available outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

    Web Case Management: The Pros and Cons
    Vogel LLP
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    Family Law Conferences

    Be Aware

    In many judicial centres, Family Law Conferences are no longer used. Instead, case management is used. For information on what is available in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    A Family Law Conference is an informal meeting between the parties and a judge (who is called the “Conference Justice”). The Conference Justice will not be the trial judge, unless the parties agree. Family Law Conferences may be requested by the parties or ordered by the Court.

    Family Law Conferences have 2 main purposes:

    1. Settling issues. The parties are encouraged to outline their settlement proposals and identify their positions on the issues.
    2. Case management. The purpose of case management is to prepare the parties for trial. The parties must identify the evidence they intend to use and discuss how much time they will need at trial. The parties will try to agree on as many of the facts as possible before the trial. If the matter is not ready for trial, the parties will discuss what steps are still required.

    The Conference Justice will give a report to the trial coordinator about any directions he or she gave regarding case management. The trial coordinator is the person who is responsible for scheduling trials for the Court. The Justice can also order the parties to take additional steps or provide up-to-date information in preparation for trial.

    For more information on Family Law Conferences, see the following resource.

    Dispute Resolution Officer or Child Support Resolution Officer programs

    The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is offered in Calgary, and the Child Support Resolution Officer (CSRO) program is offered in Edmonton. Both programs allow parties who want to apply for child support or change their child support to meet together with a senior family lawyer.

    In Calgary:

    • The DRO program is mandatory for all applications in the Court of Queen’s Bench for child support or to change child support. There are some exceptions to this requirement.
    • The DRO program is available for those making child support applications in the Provincial Court.
    • The DRO program is available for those who have not yet filed an application, but simply want to meet to discuss child support.

    In Edmonton, the CSRO program is mandatory for self-represented parties in the Court of Queen’s Bench who want to apply for child support or change child support.

    For more information about these programs, see the following resource and the  Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page or the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

    Web Resolving child support disputes
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Consent Orders

    At any time, the parties can agree on some or all of the issues between them. In some cases, the parties may want or need to turn that agreement into a court order. This is called a Consent Order.

    There are differences in the procedures for getting Consent Orders in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example:

    • In Provincial Court, the court clerks will prepare the Order, file it, and send it to the parties.
    • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Order must be prepared ahead of time and signed by the parties before it is signed by a judge in chambers. It must then be filed and served on the other party.

    See the Process tab of this Information Page for detailed information about getting a Consent Order.

    Getting temporary remedies (making “applications”)

    The time between starting an action and going to trial can be quite lengthy. Depending on the situation, it can take anywhere from months to years. Often, there will be issues that need to be addressed very quickly. For example, it may be necessary to make arrangements for child custody and child support right away. Or, perhaps one party needs a court order right away to deal with a technical issue, such as a problem with serving court documents.

    To deal with these situations, parties can apply to court for a temporary (also called “interim”) remedy. For these applications, the judge’s decision is called an “order.” This is different from a “judgment,” which is the final decision of the court in an action.

    Common examples of interim remedies include the following.

    • Parenting and access arrangements for children
    • Child support
    • Spousal or partner support
    • Requiring the other party to disclose information
    • Exclusive possession of a home (Court of Queen’s Bench only)
    • Resolving service issues (for example, if one party cannot locate the other party to serve them)
    • “Injunctions.” An injunction is an order that stops someone from doing something. For example, a party could apply in court for an injunction to stop the other party from disposing of property that may need to be divided. Injunctions are only available in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    There are processes for parties who wish to ask the court for interim remedies. There are differences in these processes between Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    Provincial Court

    In Provincial Court, you can ask for interim remedies in docket court. When you start an action in Provincial Court, a date is chosen for the matter to be heard in docket court. At that time, the judge may grant an interim order if needed. Or, if you want to ask the court for a remedy sooner, you can ask for the docket court date to be moved up.

    Queen's Bench

    In the Court of Queen’s Bench, a separate “application” is made for an interim order after an action has been started. These applications are heard in chambers. There are additional rules and procedures that apply to applications that are heard in chambers. There are also differences in the forms used, depending on which law is being used.

    Hearings in docket court and chambers are not like trials. The evidence is provided in writing and shared between the parties before the hearing. The parties, or their lawyers, have a short time to explain what they are asking for. The judge will usually make a decision and issue an order.

    Some orders will truly be temporary. Matters such as service issues or injunctions will generally be a one-time application to deal with a particular problem. The main issues between the parties will still need to be addressed.

    However, some separating couples can actually resolve their issues through interim applications. For example, they may get an “interim” order for child custody and support, and find that it works just fine. They may move forward with those orders and never need to go to trial. Other couples may still need to go to trial to resolve their issues (sometimes all of their issues, sometimes only some of them).

    Remember

    Even though a court action has been started, the parties can settle the issues between them at any time.

    Be Aware

    Parties can apply to change an existing order or judgment as well. For example, one party’s income may have changed significantly and a child support order may have to be changed accordingly. For more information, see the heading below called “Changing judgments and orders.”

    See the Process tab of this Information Page for detailed information about interim applications.

    For more basic information about applications, see the following resource.

    Web Pre-Trial Applications FAQs
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Trial

    A trial may be required if the parties are not able to come to an agreement after exchanging information and making any interim applications.

    Family law matters in Provincial Court are less formal and do not necessarily lead to a trial. Judges in Provincial Court can decide matters on an interim or final basis when they hear them in docket court. The judge may also decide that a short hearing or a trial is necessary. If the judge orders a trial, the parties may have to attend a pre-trial conference to explore settlement and make sure they are ready for trial.

    The trial process in the Court of Queen’s Bench is more complicated.

    • Matters under the Family Law Act are first heard in chambers. The judge may decide matters on an interim or final basis. The judge may also order that a short oral hearing or a trial be held.
    • Matters under the Divorce Act, matters under the Matrimonial Property Act, and claims for unjust enrichment will go to trial if the parties cannot agree.

    There are processes for the conduct of a trial and the use of witnesses and other evidence. Once the trial is complete, the Court will make a decision and issue a judgment.

    Provincial Court

    In Provincial Court, the court clerk will prepare the judgment and send it to the parties.

    Queen's Bench

    In the Court of Queen’s Bench, one of the parties (usually the successful party) is required to draft the judgment. To learn about how this is done, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

    For an introduction to trials in family law matters, see the following resource.

    Video The Court Process: Trials
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Enforcing judgments and orders

    When a court issues a judgment or an order, the parties are legally required to obey it.

    Some judgments by the Court do not require any enforcement. For example, a Divorce Judgment will automatically end the marriage after appeal period is over. Nothing else needs to be done for this to happen.

    Other judgments and orders may require enforcement. For example, if one party is not paying support as required in an order, the other party may have to take steps to enforce the order.

    For support issues, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) can help. Most judgments and orders will contain wording that will allow the parties to register with the MEP.

    For judgments and orders about the care and control of children (such as guardianship, parenting time, custody, access, and contact), there are a 2 ways to ensure it is followed.

    • An “enforcement clause” can be added to the order or judgment. This allows the police to help enforce the order if necessary.
    • Parties can apply for an Enforcement Order under the Family Law Act. Enforcement Orders can apply to orders under the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act. An Enforcement Order allows the Court to give penalties, order make-up time, and direct the police to get involved.

    For judgments and orders about the division of property, enforcement may require additional legal processes. A judgment or order for the payment of money can be enforced through the seizure of property. This is called “civil enforcement.” There are specific legal steps that have to be taken. If this is required, you may want to speak to a lawyer about your options.

    Someone who does not obey a court order could be found to be “in contempt of court.” If someone is found in contempt of court, they may be fined, imprisoned, or both. Although rare in family law cases, the penalties can be serious.

    Changing judgments and orders

    The law recognizes that people’s circumstances change over time. These changes may affect certain family law arrangements, such as child custody and the payment of support.

    For example, a person may be paying child support based on an annual income of $60,000. If that person gets a new job and their income rises to $80,000 per year, then the court order may have to be changed because the amount of child support should be based on the new income.

    Another example might be where separated parents have a court order stating that parenting time is to be shared equally. If one of those parents is no longer able to share parenting time (perhaps due to illness or having to move for a new job), then the parenting time order may have to be changed.

    The Family Law Act and the Divorce Act allow parties to apply to court to “vary” an existing order if there is a change in circumstances as described in the legislation. This applies to:

    • Custody and access orders under the Divorce Act
    • Guardianship, parenting, and contact orders under the Family Law Act
    • Child support and spousal/partner support under the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act

    Not every change, by itself, will allow for a new court order. There are legal tests that have to be met. See the Information Pages that apply to you for more information. You can find a list of these topics on the Legal Topics page.

    If the legal requirements are met, either party may apply to the court that granted the initial order to change the order.

    Be Aware

    Varying a judgment or order is not the same as an appeal. Varying a court order requires a change in circumstances, as described in the legislation. An appeal is asking a higher court to overturn all or a part of a lower court’s decision.

    Appeals

    If a party believes that a judge made a serious error when issuing a decision, that party may ask a higher court to review the matter and make a different decision. This process is called an “appeal.” The person filing for an appeal is called the “appellant.”

    Grounds to appeal

    You cannot appeal a decision simply because you do not like it. You must have a valid legal reason to appeal a decision. These reasons are called “grounds” to appeal. If you are thinking of appealing a court decision, consider the following.

    • Higher courts will only consider appeals if there is evidence that the lower court committed a serious error. Simply disagreeing with the result is not enough.
    • There are additional forms, processes, costs, and time limits to consider. Appeals are complex and must be done within a short time of the original decision.
    • If your appeal is unsuccessful, you will likely have to pay the other party’s costs.

    The kinds of “serious errors” that may justify an appeal typically fall into 2 categories:

    • An error of law. The appellant will have to show that the judge made a mistake when applying the law.
    • A substantial error of fact. The appellant will have to show that the judge got an important fact wrong and then used that incorrect fact as the basis for their decision.

    Whether you have grounds for an appeal is a complicated legal question. You may wish to speak with a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    The appeal process

    Decisions of the Provincial Court for matters under the Family Law Act may be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench. You will need to get the permission of the Provincial Court before making an appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench if:

    • the decision being appealed is a consent order or consent judgment; or
    • the order only relates to costs (a decision by the judge that one party has to pay some of the costs of going to court for the other party).

    Court of Queen’s Bench decisions (other than those granted in Master’s Chambers) can be appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal. In some cases, you will need to get the permission of the Alberta Court of Appeal before making an appeal. For example:

    • If the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench is on an appeal from Provincial Court. In that situation, only errors of law or jurisdiction may be heard by the Court of Appeal, and only with the permission of the Court of Appeal.
    • If the decision being appealed is a consent order or consent judgment.
    • If the decision being appealed only relates to costs.
    • If the decision being appealed relates to an interim application (before the trial).

    There are other situations where appeals require permission. These are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court.

    Orders given in Master’s Chambers are appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Chambers.

    Remember

    Appeals are complicated and require detailed legal research and analysis. They can also be expensive. You may wish to consider talking to a lawyer before considering an appeal. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Courtroom etiquette

    In addition to the rules about court processes, there is certain behaviour that is expected in court. This is called “courtroom etiquette.” Knowing how to behave will help the process go more smoothly.

    It can be helpful to get familiar with courtroom behaviour and procedures before you are scheduled to appear in court. You may wish to go to court to watch how proceedings are conducted so you know what to expect.

    See the following resources for more information about how to act and dress in court.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    See p. 29-30.

    PDF Coping with the Courtroom: Essential Tips and Information for Self-represented Litigants
    The National Self-Represented Litigants Project
    English

    Audio Coping With The Courtroom Audio Copy
    The National Self-Represented Litigants Project
    English

    Web Courtroom etiquette
    Government of Alberta
    English


    Video Tips on Court Protocol
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This is a private source from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Pointers for Representing yourself in the Courtroom
    Government of Nova Scotia
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Tips for conducting your Supreme Court trial
    Legal Services Society
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Interactive Virtual Court Tours
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Process

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

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

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

    This Information Page contains general information about court processes.

    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 the court system better. Once you have that introduction, you will be in a better position to learn about specific processes in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has general information about:

    • the court processes that are required for most family law matters; and
    • the court processes and services that are available to help you work through many family law matters.

    There are 2 trial courts that are used for most family law matters in Alberta:

    • the Provincial Court; and
    • the Court of Queen’s Bench.

    Because these courts have different processes and services, there is one tab for Provincial Court, and one tab for the Court of Queen’s Bench. See the “Alberta’s two-court system” section below for information about the differences.

    This Information Page has general information about court rules and processes that can apply to every family case. More detailed information about specific topics is on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support.

    For a list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    Family Violence

    For information specific to family violence and how family violence can affect the legal process, see the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page.

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

    • read the information below;
    • understand how it applies to your situation; and
    • know what actions you may need to take.
    Alberta’s two-court system

    In some provinces, any “family law” matter goes to a specialized family court: everyone is in the same court. This is not the case in Alberta. In Alberta:

    • you may have to go to the Court of Queen’s Bench for certain matters; or
    • you may have a choice of using the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example, to get certain remedies under the Family Law Act.

    Some of the things that you can only get in Queen’s Bench include:

    • a divorce;
    • a Maintenance Enforcement Support Agreement;
    • a Declaration of Parentage;
    • exclusive possession of the home or other property;
    • division of property issues; and
    • some protective orders.

    Each of the courts has different requirements, rules, forms, and services. Also, there are certain things you can only request in one of the two courts. Therefore, depending on what your situation requires, the choice of court can be a critical factor.

    If you decide to go to court, you will want to read about ALL of the topics that you need to address, before deciding which court is best for you.

    Be Aware

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

    For general information on the differences between the 2 courts, see the following resource and the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Information Page.

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

    You will now be asked to make a choice.

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

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

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

    Provincial Court

    Learn more about going to Provincial Court to deal with your family law matters. See the sections below for information about:

    • Starting and responding to a Claim
    • Serving court documents
    • Exchanging information
    • Pre-trial processes
    • Appearing in docket court
    • Orders and enforcement
    Be Aware

    This tab provides an overview of the processes that apply to, or are available for, most family law matters under the Family Law Act. This tab does not deal with the processes for Provincial Court in other kinds of civil matters.

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

    Provincial Court: The basics

    The Provincial Court is the lower trial court in Alberta. This may be the only court that a person goes to. Or, it may be the first court a person goes to before they go to a higher court.

    The Provincial Court only deals with certain types of cases. These include most family matters, but not divorce or division or property.

    If you are going to Provincial Court for a family law issue, one of the most important sets of rules to know about is the Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation. This is a regulation under the Family Law Act that sets out the basic structure and rules for family law actions (including applications) in Provincial Court.

    Be Aware

    There is no single source for rules that apply to court actions. You may also need to know about rules that are set out in other legislation. For an introduction to other rules that may apply, see the “Rules for Provincial Court” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

    The sections that follow only provide an overview of Provincial Court processes. The information below describes procedures for a typical family law claim. For example, a claim about parenting time and child support. It is not a step-by-step guide for going to Provincial Court.

    Also, the processes may change depending on your circumstances. Process information that is specific to a particular family law issue is on the Process tab of the Information Page for that topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    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 “Pre-trial processes” section below.

    For more information about the overall structure of a court action in the Provincial Court of Alberta, see the following resources.

    Web File an application or claim in court
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Alberta court procedures
    Government of Alberta
    English
     

    Web You have been served - What now?
    First Stop Family Law
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    The Provincial Court: A warning about rules

    The information and resources provided on this Process tab are based on the laws and rules that apply to court processes for family law matters. You may find that the processes, forms, or rules are somewhat different in practice if you go to court. This is because:

    • rules and laws can change quickly;
    • sometimes individual courts set slightly different rules for how matters are to be brought before them; and
    • these slightly different rules can change between judicial centres.  

    To get the most accurate information about court processes in your judicial centre, you can:

    • contact Resolution and Court Administration Services; or
    • contact the clerk’s office at your courthouse.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English
    How Provincial Court works for family law matters

    This section explains how Provincial Court is different for family law matters than it is for other civil law matters.

    How a typical lawsuit works

    In a typical lawsuit (where one person wants to sue another person), you ask the Court for help by filing a document to start the action. For example, you may file a Statement of Claim. That document sets out the issues and the remedy you are asking for. This starts a court process that is intended to be resolved at a trial.

    However, some parties can resolve their issues before a trial. For example:

    • There may be “applications” (a kind of court hearing) to the court that are made to temporarily resolve issues within the action. The orders resulting from these applications may sometimes work as permanent solutions for the parties.
    • There are also programs and services that can help people resolve their issues before going to trial. For example: mediation.

    As a result, some legal actions can be resolved before a trial is necessary. However, in general the system is designed to lead to trial.

    How a family law action works

    The process is different for family law matters.

    • As described above, a dispute in a typical lawsuit will go to trial unless it is resolved early.
    • Generally, a family law matter in Provincial Court will only go to trial if it cannot be resolved early.

    This is because the judicial system recognizes that going to trial can take a long time and can be very expensive. Families need solutions more quickly and without great expense. As a result, Judges in Provincial Court are more active in exploring and encouraging settlement between the parties, so they do not have to go to trial.

    When you start a family law action in Provincial Court, you will schedule a date for a hearing in docket court. A docket court hearing is a short appearance before a Judge. In docket court, the Judge can make decisions that:

    • are immediately necessary; and
    • help the action move toward settlement.

    Some people find that temporary arrangements made by a Judge in docket court are enough. These people do not need to return to court. Others may need future appearances in docket court. At each appearance, the Judge will work to resolve the outstanding issues. If a trial becomes necessary, it will be ordered by the Judge.

    Choosing whether to go to court

    The following resource has information on things you should think about when deciding whether to go to court.

    Video Ready – Set – Go? : Most Family Law Cases Don't Go to Trial
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    There are many options to help parties resolve their issues without the need for a trial. These can be quite effective and it is a good idea to learn more about them. See the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

    Starting a court action: The “Claim,” “Statements,” and “Affidavits”

    When you apply for help from the Court, it is called “asking for a remedy” or “asking for relief” from the Court.

    To apply to the Provincial Court for help:

    • You must first file a “Claim” form to start an action. The Claim form sets out what you want from the Court.
    • You will use forms called “Statements” to provide the evidence that the Court will use to make a decision.
    • In some situations, you can also use “Affidavits” to provide evidence.

    The rest of this section discusses all of these forms in more detail.

    When you “file” a Claim, you prepare the necessary documents and give them to the Court.

    Remember

    The Provincial Court cannot deal with certain family law matters. For more information, see the “Family law causes of action” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

    Claim

    The person starting the action is called the “Applicant.” The person who has the Claim filed against them is the called the “Respondent.”

    To start the action, the Applicant must fill out the Claim form. It sets out the remedy that is being asked for.

    Be Aware

    There may be more than one Respondent. For example, Child Support Services may have to be named as a Respondent if you are receiving social assistance. To learn about who may have to be named as a Respondent, see the Information Pages for each particular topic that applies to you. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    You can ask for more than one remedy in a single Claim form. For example: guardianship, parenting time, and child support can all be included in one Claim.

    It is very important to include all of the topics you want the Court to decide about. The Claim is like the table of contents of a book—it gives the outline of the book. In other words, the Claim clearly states what needs to be done in order to resolve the dispute, including:

    • what issues need to be dealt with; and
    • what questions need to be answered.

    Later, you will provide more detail for each “chapter” of your Claim. This will be done through the evidence in your Statements (see below).

    Be Aware

    If you do not include all of the topics you want addressed in your Claim and Statements, you may not be able to get the remedy you need from the Court. You cannot simply add another topic at the court hearing. Instead, you would have to file an “Amended Claim.” To do that, you would need to complete the Claim form again. On this form you would repeat the original information, and add all of the new information. If you do this, your court hearing may be moved to a later date to give the other party enough time to respond to the changes.

    You cannot start a Claim in any other way. If you do not complete this paperwork properly, your court action will not go ahead.

    Tip

    More detailed information about completing a Claim form is on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    Statements

    Statements are a kind of document that you use to give the Court your “evidence.” You include the facts that you will rely on when making your Claim. Statements must be “sworn” or “affirmed” to be true. See the “Finalizing your court documents” section below for information about what this means.

    When you complete a Claim under the Family Law Act (FLA), you also complete one or more Statements. They are mostly “fill in the blank” forms. You will need one Statement for each topic you are asking the Court to address. For example: there is a “Statement - Parenting” and a “Statement - Partner Support.”

    Tip

    The Statements you need to fill out are included on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    You may also be able to file an Affidavit in support of your FLA Claim. Affidavits are generally not “fill in the blank” forms. Instead, you include what you want to say in numbered paragraphs. There is more information about Affidavits just below. An Affidavit can be used to:

    • provide more evidence than can be included in a Statement; or
    • provide evidence from someone else.
    Be Aware

    Information that you include in a Statement or an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. For more information, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below.

    You will need to understand the laws that apply to each remedy you are asking for. That way, you will know what information you need to include in your Statements. For an overview of things you can include in your Statements and detailed information about providing written evidence, see the following resource.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    Although this resource describes the process for making an “application” using an Affidavit, the information on pages 14-15 about writing affidavits also applies to properly writing evidence in Statements.
    Be Aware

    Depending on your situation, you may need additional paperwork or court documents. For example, you may need financial information from your former partner so you can deal with child support, partner support, or property division. If this is the case, you may need to also file a “Request for Financial Information.” These additional documents are described on the Process tabs of the Information Pages related to each topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    Affidavits

    An Affidavit is a document that is used to give the court evidence in legal proceedings. The person who completes an Affidavit may be called the “deponent.”

    Affidavits are generally not “fill in the blank” forms. Instead, you include what you want to say in numbered paragraphs. Like Statements, Affidavits must be “sworn” or “affirmed” to be true. See the “Finalizing your court documents” section below for information about what this means.

    A common example of an Affidavit in a legal action is an “Affidavit of Service.” An Affidavit of Service is used when someone serves legal documents on the other party, and they swear that they gave the documents to that person. This provides proof to the Court that the other party was properly served. See the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section below for more information about serving legal documents.

    In many cases under the Family Law Act, Affidavits other than the “Affidavit of Service” are not used very much. This is because there are specific Statements for most issues (see just above).

    However, you may also be able to include an Affidavit to go along with your Claim and Statements. For example, you may do this when you want to provide more evidence than can be included in a Statement. You can attach copies of evidence (for example: letters, bank statements, or pictures) to Affidavits as “exhibits.” See the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below for more information about exhibits.

    Also, other people who have evidence that may be useful can also complete Affidavits (and exhibits) to give that evidence to the court. This evidence must be relevant to the issues between the parties.

    When you complete a Claim under other laws, there may not be pre-printed Statements for your issue. In such a case, you would need to provide your evidence using an Affidavit.

    Remember

    Information that you include in a Statement or an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. For more information, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below.

    If you want to include an Affidavit with your Claim, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help using the correct form.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Completing Statements and Affidavits (including evidence)

    Most people who start a family law action in Provincial Court will only need to use Statements to support their Claim. Statements are mostly “fill in the blank” forms that are fairly straightforward. However, there are places in the Statements where you will need to write out evidence that supports your Claim.

    Some Affidavits are “fill in the blank” forms (for example, the Affidavit of Service). However, Affidavits that are used to provide additional evidence are mostly blank and the person swearing the Affidavit will need to write out their evidence.

    Another important difference between Statements and Affidavits is that Statements can be used to make “arguments.” An “argument” in a legal action is a reason for the request you are making. An example of an argument is: “I should have most of the parenting time because my work schedule allows me to work from home more often and our son will benefit from having me there.”

    Those types of arguments, or reasons, can be summarized in Statements, along with the evidence used to support the arguments. However, Affidavits should be limited to describing evidence only.

    Tips for describing evidence

    When giving additional evidence in a Statement or Affidavit, it must be only facts that are:

    • relevant to the issues between the parties; and
    • personally known by the person completing the Statement or Affidavit.

    Statements and Affidavits should not be used to provide opinions, especially about the other party. An example of an “opinion” statement that should not be used is:

    “The Respondent was using drugs all weekend around our son.”

    If you were not actually there all weekend, then you cannot say that. Instead, state briefly what you actually observed. For example:

    “I picked up our son on the evening of March 12, 2017. When the Respondent opened the door, I noticed that his eyes were red and glassy and there was a strong smell of marijuana inside the home.”

    They should also not be used to provide facts that simply make the other party look bad if those facts are not relevant to the issues. For example:

    “As a teenager, the Respondent used to get in fights all the time and would steal bikes and sell them so he could buy drugs.”

    That type of information should only be included if it is directly relevant to the current issues. For example, if the issues involve parenting time and child support:

    • If the Respondent only did those things as a teenager but is now 35 years old with a steady job, then it is probably not relevant. Especially if you only want to include it to make them look bad.
    • However, if you overhear that Respondent telling your child that stealing and doing drugs “can be fun” then it may be relevant to making a decision about parenting.

    Other tips for describing evidence in Affidavits and Statements include:

    • Sentences should be short and to the point. Do not try to use complex language or “legalese” if plain language will do.
    • Refer to yourself as “I” and “me,” not “the Applicant.”
    • Be precise and organized. For example, write about things in the order they happened.
    • Be balanced and fair. Do not exaggerate or use overly emotional language.

    Tips for completing Affidavits

    As described above, an Affidavit that is used to provide additional evidence will not be a “fill in the blank” form. Instead, the evidence will have to be written out using the following guidelines.

    • Affidavits must be written using a list of numbered paragraphs.
    • Each paragraph should be no more than a few short sentences about a particular fact.
    • The facts should be organized in a way that makes the evidence easy to understand. For example, in the order that events happened.
    • Numbers should be written using actual numerals. For example, “3” instead of “three.”
    • Dates can be written using numerals too. For example, “September 23, 2016.”

    If you wish to include other evidence, you can attach it to your Affidavit as an “exhibit” (see below).

    Exhibits

    An “exhibit” is a piece of evidence that is provided to the Court. When a person wants to include evidence with the documents they give to the Court, they can attach the evidence as part of an Affidavit. When evidence is attached to an Affidavit, it is an “exhibit” to that Affidavit.

    Exhibits can be all sorts of things. For example, you may wish to attach a letter, a bank statement, or an email. However, a letter from someone saying you are a good person is not a proper exhibit. If someone has first-hand knowledge of facts that the Court might need to make a decision, that person must make and swear an Affidavit of their own.

    You must refer to the exhibit in your Affidavit. For example: “On February 1st, I received a bank statement from ABC Bank showing that our joint chequing account was overdrawn. That letter is attached to this Affidavit as Exhibit A.”

    Tip

    You only need to bold the name of the exhibit the first time you mention it. If you have more than one exhibit, mark them A, B, C, etc., and arrange them alphabetically. Number the pages of each exhibit starting from page 1.

    If the Affidavit along with its exhibits is 25 pages or more, you must use separate tabs for each exhibit and:

    • the pages within each tab must be numbered; or
    • the pages of the Affidavit and all exhibits must be numbered using a single series of numbers.

    When you take the Affidavit to be sworn, you must also take all your exhibits. (See the “Finalizing your court documents” section below for more information about “swearing” documents.) The Commissioner for Oaths must identify each exhibit mentioned in the Affidavit. To do this, they sign a certificate that they stamp on the exhibit. The certificate will say something like: “This is Exhibit A referred to in the Affidavit of Jamie Doe sworn (or affirmed) before me on July 1st, 2017.”

    More information

    There are many things to think about when providing evidence in your court paperwork. There are also many sources of evidence today that were not available in the past. For each one, there are different approaches and rules to consider.

    See the resources below for more things to consider about:

    • completing Statements and Affidavits in general; and
    • specific types of evidence (such as voicemail, email, texts, and social media posts).

    For more information about completing Statements and Affidavits, see the following resources.

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

    Web Tips for drafting an affidavit
    Legal Services Society
    English
    This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

    Web Witnesses, Interpreters, Evidence and Preparing For Court
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Start at “Evidence.”

    Web How Do I Prepare an Affidavit?
    Clicklaw
    English
    This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

    PDF Writing an Affidavit
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    This resource is written for people who have experienced family violence, but the general information applies to everyone.

    Video Episode 202: Evidence in Family Court - Web Extra: John Schuman
    AdviceScene (via YouTube)
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF How Not to Present Evidence in a Family Law Case
    Ontario Bar Association
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Legal Writing
    Justice Education Society
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Evidence
    Justice Education Society
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF A Guide to Preparing Your Affidavit
    Justice Education Society
    English
    Note that this resource is from British Columbia, but the general information about completing affidavits applies in Alberta too.

    Web Evidence Inventory Worksheet
    Justice Education Society
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    For more information about email, texting, video, or audio recordings in evidence, see the following resources.

    Web Thinking of Snooping on Spouse’s Email? Read This First
    Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Are tape recordings admissible evidence in Family Court proceedings?
    Barriston Law LLP
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Collecting and Authenticating Online Evidence
    Canadian Bar Association
    English

    Web Texting and Family Law – Top 3 Things to Know
    Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Reasonable Doubt: Creating good evidence for family law cases in the midst of computer rage
    Vancouver Free Press
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Before you post: The use of social media in family law cases
    McKenzie Lake Lawyers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF The Ten Evidence “Rules” That Every Family Law Lawyer Needs to Know
    Law Society of Saskatchewan
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

    Web Recent case law: Admissibility of video recordings
    Luke's Place
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF Social Media Evidence in Family Law Proceedings
    Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

    Web Can secret recordings of your interactions with the other parent be used as evidence?
    Daniel Gloade, Barrister and Solicitor
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web The Admissibility of Surreptitious Tape Recordings as Evidence in a Custody Review
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.


    For more information about social media in evidence, see the following resources.
    Web Collecting and Authenticating Online Evidence
    Canadian Bar Association
    English

    Video In The Know - Social media and divorce
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English

    Web Reasonable Doubt: Your social media activity can impact your family law case
    NOW Communications Inc.
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Before you post: The use of social media in family law cases
    McKenzie Lake Lawyers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Video Watch What You Post!
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Video Can my Facebook page hurt my family law case? - Social Media
    AdviceScene (via YouTube)
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Reasonable Doubt: Creating good evidence for family law cases in the midst of computer rage
    Vancouver Free Press
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF Social Media Evidence in Family Law Proceedings
    Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

    Web Think before you text!
    Siskinds Law
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Posts from the ‘Texting & Email and Divorce’ Category
    Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
    Finalizing your court documents: Reviewing and “swearing” them

    Once you know which documents you will be using and what information you will be including in them, you can finalize the documents. This is done by:

    • having the documents reviewed; and
    • “swearing” the documents.

    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” documents to be used in court

    Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. 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.”

    To prove that a document has been sworn or affirmed properly, it must be done in front of a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public (see below for more information about the difference). Also, you must take government-issued photo identification with you. The person who swears the documents for you must verify who you are.

    You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services can also help with this.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Be Aware

    It is a criminal offence to swear information that you know is false. It is considered “perjury,” or lying under oath. The punishment can range anywhere from a fine up to 14 years in prison.

    Commissioner for Oaths

    A Commissioner for Oaths is an official who has the power to administer oaths and affirmations for documents to be used in Alberta. Commissioners for Oaths are appointed under, and get their authority from, the Notaries and Commissioners Act.

    The Commissioner for Oaths will:

    • administer (say) the oath or affirmation to you;
    • ask you to confirm that everything in the document is true;
    • witness your signature; and
    • sign the document as well to confirm that they administered the oath or affirmation.

    The part of the document that the Commissioner for Oaths signs is called the “jurat.” A jurat will look something like this: “Sworn (or affirmed) before me at the City of Red Deer, in the Province of Alberta, this 22nd day of March, 2016. A Commissioner for Oaths in and for the Province of Alberta.”

    Commissioners can often be found working in banks or real estate offices. Many Commissioners are appointed for a limited time. Commissioners who are appointed for a limited time have to include the expiry date of their appointment whenever they “commission” a document.

    Some people are automatically Commissioners for Oaths. These include lawyers and Notaries Public. These people remain Commissioners for as long as they hold that other “office.” For example, as long as a lawyer remains an active lawyer, they will also remain a Commissioner for Oaths.

    For more information about Commissioners for Oaths, see the following resources.

    Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Web What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?
    Patriot Law Group
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    Notary Public

    A Notary Public is similar to a Commissioner for Oaths, but has more powers:

    • A Notary Public may deal with documents that will be used outside of Alberta. For example, an Affidavit to be used in a lawsuit being conducted in the United States.
    • A Notary Public may also certify documents as being true copies of an original.
    • A Notary Public who is a lawyer or a judge may also certify contracts and commercial instruments, such as a promissory note.

    Like Commissioners for Oaths, Notaries Public can be appointed for a limited time or they can be automatically Notaries because of holding some other office (for example, lawyers).

    Every document that a Notary Public deals with must be stamped with the seal of the Notary Public, and contain in his or her name the words “Notary Public” and “Province of Alberta.” On each document, the Notary Public must:

    • clearly sign his or her name; and
    • include the date on which their appointment will expire. Or, if they are a lawyer or a judge, indicate that occupation or status.

    For more information about Notaries Public, see the following resources.

    Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Web What is a “Notary” and why do I need one?
    Patriot Law Group
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.
    Applicants: Filing your Claim documents

    Once your Claim documents are finalized and you are ready to start the court action, you can file the documents with the Court. When you do so, there are several things you need to know about, including:

    • Choosing the correct judicial centre
    • Filing your paperwork
    • Court fees (also called “filing fees”)

    These are described below.

    Be Aware

    When you file your Claim documents, you may be told to participate in a court program. For more information, see the section below called “Court programs and services.”

    Choosing the correct judicial centre

    Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). In Provincial Court, your situation will determine where you must file your documents.

    • If there are no children involved in the court action, you must file your documents and go to court in the judicial centre where you live.
    • If your Claim involves a child, the matter should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives.

    For example:

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

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

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

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

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Filing your 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. The number of copies you need will be different depending on the cause of action and how many respondents there are. However, the usual minimum is 3 copies. You can contact the Provincial Court and ask in advance how many copies you will need.

    You file the documents at the Provincial Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    When you hand your documents to the clerk at the Courthouse, they will check everything over to make sure your documents meet the legal requirements. If your documents do not meet these requirements, the clerks will reject them. You will have to take them away and fix whatever problems the clerk identified. The clerks cannot give you advice or make changes to documents for you. This is why it is important to take the time to learn the requirements and check your documents over before going to the Courthouse to file them. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    If your documents meet the legal requirements and are filed by the clerk, you will have to pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to consider:

    • the amount of notice that you need to give the Respondent (see the “Applicants: Serving the Claim on the Respondent: How and when” section below);
    • how much time the other party needs to respond; and
    • how much time you and the other party may need to review each other’s documents and evidence (see the “Exchanging evidence” section below).

    After you have picked a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your Claim. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you.

    All documents must have a court stamp on them to show that they were properly filed. This will usually look like a circular stamp with the word “Filed,” the date, and the judicial centre. These stamped copies are what you will need to “serve” the documents.

    Be Aware

    When you go to file your court documents to start the action, the clerk may direct you to one of the court programs or services to assist parties with family law actions. You may need to attend one or more of these programs before the clerk will accept your documents for filing. For more information, see the “Court programs and services” section below.

    Court fees (also called “filing fees”)

    It costs money to start a court action. Sometimes, you will also need to pay a fee if you are responding to an application that someone else started. The exact amount that you will need to pay the court will depend on what your legal issues are. Each court has a list for how much certain applications cost.

    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
    Court programs and services

    There are programs and services available to help parties going through the court system. Some of them may be mandatory, which means that you must do them. This will depend on:

    • the type of legal action;
    • whether the program is available in your area; and
    • whether you are represented by a lawyer.

    You may be required to attend one of the following programs before the start of your court action or shortly after it is started:

    • Caseflow Conference
    • Resolution and Court Administration Services programs
    • Parenting After Separation course
    • Brief Conflict Intervention

    You may also ask to participate in some of these programs, even if it is not required. They are meant to help parties who have a family law action that involves children.

    Caseflow Conference

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

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

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in judicial centres where it is offered.

    You may also request a Caseflow Conference even if you have a lawyer or are only applying for child support. You can make this request when filing the documents to start your court action.

    If a Caseflow Conference is required or requested, your first appointment will be with a Caseflow Coordinator instead of appearing in court before a judge. The Caseflow Coordinator is the neutral third party who leads the Caseflow Conference.

    The Caseflow Conference allows the parties to discuss the issues in a private setting that is less formal than a courtroom. The parties are given information about resources available to help them resolve their conflict. For example: mediation, or attending training workshops such as Parenting After Separation (PAS) or Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS).

    This program is free. For more information on the program, see the following resources.

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

    Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Caseflow Conference Program
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Note that the Caseflow Conference Program is now available outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

    A few examples of the kinds of help available from RCAS are described below.

    Triage

    Triage is offered only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. At triage, you will:

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

    Intake

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

    For more information, see the following resources.

    Web Family court assistance
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Intake Services (Alberta)
    Government of Canada
    English

    Family Court Counsellors

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

    For more information, see the following resources.

    Web Family court assistance
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Family court counsellor locations
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Parenting After Separation Course

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

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

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

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

    For more information, see the following resources.   

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

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


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

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

    Brief Conflict Intervention

    Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI) is a service for parties who are not able to resolve parenting issues. This usually happens later in the process, after the parties have tried to resolve their issues in other ways.

    A specialist in parenting conflicts will spend up to 10 hours with the parties. The specialist helps the parties:

    • understand the needs of their children during separation;
    • understand the sources of the conflict and how it affects the children; and
    • reach an agreement about the conflict (if possible).

    At the end of the intervention, the specialist completes a report about the issues resolved and those remaining in dispute. The report does not provide specific recommendations, but it is available to the Court.

    Brief Conflict Intervention may be ordered by the Court. Referrals can also be made by lawyers, mediators, family professionals. Or the parties themselves can request it. Both parties must agree to participate in the intervention and are required to try mediation before using this service.

    Brief Conflict Intervention is available across Alberta. For more information and to register, see the following resource.

    Web Support when parenting apart
    Government of Alberta
    English
    This program is available across Alberta. However, you will register through the Calgary office listed in this resource.
    Serving documents: What is it and why is it important?

    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.

    When an Applicant serves the Respondent with a Claim, the Applicant is notifying them that:

    • a court action has been started; and
    • a hearing is scheduled.

    If the Respondent wants to present evidence to the Court, they must file their Response documents and serve those documents on the Applicant.

    Serving documents is a very important step. It makes sure that everyone involved in a court case knows:

    • what needs to be decided;
    • what evidence is being used; and
    • when things are happening.

    As a result, there are many rules about service. These rules determine:

    • How the service must be completed
    • How to deal with problems in serving documents
    • The timing of service
    • How to deal with problems in the time for service
    • Proving that documents were served
    • Situations where you can make an application without serving documents. These are called “ex parte” applications.

    The exact rules can change depending on the circumstances. The following sections that start with “Serving documents” introduce these rules.

    Serving documents: Ways to serve

    There are rules about the way court documents can be served.

    Documents starting a court action (the Claim and Statements) must be served personally on the Respondent. In other words, they must be given directly to the Respondent.

    However, once an action has been started, other documents can be served by any of the following methods:

    • personal service;
    • recorded mail;
    • electronic service (for example, email); or
    • on the other party’s lawyer.

    For example, if the Respondent wishes to send Reply Statements or Update Statements, they may do so by serving the Applicant using any of those methods. They do not have to be served personally on the Applicant.

    Each of these methods is described in more detail below.

    Be Aware

    Once documents have been served, proof of that service must be filed with the Court. This is done by filing an “Affidavit of Service” before the hearing date. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section below for information about how to do this.

    For more information about serving court documents, see the following resources.

    Web Serving a notice in a court application
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    See p. 11-13.

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    For more information about the rules around service, see the Provincial Court Procedures (Family Law) Regulation.

    Personal service

    Personal service is simply finding the person to be served and handing them the documents.

    Family Violence

    In most cases you can do this yourself. However, you cannot do this for certain applications for protective orders in situations of family violence. For more information about this, see the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page and the Protective Orders Information Page.

    However, it is a good idea to be cautious about serving court documents yourself. It can be difficult for both parties and there may be hard feelings. You may wish to have someone else serve the other party if there could be conflict.

    For more information about personal service, see the following resources.

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Web How Do I Personally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?
    Clicklaw
    English
    This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

    If you want, or need, to have another person complete the service, you can ask a friend or family member. Or you can hire a “process server.” These are people who specialize in this kind of work. For more information about process servers, see the following resources.

    Web About Process Servers - What They Can Do for You
    CanLaw Inc.
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    Web Process Service
    Dominion Process Servers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web What is a Process Server?
    ServeNow
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web Serving a notice in a court application
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Recorded mail

    “Recorded mail” means using mail delivery or a courier where the person receiving the documents must sign for them.

    Any party sending documents this way must make sure they have the correct “address for service” of the other party. This is the address that can be used to serve documents on that party.

    Be Aware

    If you do not have an address for service, you cannot serve the other party using recorded mail.

    If the person being served does not have a lawyer, their “address for service” will be the most recent of the following:

    • an address provided to the court and all other parties in writing;
    • an address provided “on the record” during a court appearance (communicated in court to the judge); or
    • the address given in the most recently filed document in the proceeding.

    If the person being served has a lawyer, then their “address for service” will be the lawyer’s address. This will be the lawyer’s office address and it can be found on the court documents or in written communications (for example, letters) between the parties.

    When documents are served by recorded mail, they are considered to have been served when the other party signs for them. The other party may not accept the documents, or may not sign for them right away. In such a case, as long as the “address for service” is correct, the documents are considered served 7 days after they were sent.

    Electronic service (such as email)

    Documents can also be sent by an electronic method (like email) if the following requirements are met:

    • The person being served must have specifically provided an “address” (like an email address) for the purpose of sending and receiving documents in the action. In other words, the other party must have made it clear that the email address can be used for sending court documents.
    • The document must be received in a form that can be used by that person. This means the other party must be able to open, read, save, and copy the documents. For example, they must be able to be opened and printed. Or saved and opened again.
    • Confirmation of the delivery must be received. The “electronic agent” (program) used by the sender must receive confirmation from the receiver’s electronic agent that the transmission of the documents was successful. You must be able to show this confirmation, to prove that the documents were properly received and can be accessed and viewed by the recipient.

    Serving documents electronically may not be effective if:

    • the other party has not provided an email address for serving documents;
    • you do not know if they will access their electronic agent in a timely fashion; or
    • you are unsure how to prove that the documents were actually received by the other party.

    Electronic service may be an effective option where both parties agree in advance to use it and provide the necessary proof of service.

    Documents sent electronically are considered served when the sender receives confirmation that the transmission was successful.

    For more information about how to serve documents electronically, see the following resource and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    See p. 13.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Service on a lawyer

    In general, documents can be served on a party through their lawyer using any of the methods for service described above. The “address for service” of that party becomes the lawyer’s office address or email address. It can be found on the court documents or in written communications (for example, letters) between the parties.

    However, documents starting a court action (the Claim and Statements) must be served personally on the Respondent. This means they must be given directly to the Respondent. You cannot serve the documents starting a court action on the Respondent’s lawyer.

    Once the Claim documents have been served on the Respondent, then future documents can be served on the either party’s “lawyer of record.” A party’s “lawyer of record” (if they have one) is the lawyer whose name appears on the most recent court documents filed in the action.

    Remember

    Before the hearing, the person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service and file it with the Court. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section below for more information about that.

    Serving documents: Problems with service and what you can do about them

    In some cases it may be difficult for an Applicant to personally serve the Respondent with Claim documents. For example:

    • The other party may have moved away from Alberta.
    • You may not know where the other party is or how to find them.
    • You or your family may be in danger if the other party gets notice that you intend to go to court.

    For most service issues you will need to get a separate order from the Court allowing you to serve your Claim documents on the Respondent:

    • outside of Alberta (this is called “service ex juris”); or
    • in any way other than personal service (this is called “substitutional service”).

    Or, in rare cases, you may be able to get an order from the Court allowing to “dispense with service.” This means you would not have to serve the documents at all.

    You will have to apply to Court to deal with the service problem before you can go to court for your family law problems. These options are described just below.

    Tip

    If your court date is coming up and you have not been able to make a separate application for a service issue, you can also ask the Court for an order relating to service at your docket court appearance. For example, you may ask the Court for an order allowing you to substitutionally serve the other party. You will need to be prepared to make this request—see below. This may then lead to a delay in dealing with the rest of your issues.

    There may be situations where a Respondent has difficulty serving the Applicant as well. For example, if a Respondent wanted to apply to court to change an existing order for child support, but the Applicant has moved to a new, unknown address.

    You may wish to talk to a lawyer for more information about making an application to deal with a service issue. For information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Serving documents outside Alberta (“service ex juris”)

    If the person that you need to serve lives outside of Alberta, you will need to apply for a court order for “service ex juris.” This means service “outside of the jurisdiction.” If you get an order for service ex juris, you will then need to arrange for the other party to be served.

    Tip

    If the person you need to serve is only outside of Alberta temporarily, then you may want to consider waiting until they return to start your action. But, if they are going to be outside of Alberta for a while, or you need to serve them urgently and cannot wait, then you will need an order for service ex juris.

    Be Aware

    In Provincial Court, a service ex juris order is required for all service outside of Alberta. In the Court of Queen’s Bench, it is different. In Queen’s Bench, a service ex juris order is only required for service outside of Canada. If all of your matters are being handled in Provincial Court, this difference will not affect you. But if you have matters in both courts, it is important to know the difference.

    There is a specific form that you must use to apply to deal with a service problem, such as service ex juris. This form is not available online. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information on making applications relating to service.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Tip

    If you will be serving this person again, you can ask the Court if all later service can also be allowed ex juris.

    To actually serve someone outside Alberta, you may wish to contact a process server in that other jurisdiction. For more information about process servers, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section below.

    Be Aware

    If the person you are serving lives permanently outside of Alberta, there will be many other things to consider before making an application to court. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

    Substitutional service

    Sometimes the person you want to serve may be hard to find or hard to serve. For example:

    • you may not be able to find the other person even after an extensive search; or
    • you may know where they are but they refuse to accept the court documents (for example, by running away).

    In such cases, you can apply to Court for an order for “substitutional service.” If you are aware of another way of bringing the documents to the other party’s attention, an order for substitutional service will allow you to serve the documents in that other way. You can serve another person (a “substitute”), with the expectation that the documents will brought to the attention of the person you wish to serve.

    For more information about substitutional service, see the following resources.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    See p. 12.

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    PDF Court of Queen's Bench: Application for Substitutional Service
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Note that this resource discusses substitutional service in the Court of Queen’s Bench, but the introduction applies to Provincial Court matters as well.

    Web How Do I Substitutionally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?
    Clicklaw
    English
    This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

    Video You Got Served
    Feldstein Family Law Group
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Before applying for an order for substitutional service, you must put a lot of effort into finding them and serving them. For example, you will be expected to take steps like:

    • contacting family and friends, either directly or through social media;
    • contacting the other party’s current or former employer; and
    • using the phone directory or online searches.

    You may also wish to consider hiring a process server. They have experience in finding and serving people. For more information about process servers, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section below.

    Tip

    Make sure you keep a record of every step you took to locate the other party. To get an order for substitutional service, you will need to show the court that you put in a serious effort to find them.

    A common example of substitutional service is where the other party is living with a family member, like a parent. If you know the other party is living with their parent but you have not been able to serve them, you can ask for an order allowing you substitutionally serve them by leaving the documents with their parent instead.

    Other examples of substitutional service include:

    • Sending documents by mail, email, or through social media
    • Leaving the documents with another adult at their place of work
    • Giving the documents to a friend of theirs

    Whichever method you propose, you will need to be able to explain to the Court how that method is likely to bring the documents to the attention of the other party.

    If you cannot locate the other party and you are not aware of any method that is likely to get the documents to their attention, you can ask the Court for an order allowing you post an advertisement in a local newspaper in their last known place of residence.

    There is a specific form that you must use to apply to deal with a service problem, such as substitutional service. This form is not available online. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information on making applications relating to service.

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

    The order allowing substitutional service must be served along with the other court documents, unless the Court orders otherwise. This does not apply if service is done by advertisement, but the advertisement must mention the order.

    Asking the Court to dispense with service

    You can ask the court to “dispense” with service if:

    • you have tried everything reasonable to locate the person; and
    • there is no one that you can substitutionally serve.

    This will allow you to proceed with your court action without serving the other party.

    For more information about finding someone to serve them and asking the Court to dispense with service, see the following resources.

    PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English
    See p. 13.

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    To do this, you will need to:

    • show the Court all of the efforts you have made to find and serve the other party; and
    • explain why substitutional service will not work.

    There is a specific form that you must use to apply to deal with a service problem, such as asking to dispense with service. This form is not available online. Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information on making applications relating to service.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    For more information on making this application, see the section below called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications.”

    Serving documents: Time limits

    All of the parties need enough time to read and respond to paperwork so that they can be prepared for court. The different rules about the time in which documents must be served may depend on:

    • whether the service is coming from the Applicant or the Respondent;
    • what type of documents are being served; and
    • what step you are at in the court process.

    The time limits for service of documents in Provincial Court are explained in the following sections.

    • “Applicants: Serving the Claim on the Respondent: How and when”
    • “Respondents: Responding to a Claim”
    • “Applicants: Responding to Response documents”
    • “New evidence: Update Statements”
    Serving documents: Problems with the time for service and changing that time period

    As described on this Information Page, the Applicant and Respondent must serve court documents on each other within certain time periods. Sometimes, either party may have problems with these time periods. If that is the case, you may be able to ask the Court to change the time periods.

    Specifically, you can ask the Court to:

    • Shorten a time period. For example, if you need the Court’s help to deal with an urgent parenting time issue. One situation where this might happen is if the other party is refusing consent for the children to travel and the trip is coming up right away.
    • Extend a time period. For example, you want to provide a detailed reply to an application but you are required to work extra long hours and you need more time.

    If you want to ask for either of these, you can do one of the following.

    • Go to court on the hearing date and ask the judge to order new time periods for service. If you do this, it is likely that the Court will only deal with the new time period at the hearing. The other issues will be postponed to the new hearing date to ensure both parties have been properly served with each other’s court documents.
    • Ask for the hearing date to be moved up so that the service time periods can be dealt with.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services tell you how to do either of these things.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Tip

    If you need more time to prepare for a hearing, you can ask for an “adjournment” to delay your hearing date. There are different ways to do this. See the section below called “Asking for an adjournment” for more information.

    Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served (the Affidavit of Service)

    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. An “Affidavit of Service” is a written, sworn statement by that person that describes:

    • what they served;
    • who they served; and
    • when and how the service was done.

    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.” For more information about this process, see the section above called “Finalizing your court documents.”

    The Affidavit of Service must be completed and sworn (or affirmed) by the person who completed the service. Then it must be filed with the Court before the court date.

    Be Aware

    You may need to file the Affidavit of Service yourself, even if someone else completed the service (such as a family member or process server). However, the person who completed the service must fill out the Affidavit of Service form themselves, and swear the form themselves.

    If the service was done by recorded mail or electronic service, the person who sent the documents will have to complete and swear the Affidavit of Service. They will need to attach proof that the documents were received. (See the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.) Again, the Affidavit of Service must be filed with the Court before the court date.

    Remember

    You must file an Affidavit of Service every time you serve the other party with court documents. Where the rules require that the other party be “served,” then you will need to prove that the service occurred by filing an Affidavit of Service. This is true for every kind of service.

    To view an Affidavit of Service for use in Provincial Court by an Applicant, see the following resource.

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

    To view an Affidavit of Service for use in Provincial Court by a Respondent, see the following resource.

    PDF Affidavit of Service - Respondent (Form CTS3514)
    Government of Alberta
    English
    This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
    Serving documents: Ex parte applications (applications without serving the other party)

    In some cases it is possible to make an application to court without giving any notice to the other party. This is called making an “ex parte” application. This is a Latin phrase that means “from one party.” In other words, you can go to court without the other party.

    There are 2 situations where an ex parte application may be allowed. These are:

    • applications that deal with a service issue; or
    • when your safety (or your children’s safety) may be at risk if the other party knows that you intend to make an application.

    Applications that deal with service issues

    In the “Serving documents: Problems and what you can do about them” section above, there are examples of situations where you may have trouble serving the other party. To deal with those service issues, you may need a court order that allows another method of service. Applications for such orders are automatically ex parte applications because the other party will not be there or get notice.

    Safety issues

    Ex parte applications can also be made in situations where there is an issue about the safety of the person making the application. Specifically, when the Applicant’s safety is at risk because of the Respondent. For example, an ex parte application may be made automatically where you are applying for an Emergency Protection Order.

    For more information about serving documents when there are safety concerns, see the following resource.

    PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
    Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
    English

    Other family law applications (for example, for guardianship of a child) can also be made ex parte if there is a risk of danger to you or your family. If you have concerns about your safety or your children’s safety as a result of making a court application, talk to staff at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Tip

    See the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page for information about other things to consider when dealing with legal matters as a victim of family violence.

    More information

    For information about whether you can make an ex parte application, contact the Provincial Court in your judicial centre, or ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You may also wish to speak to a lawyer if you are unsure about whether you can go to court without notice to the other party. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Serving documents: Getting help

    If you are concerned about serving court documents on the other party, you can get help.

    You can contact a “process server” to help you with serving court documents. Process servers specialize in serving court documents.

    • When they serve documents for you, they will prepare the Affidavit of Service to prove that the documents were served. See the section above called “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” for more information.
    • They may also be able to help you locate the other party to serve them.

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

    Web About Process Servers - What They Can Do for You
    CanLaw Inc.
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    Web Process Service
    Dominion Process Servers
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Web What is a Process Server?
    ServeNow
    English
    This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    You can find process servers in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca.

    Resolution and Court Administration Services can provide information that may assist you. They also have the form that is required to apply to court to deal with a service issue. That form is not available online. The following resource has contact information.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You can talk to a lawyer about how to properly serve documents. A lawyer can also help you with any application that may be needed to deal with a service issue. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Applicants: Serving the Claim on the Respondent: How and when

    Once the Claim documents are filed (including any Statements and Affidavits), you will need to give copies of them to the Respondent. This is called “serving” the court documents. It is a critical part of any court action.

    There are important rules about how to properly serve court documents. For more information about these rules, see the sections above that start with “Serving documents”.

    Your Claim documents start a court action. Documents starting a court action must be served personally on the Respondent. In other words, they must be given directly to the Respondent. This is called “personal service.” For more information about this, see the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.

    You will need to serve the Respondent within a certain period of time before the hearing date on the Claim form. These periods are as follows:

    • At least 20 days before the hearing if it is being served in Alberta
    • At least one month before the hearing if it is being served outside Alberta but within Canada
    • At least 2 months before the hearing if it is being served outside Canada

    The Court can extend or shorten these time limits if needed. For more information about this, see the “Serving documents: Problems with the time for service” section above.

    Once documents have been served, proof of that service must be filed with the Court. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section above for information about how to do this.

    Remember

    There are rare situations where Claim documents do not need to be served on the Respondent. For more information about when this might be allowed, see the section above called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications.”

    Respondents: Responding to a Claim

    Completing Response documents

    If you have been served with a Claim and wish to respond, you must file a “Response” form.

    You will also want to provide your own evidence. To do that, you must complete a Reply Statement about each topic the Applicant mentioned. For example: there is a “Reply Statement - Parenting” and a “Reply Statement - Partner Support.”

    The Response form and the Reply Statements you need to fill out are included on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    If you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for and you want to ask for your own order, you can file:

    • a Response form where you describe the parts of the Application you disagree with and explain the order you are applying for;
    • Reply Statement(s) for those parts of the Application you disagree with; and
    • Statement(s) to support the order you are asking for.

    For example:

    The Applicant has filed a Claim and Statement for child support only. You disagree with their request, and you want to ask for an order about parenting time. In this case, you would:

    • Use the Response form to respond to the Applicant’s request about child support and describe your request for an order about parenting time.
    • Reply to the Applicant’s child support request by filing a “Reply Statement” about child support.
    • File a “Statement” about parenting time to support your request.

    For information about completing Statements and Affidavits, see the section above called “Completing Statements and Affidavits.”

    Once complete, the documents will need to be checked over and sworn. For information about that, see the “Finalizing your court documents” section above.

    Filing your Response documents

    Once your Response documents have been finalized, you will need to file your documents with the Court.

    Checking the judicial centre

    Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). Your situation will determine where you must file your documents.

    • If there are no children involved in the court action, the Applicant will file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.
    • If your matter involves a child, the case should be heard in the judicial centre where the child lives (and that is where the Applicant should have filed their Claim documents).

    For example:

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

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

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    The Claim form that you were served with will tell you in which judicial centre the Applicant filed their paperwork. You may think that the Applicant made a mistake when choosing the judicial centre. Or, you may think that the judicial centre should be changed. For information on what your options are, see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

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

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Time limits

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

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

    Serving the Response

    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 they get the notice as soon as possible. This is a very important step. If the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

    Remember

    You must serve the Applicant with copies of the Response documents within a “reasonable time” before the court date set out in the Claim. Anything less than 10 days’ notice will be considered unreasonable.

    When you were served with the Claim you were “personally” served. This means that someone handed you the documents. When you are responding to a Claim, you do not have to personally serve the other party. You can serve by other methods. For more information about the different methods of service, and what to think about when choosing your method, see the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.

    For information about getting help serving your documents, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section above.

    Once your documents have been served on the other party, you must give the Court proof of that service. To do this, the person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service form, which must be filed with the Court. For more information, see the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section above.

    Applicants: Responding to Response documents

    You may have been served with Response documents where the Respondent is asking for their own order from the Court. In other words, they are making their own claim. In this case, you may want to file additional documents to respond to the requests.

    If you are responding to a claim by the Respondent:

    • you can provide evidence using Reply Statements or Affidavits, or both; and
    • you must file these Reply Statements or Affidavits with the Court within a “reasonable time.” Anything less than 5 days’ notice will be considered unreasonable.

    The Reply Statements can be found on the Process tabs of the Information Pages for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

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

    When there are Statements and Reply Statements from both parties, it can get very confusing knowing which documents go with which requests, 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 on a calendar; and
    • maybe even draw a little chart for yourself.
    New evidence: “Update Statements”

    When parties file their Statements, Reply Statements, or Affidavits, they are expected to provide all of the relevant evidence they have to support their claim. (See the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above for more information about this.)

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

    • update some facts about you, such as a change of income or contact details;
    • respond to some updated facts given by the other party; or
    • add something that is related to the relief that you are asking for. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

    If this occurs, you can let the Court know by filing an “Update Statement” or an Affidavit containing the new evidence.

    Be Aware

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

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

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

    This document must be served on the other party within a reasonable time before the date set out in the Claim. If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as they did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

    Exchanging evidence (also called “exchanging information”)

    Why evidence is exchanged

    In every court action, both parties must share with each other the evidence that they intend to use. You may hear this called “discovery” or “disclosure.” If either party does not properly disclose required information, it may cause unnecessary delays in the action. The party who caused the delay may face a penalty, such as an order to pay the other party’s costs.

    There are exceptions to the disclosure requirements. For example, communication between a party and their lawyer should not be shared. Therefore, it is important that all of the parties involved understand their disclosure obligations.

    There are several reasons why information is shared:

    • it helps the parties assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case;
    • it helps narrow the issues to be decided in court;
    • it can help parties reach an agreement; and
    • it makes the court process more efficient and fair.

    How evidence is exchanged

    For family law matters in Provincial Court, the parties exchange most of their evidence through the Statements and Affidavits. These Statements and Affidavits are “sworn” or “affirmed” as being true. They are then filed with the Court and served on the other party.

    It is the “swearing” or “affirming” that turns the information into “evidence” that the Court can consider. Evidence cannot be given to the Court without being sworn or affirmed. The penalties for lying on a document that is sworn or affirmed are so severe (up to 14 years in prison) that the act of swearing or affirming makes it reliable. Having written evidence allows cases to run more quickly and efficiently, because all parties know what evidence is before the Court.

    Be Aware

    There may also be a chance for the parties to provide some oral (spoken) evidence when they are in court. However, oral evidence is only allowed with the Judge's permission. The Judge may or may not give you this chance. As a result, you will want to prepare your written evidence carefully and completely.

    For more general information about Statements and Affidavits, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above.

    For specific information about how to use these Statements for the types of relief you want, see the Process tabs of the Information Pages about those topics. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    Remember

    Statements can be used to provide facts, evidence, and a summary of your argument to support your claim. Affidavits are only for the facts and evidence that support your claim.

    Asking for more information

    Sometimes, when you see the other party’s evidence, it may remind you of other evidence you need to include. The same thing might happen to the other party when they see your evidence. As a result, exchanging information may take some time. Either party may provide new evidence using an Update Statement. For more information on this, see the section above called “New evidence: Update Statements.”

    Applicants may want to schedule the hearing quite far in the future to allow enough time to exchange and review evidence. If there is not enough time, either party may ask for an adjournment to have more time to review evidence. However, the judge may not grant this adjournment. For more information about this, see the section below called “Asking for an adjournment.”

    Sometimes, you may specifically request evidence from the other party and they do not provide it. For example, perhaps they have a document with information you need. You know that the document exists and there is no other way to get it.

    If that happens, you can ask the Court to order the other party to give it to you when you appear in docket court. This may then lead to a delay in dealing with the rest of your issues.

    In rare cases, it is possible question the other party under oath about their evidence. This procedure is usually available in the Court of Queen’s Bench, not in Provincial Court. However, it may be possible for a Judge in Provincial Court to order that questioning under oath take place. You would need to apply to Court for an order that allows this. For more information about asking the Court to allow such a procedure, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Family law and financial disclosure (also called “financial information”)

    In many family law court cases, child support or partner/spousal support are an issue. In these cases, both parties will be required to share information about their finances.

    Why it is required

    The rules for sharing financial information are set out in the following laws:

    • The Alberta Child Support Guidelines require an Applicant for child support to provide their financial information when filing their application. This is required to determine the amount of support.
    • The Family Law Act General Regulation requires an Applicant for spousal or partner support to provide their financial information when filing their application.

    Once the Applicant has filed their Claim, the Respondent will be required to provide financial information as well.

    The list of the information that may be required is described in detail on the following Information Pages.

    The information that may be required is also listed in the “Request for Financial Information” document that can be served on the other party. See just below for more information about that.

    The “Request for Financial Information”

    When you are filing for support, you may also wish to file a “Request for Financial Information.”

    A Request for Financial Information requires the other party 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 support. You can also just ask the other party for their financial information, but if they are not providing it, using a Request for Financial Information makes sure that you will get it.

    When you serve a Request for Financial Information on the other party, you must give them all of the same financial information that you are asking of them. You can attach all of your financial information to your support Statement. You cannot serve the other party with a Request for Financial Information without providing your own financial information.

    A Request for Financial Information cannot be filed on its own. It can only be filed at the same time as the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues (such as child or partner support). The matters are all combined into one hearing.

    For detailed information about how to use this form, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page or the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

    Pre-trial processes

    Many people think that “going to court” means “going to trial.” This is not necessarily true. There are many “pre-trial” processes and services available that can help the parties resolve their issues before a trial. You can think of a trial as being one possible outcome of the court process.

    This section introduces you to court processes and programs that may be used in between starting the court action and going to trial. Some of these pre-trial processes will be required in certain situations. Others are optional. It will depend on the facts of the case.

    Remember

    There are also many forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that can help parties resolve their issues without having to go to court. ADR options can be used at any time, even after a court action has been started. For more information about these options, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

    Consent Orders

    At any time, the parties can agree on some or all of the issues between them. In some cases, the parties may want or need to turn that agreement into a court order. This is called a Consent Order.

    You can even agree on a Consent Order for one issue while you continue the court action for other issues. For example, you can agree on a Consent Order for child support and continue to disagree on child custody and property division.

    Be Aware

    The agreement between you and the other party must meet legal requirements. For example, an agreement where one parent has all of the parenting time and the other does not pay child support is not legally allowed. To make sure your Consent Order meets the legal requirements, learn about the law on the Information Pages for each legal topic. For a list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

    The terms of the agreement between the parties are written in the form of a court order. This is then presented to a judge in docket court.

    However, you cannot just file this Consent Order with the Court. You must first start a court action. In other words, if you have not already done so, you will have to file a Claim and serve the documents. A hearing date will be set.

    On the day the matter is scheduled to be heard, the parties should arrive well before the scheduled start time and check in with the clerk of the Court. The date and time will be included on the Claim form when you file it with the Court.

    When you enter the correct courtroom, you will tell the clerk your name and what your matter is. The clerk will then decide the order in which the matters will be heard. Often, matters where there are lawyers involved will be heard toward the beginning of the list, and matters involving self-represented litigants are heard toward the end of the list.

    When it is your turn, the judge will review the terms and sign the order if it meets the legal requirements. Once it is signed by a judge, the agreement becomes a court order. The Provincial Court clerks will prepare the Order, file it, and send it to the parties.

    Judicial Dispute Resolution

    Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties to discuss any matters in dispute. If the parties have lawyers, they would attend too. JDR is intended to avoid dealing with all of the issues in court.

    However, JDR does not happen “instead of” going to court, because parties have to already be involved in the court system to get a JDR appointment.

    In some areas of Alberta, there are not currently enough judges available to meet the demand for JDR. If you would like to try JDR, talk to your lawyer or Resolution and Court Administration Services about whether it could work for you and when there might be a date available.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    If you do attempt to resolve your issues through JDR, your court action can be put “on hold.” For example, you may have a scheduled court date coming up, but you have the chance to try JDR. In this case, you can delay (“adjourn”) your court date. It can be adjourned to a specific date after the JDR, or it can be adjourned without a set date (sometimes called “sine die”). If the JDR is not successful and you don’t have a specific court date set, you can contact the Court to schedule a new court date.

    Remember

    If you have agreed to binding JDR, the judge’s decision in the matter is final. For more information about the difference between binding and non-binding JDR, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

    For more information about JDR, see the following resources.

    Web Judicial Dispute Resolution (Alberta)
    Government of Canada
    English

    PDF Client Guide to Judicial Dispute Resolution
    Field Law
    English
    This is a private source. Learn more here.

    PDF Guidelines for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
    Government of Alberta
    English

    PDF A Handbook on Judicial Dispute Resolution for Canadian Lawyers
    Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch
    English
    This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

    Courses or programs

    Alberta Courts offers various programs to help parties try to resolve their family law issues. Some programs are voluntary, Some of them may be required, depending on your circumstances.

    These programs are generally designed to:

    • help the parties understand and prepare for the court process;
    • encourage the parties to find ways to settle or resolve their issues; or
    • provide information to help families cope with the relationship breakdown.

    You may be required to attend one of the following programs before the start of your court action or shortly after it is started:

    • Caseflow Conference
    • Resolution and Court Administration Services programs
    • Parenting After Separation course

    You may also ask to participate in some of these programs, even if it is not required. They are designed to help parties who have a family law action that involves children.

    There is also a program called “Brief Conflict Intervention” that can help in high conflict cases where the parties cannot agree and are having trouble making progress.

    For more information about these programs, see the “Court programs and services” section above.

    Tip

    There may be other resources that are available to help you understand the court process and prepare for court. These can include Family Court Counsellors and duty counsel. For more information about these, see the “Appearing in docket court" section below.

    Applications for interim (temporary) remedies

    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. These temporary orders are sometimes called “interim orders” 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. For example, temporary orders may be needed for child support issues, because the Court is waiting for one of the parties to provide full financial disclosure before giving a more permanent child support order.

    Common examples of interim remedies include the following.

    • Parenting and access arrangements for children
    • Child support
    • Spousal or partner support
    • Requiring the other party to disclose information
    • Resolving service issues (see the “Serving documents: Problems with service and what you can do about them” section above)
    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, see the section above called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications.”See the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page for information about other things to consider when dealing with legal matters as a victim of family violence.

    In Provincial Court, you ask for interim remedies in docket court. If you need to get a temporary order before a scheduled hearing, you can apply to have the hearing date moved up. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of Alberta
    English

    The decision of a judge about the interim request is called an “order.” This is different from a “judgment,” which is the final decision of the court in an action.

    If you get a temporary order, you can expect to go back to court in the future about your family law matters. 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 (or judgment) can be made.

    Transferring to the Court of Queen’s Bench

    An action that was started in Provincial Court can be transferred to the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example, this may happen if:

    • The parties decide that they need to address an issue that can only be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench (for example, to deal with property division).
    • Parties with serious parenting issues may want to use a procedure that is only available in the Court of Queen’s Bench (for example, a Practice Note 7 Intervention).
    Be Aware

    Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. You will need a good reason to ask the Court to allow your matter to be transferred. There will also be delays, costs, and added complexity.

    If you wish to transfer your matter to the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will have to make an application to court. You will need to file a specific form and serve the other party. To get the form and for more information about how to do this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

    Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
    Government of 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. For help with how to do that, you can contact the court clerk’s office.

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just requested 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.

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

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

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

    Be Aware

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

    For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

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

    What is docket court?

    Family court matters do not usually go straight to trial. Many never go to a “trial” at all. Instead, many matters are resolved in “docket court.” Docket court is where Provincial Court “pre-trial” hearings take place. These hearings are in courtrooms that are open to the public, where the judge hears a list of different cases by different people.

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

    • Make orders that deal with procedures and rules. For example, if you request an exception to a particular court rule. This means you are asking for permission to not follow that rule.
    • Make “interim orders.” Interim orders are “temporary” orders, meant to provide short-term solutions while the parties work out longer-term plans. Interim orders can be for a set period of time. Or they may have no set ending time.
    • Make “orders” about family law matters (such as issues about parenting time). These orders are generally not the final decision in a matter. 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 never get a final “judgment.”

    Some separating couples can resolve their issues in docket court. They move forward without ever needing to go to trial. Judges usually try to explore settlement and agreement options with parties in docket court to avoid the need for a trial. In docket court, Judges have wide powers to direct how a matter is to proceed. Judges can:

    • decide all or part of the matter on either an interim or final basis;
    • adjourn (postpone) all or part of the matter to a later date; or
    • order that all or part of the matter be dealt with in a short oral hearing or trial (see the “Trials and oral hearings” section below).

    Plan to go to the court hearing

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

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

    Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Preparing for docket court

    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. Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

    Make sure you come prepared by bringing the following.

    • A copy of all the documents that started the action.
    • A copy of all documents related to the Application (yours and the other party’s).
    • A copy of your Affidavit(s) of Service.
    • Pen and paper for taking notes and writing down the judge’s decision (including the judge’s name, the room number of the courtroom you were in, and the date).
    Tip

    For more information about how to act in court, see the “Being in court and courtroom etiquette” heading below.

    Family Court Counsellors

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

    See the following resources for more information.

    Web Family court assistance
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Family court counsellor locations
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Duty counsel

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

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

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

    Other resources to help

    Other organizations may also provide family court workers/counsellors, depending on the area of the province. These include: Native Counselling Services, the John Howard Society, and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic / Women’s Outreach Court Preparation Program.

    For more information about these programs, as well as other organizations that might provide similar services, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

    Being in court and courtroom etiquette

    The Provincial Court is less formal than Queen’s Bench, but there are still certain behaviours and procedures that you will need to follow. 

    For more detailed information about docket court procedures and etiquette that should be followed, see the following resources.

    Web Courtroom etiquette
    Government of Alberta
    English


    Webinar Your Day in Family Court: How to prepare and what to expect
    Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    Interactive Virtual Court Tours
    Government of Alberta
    English

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

    After the docket court hearing is over

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

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

    Asking for “costs” in docket court

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

    A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

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

    For more information about costs, see the following resources.


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

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

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

    Trials and oral hearings

    Family law matters in Provincial Court are less formal and do not necessarily lead to a trial. Judges usually try to explore settlement and agreement options with parties in docket court to avoid the need for a trial. In docket court Judges have wide powers to direct how a matter is to proceed. Judges can:

    • decide all or part of the matter on either an interim or final basis;
    • adjourn (postpone) all or part of the matter to a later date; or
    • order that all or part of the matter be dealt with in a short oral hearing or trial (see the “Trials and oral hearings” section below).

    If you are unable to find a solution in docket court or the various programs available, you can ask a Judge to make a decision about your remaining issues at an oral hearing or a trial.

    An oral hearing is similar to a trial. Both parties will have the opportunity to talk about their evidence in court while under oath. An oral hearing may simply be shorter and limited to one or two issues. Trials are usually longer and can involve multiple issues.

    If an oral hearing or a trial is ordered, the parties may have to attend a pre-trial conference to explore settlement and make sure they are ready.

    Be Aware

    For trials in Provincial Court in Calgary, parties will have to complete trial readiness forms and provide them to the Court. The judge will instruct the parties to complete the forms and give them to the Trial Coordinator’s office before they will given trial dates. For more information and the forms, see the following resources.



    Preparing for an oral hearing or trial

    You will have to spend a lot of time and effort preparing for an oral hearing or trial. It is critical for several reasons:

    • To make sure you have and present all of your relevant evidence.
    • To make sure your witnesses are confirmed and prepared, and that you know what they will say.
    • To make sure that you cover everything that you are asking for from the Judge.
    • To make sure that your case is clear and easy for a Judge to follow and understand.

    Going to a hearing or a trial can be time-consuming and stressful. You may wish to consider having a lawyer help you or represent you. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

    Documents and evidence

    It will be helpful to fully review all of the documents and other evidence you hope to use at trial. The other party should have already received copies of the documents you intend to use.

    You will want to bring originals and copies of all the documents you intend to use. Even though the Court and the other party should already have copies, it may be helpful to have well-organized copies available.

    It is frustrating for everyone involved when one party has to search through piles of paper in a courtroom. This is why it will be important to review and prepare the documents. Have them organized in a way that will help you present them, and make sure you know which parts of which documents you want to bring to the Court’s attention.

    Be Aware

    There are legal rules about the “admissibility” of evidence in court. “Admissibility” refers to whether the Court will allow the evidence to be used and considered in an action. Although these rules are not applied as strictly in Provincial Court as they are in the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Judge will still decide whether a document or other evidence can be used.

    Witnesses

    If you are planning to have witnesses attend court and give testimony, you will want to consider the following:

    • Does the witness have personal knowledge of essential facts that will help your case?
    • Do you know what the witness will say in advance?
    • Are your witnesses available, willing to testify, and prepared?

    You will have to provide a list of your witnesses to the other party before the trial.

    It is important to prepare your questions for each witness in advance. This will reduce the risk that important information gets left out and it will help the hearing or trial proceed smoothly.

    Each witness will usually be questioned twice:

    • When you question your own witness, this is called the “direct examination” or “examination in chief.” This is where you ask all of your prepared questions.
    • The other party will then have the opportunity to ask questions of your witness. This is called the “cross examination.” It may be helpful to try to anticipate the type of questions that the other party may ask in cross examination and prepare your witness for them.
    Be Aware

    The Judge may also ask questions at any time. It is important to never interrupt the Judge.

    For more information about using witnesses, see the following resource.

    Web Witnesses, Interpreters, Evidence and Preparing For Court
    Government of Alberta
    English
    Start at “Evidence.”

    Audio/Web Appearing as a Witness
    Calgary Legal Guidance
    English

    PDF The Witness and the Justice System in Alberta
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Prepare statements

    At the beginning of the oral hearing or trial, each party will have the opportunity to make an opening statement that provides an overview of what they are asking for and why.

    After preparing all of your documents, evidence, and witnesses, you may want to spend some time on preparing such a statement. You will want to think about everything you are asking for and how the evidence supports your requests.

    Judges appreciate a short and well-thought-out statement that provides a summary of what each party hopes to achieve. You can write it out ahead of time and read a prepared statement.

    You will also have the opportunity to make a closing statement at the end of the hearing or trial. It may be helpful to have an idea of what you want to say in advance. However, information may come out during the hearing or trial that you may want to address in a closing statement. For example, during the trial the Judge may have seemed interested in some evidence in favour of the other party and you may wish to address that in a closing statement.

    Steps in a typical oral hearing or trial

    The basic procedure in an oral hearing or trial is as follows:

    1. Opening statement(s). The Applicant can give a summary of their case and what they are asking for. The Respondent may also give their opening statement, or wait until it is their turn to present their case.
    2. Applicant’s case. The Applicant provides evidence and questions their own witnesses. This is called “direct examination.” The Respondent has a chance to question these witnesses. This is called “cross examination.” If something came up in cross examination that the Applicant wishes to ask more questions about, they can do so. This is called “re-examination.”
    3. Respondent’s case. The Respondent can make their opening statement in this step if they choose, before presenting their evidence and witnesses. The same procedures for direct examination, cross examination, and re-examination apply.
    4. Applicant’s reply. This step is optional. Here, the Applicant can clarify information provided by the Respondent when the Respondent presented their case.
    5. Closing statements. The Applicant gives a summary of their case and what they want. The Respondent then does the same thing. The Applicant then has one last chance to clarify the Respondent’s statement.
    Be Aware

    The Judge may ask questions throughout the trial or hearing. It is important that you provide clear answers to any questions asked, even if you had planned to provide that information later in your case.

    For more information about procedures and etiquette that should be followed in an oral hearing or trial, see the following resources.

    Web Courtroom etiquette
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web Alberta court procedures
    Government of Alberta
    English

    Web How to prepare for a trial in Provincial Court
    Legal Services Society
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

    PDF Preparing for a Family Court Trial in Provincial Court
    Government of British Columbia
    English
    This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

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

    Orders and judgments

    Both “judgments” and “orders” are court decisions about a particular matter.

    • “Orders” are decisions made by judges in “applications.” These are usually smaller parts of a larger court action. Orders are not intended to be permanent solutions, but some parties may choose to follow orders and never get a final “judgment.”
    • “Judgments” are final decisions made by judges in the legal action itself. These are intended to be more permanent. Judgments can be issued by the Court either in docket court or after a hearing or trial, depending on the case.

    When a court issues a judgment or an order, it is binding on the parties and they are legally required to obey it.

    In Provincial Court, when a judge grants an order or judgment it will be prepared by the court clerks and mailed to the parties at the addresses on the court file.

      Changing an order

      People’s circumstances change over time. These changes may affect certain family law arrangements, such as parenting time and the payment of support.

      For example, a person may be paying child support under a court order based on an annual income of $60,000. If that person gets a new job and their income rises to $80,000 per year, then the court order may have to be changed because the amount of child support should be based on the new income.

      Another example might be where separated parents have a court order stating that parenting time is to be shared equally. If one of those parents is no longer able to share parenting time (perhaps due to illness or having to move for a new job), then the parenting time order may have to be changed.

      The Family Law Act allows parties to apply to court to change an existing order if there is a change in circumstances as described in the legislation. This is called a “variation,” because you are applying to “vary” a court order. This applies to:

      • guardianship, parenting time, and contact orders relating to children;
      • child support; and
      • spousal or partner support.

      Not every change will allow for a variation of a court order. There are legal tests that have to be met. And other family-related laws might have different legal tests. For more information, see the individual topics’ Information Pages. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      If the requirements for asking for a change are met, either party may apply to the Court that granted the initial order to change that order to suit the new circumstances. This is done by filing a new Claim and Statements. There are separate Statement forms that are to be used when applying to court to change an existing order.

      Be Aware

      You may have a temporary (interim) order that you wish to change. If there is a date scheduled to consider the same issue, you can ask for that date to be moved up to get into court sooner. In this case, you would not need to fill out a new Claim and Statements.

      Varying a judgment or order is not the same as an appeal:

      • Varying a court order requires a change in circumstances, as described in the legislation.
      • An appeal is asking a higher court to overturn all or a part of a lower court’s decision. This is described in more detail just below.
      Enforcing an order

      “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. How you can enforce family law orders depends on what the order is about.

      For more information about the importance of following court orders, see the following resource.

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

      Enforcing child support and partner support orders

      For judgments and orders that require one party to pay child support or partner support, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) can help. Most judgments and orders will contain wording that will allow the parties to register with the MEP.

      For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page and/or the Partner Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

      Enforcing orders about the care and control of children

      For judgments and orders about the care and control of children (guardianship, parenting time, and contact), an “enforcement clause” can be added to the order or judgment. This allows the police to help make sure one party does not deny time with the children to the other party.

      Many people think that family court orders can always be enforced by police. This is not the case. In order to be able to enforce a family court order in this way, the court order must have something called an “enforcement clause.” An enforcement clause is a part of the court order that allows police to force a person to follow the court order.

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

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

      If their order does not have an enforcement clause, parties can apply for an Enforcement Order under the Family Law Act. Enforcement Orders may be necessary where an existing order for time with children is not being followed. Under an Enforcement Order, the Court can issue penalties, order make-up time, and direct the police to get involved.

      For more information about these options, see the Guardianship and Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page and/or the Contact under the Family Law Act Information Page.

      Appealing an order

      If a party believes that a judge made a serious error when issuing a decision, that party may ask a higher court to review the matter and make a different decision. This process is called an “appeal.” The person filing for an appeal is called the “appellant.”

      Grounds to appeal

      You cannot appeal a decision simply because you do not like it. You must have a valid legal reason to appeal a decision. These reasons are called “grounds” to appeal.

      If you are thinking of appealing a court decision, consider the following.

      • Higher courts will only consider appeals if there is evidence that the lower court committed a serious error. Simply disagreeing with the result is not enough.
      • There are additional forms, processes, costs, and time limits to consider. Appeals are complex and must be done within a short time of the original decision.
      • If your appeal is unsuccessful, you will likely have to pay the other party’s costs.

      The kinds of “serious errors” that may justify an appeal typically fall into 2 categories:

      • An error of law. The appellant will have to show that the judge made a mistake when applying the law.
      • A substantial error of fact. The appellant will have to show that the judge got an important fact wrong and then used that incorrect fact as the basis for their decision.

      Whether you have grounds for an appeal is a complicated legal question. You may wish to speak with a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      The appeal process

      Decisions of the Provincial Court may be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

      You will need to get the permission of the Provincial Court before making an appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench if:

      • the decision being appealed is a consent order or consent judgment; or
      • the order only relates to costs (a decision by the judge that one party has to pay some of the costs of going to court for the other party).

      For more information about appealing a decision of the Provincial Court to the Court of Queen’s Bench, see the following resources.

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

      Contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for more information about the appeal process.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Remember

      Appeals are complicated and require detailed legal research and analysis. They can also be expensive. You may wish to consider talking to a lawyer before considering an appeal. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      See the following resource for the form you will need to start the appeal process.

      PDF Notice of Appeal - Provincial Court Order (Family Law Act)
      Government of Alberta
      English
      This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

      Queen's Bench

      Learn more about going to the Court of Queen’s Bench to deal with your family law matters. See the sections below for information about:

      • Starting an action
      • Responding to documents that start a court action
      • Serving court documents
      • Applying for and responding to Applications
      • Appearing in chambers
      • Exchanging information
      • Pre-trial processes
      • Trials
      • Orders and enforcement
      • Appeals

      Be Aware

      This tab provides an overview of the processes that apply to, or are available for, most family law matters in the Court of Queen’s Bench. This tab does not deal with the processes for other kinds of civil matters.

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

      The Court of Queen’s Bench: The basics

      The Court of Queen’s Bench is the superior trial court in Alberta. All family law matters can be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench, whether under the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act, or other laws.

      If you are applying to the Court of Queen’s Bench, one of the most important sets of rules to know about is the Alberta Rules of Court. These Rules set out the basic structure and procedures for matters in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

      Be Aware

      There is no single source for rules that apply to court actions. You may also need to know about rules that are set out in other legislation. For an introduction to other rules that may apply, see the “Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench” section on the Law tab of this Information Page.

      The sections that follow provide just an overview of the Court of Queen’s Bench processes. The information below describes procedures for a typical family law action. For example, an action about divorce, division of property, or child custody and support. It is not a step-by-step guide for going to the Court of Queen’s Bench. Even within family law actions, this Information Page does not describe all of the rules and options that exist. It only describes the most common rules that people can expect to deal with.

      Also, the processes may change depending on your circumstances. For example, if parentage is an issue or if there is family violence, there may be other steps you have to take. Process information that is specific to a particular family law issue is on the Process tab of the Information Page for that topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      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.

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

      For more information about the overall structure of a court action in the Court of Queen’s Bench, see the following resources.

      Web File an application or claim in court
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Web Alberta court procedures
      Government of Alberta
      English


      Web You have been served - What now?
      First Stop Family Law
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      The Court of Queen’s Bench: A warning about rules

      The information and resources provided on this Process tab are based on the laws and rules that apply to court processes for family law matters. You may find that the processes, forms, or rules are somewhat different in practice if you go to court. This is because:

      • rules and laws can change quickly;
      • sometimes individual courts set slightly different rules for how matters are to be brought before them; and
      • these slightly different rules can change between judicial centres.  

      To get the most accurate information about court processes in your judicial centre, you can:

      • contact Resolution and Court Administration Services; or
      • contact the clerk’s office at your courthouse.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
      Government of Alberta
      English
      How family law matters in the Court of Queen’s Bench are different from other civil legal actions

      The Court of Queen’s Bench has some important differences in court processes between family law actions and other civil law actions. This section introduces some of those differences.

      Getting to trial

      How a typical lawsuit works

      In a typical civil lawsuit (where one person wants to sue another person), you ask the Court for help by filing a document to start the action. For example, you may file a Statement of Claim. That document sets out the issues and the remedy you are asking for. This starts a court process that is intended to be resolved at a trial.

      However, many parties resolve their issues before a trial. There are several ways this can happen. For example:

      • There may be pre-trial “Applications” (a kind of court hearing) to temporarily resolve issues within the action. The orders resulting from these Applications may sometimes work as permanent solutions for the parties.
      • There are also programs and services that can help people resolve their issues before going to trial. For example: mediation.
      • The parties may simply come to an agreement on their own.

      It is actually very common for parties to resolve their issues before a trial. However, in general the court system is designed to lead to trial.

      How family law actions work

      The court system takes a slightly different approach to family law actions. This is because the court system recognizes that going to trial can take a long time and can be very expensive. Families need solutions more quickly and without great expense.

      As a result, in family law actions, there is much more emphasis on pre-trial resolution. For example:

      • There are many more programs, processes, and rules that are specifically designed to help parties resolve matters or get court orders more quickly.
      • In addition, judges dealing with family issues take a more active role in exploring and encouraging settlement between the parties. This is done so that the parties do not have to go to trial.

      There are also differences between the laws that deal with family law matters. Most family law actions can be started under:

      • the Family Law Act;
      • the Divorce Act; or
      • the Matrimonial Property Act.

      In general:

      • Matters under the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act will go to trial unless they are resolved early. However, the process is designed to be easier and pre-trial resolution is an important goal.
      • Matters under the Family Law Act will only go to trial if they cannot be resolved early.

      Separate court rules and processes for family law actions

      The different approach described above has led to different rules and processes for family law matters compared to other civil actions. The rules and processes for family law matters are designed to:

      • address issues more quickly; and
      • resolve issues without going to trial whenever possible.

      Some examples of the different rules and processes for family law matters include the following.

      • Most court forms have detailed “fill in the-blank” sections that make completing paperwork easier.
      • There are 2 different types of short court hearings that allow parties to get a judge to decide on specific issues. These hearings are held in “chambers.” For more information about these hearings, see the section below called “Chambers: An introduction.”
      • Some orders can be changed when necessary, without starting a new action. For more information, see the section below called “Changing orders and judgments.”
      • There are specific forms and processes for getting the parties to exchange important financial information more quickly. For more information, see the sections below that start with “Exchanging evidence.”
      • There are court programs for family law matters that are meant to help the parties resolve their issues or get through the process more efficiently.

      Despite these differences, many of the rules that apply to family law matters are the same as the rules that apply to other civil actions. This can get confusing.

      Most of the rules that apply to actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench are found in the Alberta Rules of Court. However, there are some separate rules for family law matters only. These are set out in Part 12 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

      This means:

      • the general rules from the Rules of Court apply to all actions in Queen’s Bench, including family law matters, unless
      • there is a special family law rule in Part 12 that applies instead.

      There are also rules and procedures from other sources that apply to family law matters. For example: “Practice Notes” and “Notices” from the courts.

      • Some of these apply to all civil matters in Queen’s Bench.
      • Some apply only to family law matters.
      • And others apply only to family matters under certain laws.

      For more information about these, see the section called “Rules for the Court of Queen’s Bench” on the Law tab of this Information Page.

      You can read the Alberta Rules of Court in the following resource.

      Web Alberta Rules of Court
      Government of Alberta
      English

      You can read the Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Notes in the following resource.

      Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
      Government of Alberta
      English

      You can read the Court of Queen’s Bench Notices in the following resource.

      Web Court of Queen's Bench Announcements
      Government of Alberta
      English
      How family law matters are different from each other (depending on the law being used)

      In addition to the differences between family actions and regular civil actions, there are some differences between the laws people use to address their family law matters.

      • Some are similar to regular civil actions in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
      • Others focus more on making the process easier for the parties and resolving matters before trial whenever possible.

      Specifically, there are different rules and processes depending on whether the action was started:

      • under the Family Law Act;
      • under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
      • under other laws.

      A few examples are described below.

      Differences in the forms that start the action

      To start an action under the Family Law Act, you file a “Claim” form and “Statements.” These are quite simple "fill in the blank" forms.

      This process is also used for family law actions that are started by Originating Applications. (There is more information about those in the “Starting an action by Originating Application” section below.)

      To start an action under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act, you file a “Statement of Claim.” Although these have been made simpler for family law, they look more like the forms used for typical Queen’s Bench civil claims. And they are more complex than the Family Law Act forms.

      This is also the process for actions started under other laws that address family law matters. For example: a claim of “unjust enrichment.” However, these Statements of Claim have not been simplified. For more information, see the “Starting a family-related action with a Statement of Claim under other laws” section below.

      Automatic court hearings ("chambers" hearings)

      When you start an action:

      • under the Family Law Act, or
      • by an Originating Application,

      you are automatically scheduling a date for a court hearing. This hearing is called “chambers.” There are no separate forms to fill out.

      A chambers hearing is a short appearance before a judge. The judge makes decisions that are needed to move the matter along. For example: the judge can make decisions that:

      • are immediately necessary; and
      • help the action move toward settlement.

      Many people find that temporary arrangements made in chambers are enough. These people do not need to take further steps in the action. Others may need future appearances in chambers. But even if the parties have to return to chambers, the hearings are short and they happen more quickly. At each appearance, the judge will explore the possibility of resolving the outstanding issues.

      When an action is started using a Statement of Claim, a first chambers hearing is not automatically scheduled. This is more like a typical lawsuit. You have to start the action first and then make a separate Application for a chambers hearing. For this, you must fill out a different set of forms. And these forms have additional rules that apply to them.

      • This happens under the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act.
      • It can also happen under other laws that can be used to address family law matters. For example: a claim of “unjust enrichment.”

      Separate processes: Divorce Act vs. Family Law Act

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, common family law matters may be dealt with under either the Family Law Act (FLA) or the Divorce Act (DA). These matters include:

      • child custody and access (which are called guardianship, parenting time, and contact under the FLA);
      • child support; and
      • spousal/partner support.

      Even though the FLA and the DA deal with the same kinds of issues, there many important differences in the processes.

      As described above, there are differences in the forms that start the action, and the way the parties get to a first chambers hearing. But there are other differences as well. For example, for actions under the FLA:

      • other forms that are used throughout the process are also simpler;
      • there are simplified rules available, which can affect many different steps in the action;
      • there will be a more resolution-focused approach at every court hearing; and
      • some resolution options and requirements are different.

      Many of these differences are described throughout this Information Page.

      It is important to understand these differences because you may have a choice about which law you use.

      • If you were not married and want to go to the Court of Queen’s Bench, you must use the FLA.
      • If you were married, you can use either the DA or FLA to deal with those common family law matters. However, to get the divorce itself, you will have to use the DA.
      Be Aware

      There are also differences in legal rights and responsibilities. It is important to understand those as well. For more information, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

      Different processes under other laws

      There are also some separate processes for family law issues that are addressed through other laws. For example:

      • Actions under the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) have some of their own unique processes. However, some processes are similar to those under the Divorce Act. For more information about MPA processes, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.
      • Actions that are started by Originating Application have their own processes and forms. Some of these are different from the processes and forms under the FLA, the DA, or the MPA. But some are the same. This is described in more detail on the rest of this Information Page.
      Starting an action: An introduction

      To apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for help (this is called asking for a “remedy”), you must begin by filing and serving a claim document. This is also known as starting an “action.”

      The type of claim document you use to start an action will depend on the law you are applying under:

      • For matters under the Family Law Act, you begin by filing a “Claim.”
      • For most matters under the Divorce Act, Matrimonial Property Act, or a claim based on unjust enrichment, you begin by filing a “Statement of Claim.”
      • Some matters may be started by filing an “Originating Application.”

      Whether you are starting an action or responding to one, the basic process is the same:

      • The documents must be completed properly, using the correct forms. There is general information about this in the sections below. More detailed information is on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.
      • Documents must be “filed” with the court. This means they must be given to the court clerk, who will put a court stamp on them. There is more information about this in several sections below.
      • Documents must be “served” on the other party. There is more information about this step in the sections below that start with “Serving documents.”
      • “Proof” that documents were served must be filed with the Court. See the section below called “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served.”

      If you are unsure about how to start an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench, you may wish to consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Starting an action under the Family Law Act

      To start an action in the Court of Queen’s Bench under the Family Law Act, you have to file different types of documents with the Court:

      • You must first file a “Claim” form to start an action. The Claim form sets out what you want from the Court.
      • You will use forms called “Statements” to provide the evidence that the Court will use to make a decision.
      • In some situations, you can also use “Affidavits” to provide evidence.

      The rest of this section discusses all of these forms in more detail.

      When you “file” a Claim, you prepare the necessary documents and give them to the Court.

      Claim

      When using a Claim form, the person starting the action is called the “Applicant.” The person who has the Claim filed against them is the called the “Respondent.”

      To start the action, the Applicant must fill out the “Claim” form. It sets out the remedy that is being asked for.

      Be Aware

      There may be more than one Respondent. For example, Child Support Services may have to be named as a Respondent if you are receiving social assistance. To learn about who may have to be named as a Respondent, see the Information Pages for each particular topic that applies to you. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      You can ask for more than one remedy in a single Claim form. For example: guardianship, parenting time, and child support can all be included in one Claim.

      It is very important to include all of the topics you want the court to decide about. The Claim is like the table of contents of a book—it gives the outline of the book. In other words, the Claim clearly states what needs to be done in order to resolve the dispute, including:

      • what issues need to be dealt with; and
      • what questions need to be answered.

      Later, you will provide more detail for each “chapter” of your Claim. This will be done through the evidence in your Statements (see below).

      You cannot start a Claim in any other way. If you do not complete this paperwork properly, your court action will not go ahead.

      If you do not include all of the topics you want addressed in your Claim and Statements, you may not be able to get the remedy you need from the Court. You cannot simply add another topic at the court hearing. Instead, you may have to do one of the following.

      • File a second Claim form (if that is allowed in your judicial centre). This would mean more paperwork and an additional hearing, or moving the hearings so they could be heard together. It would also result in delays.
      • File an “Amended Claim.” This means you would complete the Claim form again. You would repeat the original information, and add all of the new information. If you do this, your court hearing may be moved to a later date to give the other party enough time to respond to the changes.

      To find out what you would have to do in your situation, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      More detailed information about completing a Claim form is on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. That is also where you will find links to the exact forms that you need. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Page about child support. (For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.)

      Remember

      When you file your Claim and Statements, you will be scheduling a chambers hearing date. You do not need to fill out any additional paperwork to schedule the hearing. There is more information about that in the section below called “Scheduling a first application at the same time as you file your starting documents.” There is more information about that in the section below called “Scheduling a first hearing (an “Application”) when you file your starting documents.”

      Statements

      Statements are a kind of document that you use to give the Court your “evidence.” You include the facts that you will rely on when making your Claim. Statements must be “sworn” or “affirmed” to be true. See the “Finalizing your court documents: Reviewing and swearing them” section below for information about what this means.

      When you complete a Claim under the Family Law Act (FLA), you also complete one or more Statements. They are mostly "fill in the blank" forms. You will need one Statement for each topic you are asking the Court to address. For example: there is a “Statement - Parenting” and a “Statement - Partner Support.”

      Tip

      The Statements you need to fill out are included on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      You may also be able to file an Affidavit in support of your FLA Claim. Affidavits are generally not "fill in the blank" forms. Instead, you include what you want to say in numbered paragraphs. An Affidavit can be used to:

      • provide more evidence than can be included in a Statement; or
      • provide evidence from someone else.
      Be Aware

      Information that you include in a Statement or an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. For more information, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below.

      You will need to understand the laws that apply to each remedy you are asking for. That way, you will know what information you need to include in your Statements. For an overview of things you can include in your Statements and detailed information about providing written evidence, see the following resource.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      Although this resource describes the process for making an “application” using an Affidavit, the information on pages 14-15 about writing affidavits also applies to properly writing evidence in Statements.
      Be Aware

      Depending on your situation, you may need additional paperwork or court documents. For example, you may need financial information from your former partner so you can deal with child support or partner support. If this is the case, you may need to also file a “Request for Financial Information.” These additional documents are described on the Process tabs of the Information Pages related to each topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      Affidavits

      An Affidavit is a document that is used to give the court evidence in legal proceedings. The person who completes an Affidavit may be called the “deponent.”

      Affidavits are generally not "fill in the blank" forms. Instead, you include what you want to say in numbered paragraphs. Like Statements, Affidavits must be “sworn” or “affirmed” to be true. See the “Finalizing your court documents” section below for information about what this means.

      A common example of an Affidavit in a legal action under the Family Law Act is an “Affidavit of Service.” An Affidavit of Service is used when someone serves legal documents on the other party, and they swear that they gave the documents to that person. This provides proof to the Court that the other party was properly served. See the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section below for more information about serving legal documents.

      In many cases under the Family Law Act, Affidavits other than the “Affidavit of Service” are not used very much. This is because there are specific Statements for most issues (see just above).

      However, you may also be able to include an Affidavit to go along with your Claim and Statements. For example, you may do this when you want to provide more evidence than can be included in a Statement. You can attach copies of evidence (for example: letters, bank statements, or pictures) to Affidavits as “exhibits.” See the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below for more information about exhibits.

      Also, other people who have evidence that may be useful can complete Affidavits (and exhibits) to give that evidence to the court. This evidence must be relevant to the issues between the parties.

      Remember

      Information that you include in a Statement or an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. For more information, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section below.

      If you want to include an Affidavit with your Claim, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help using the correct form.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Starting an action under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act

      For most matters under the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act, you begin by filing a “Statement of Claim.” There are different Statements of Claim you can file, depending on the remedy you are asking for.

      Remember

      If you are married, you can apply for a remedy under the Family Law Act if you are not asking for a divorce as part of the action. This would apply to matters such as parenting, guardianship, child support, and partner support. However, if you are asking for a divorce, then all related issues are usually combined in an action under the Divorce Act. .

      The details that are in the Statement of Claim, as well as the details that are in the spouse’s response to the Statement of Claim (called the “Statement of Defence”), are also called “the pleadings.” The word “pleadings” also refers to the documents used to provide those details.

      • The person who files the Statement of Claim is called the “Plaintiff.”
      • The person who has the Statement of Claim filed against them is the called the “Defendant.”

      “Pleadings” are filed and exchanged at the beginning stages of a lawsuit, when the parties formally submit their claims and defences. This is where each party gets to name all of the topics they want the Court to decide about. The pleadings are like the chapters of a book—they give the outline of the book. In other words, the pleadings clearly state what needs to be done in order to resolve the dispute, including:

      • what issues need to be dealt with; and
      • what questions need to be answered.

      Later, you will provide more detail for each “chapter” of your pleadings. This will be done through the evidence in your Affidavits. Evidence is often provided in Affidavits that are used when making Applications. Also, if you go to trial you will be expected to present all of your evidence there.

      Tip

      Be very careful when completing the pleadings to ensure that all details are correct (including the names of the parties). It is also very important that you include all of the issues you want decided in court. If a topic is not included in “the pleadings,” it cannot be brought up later. It is difficult to correct or change pleadings after they are filed.

      The rest of this section briefly describes the different types of Statements of Claim.

      Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce

      In a joint divorce, both parties are agreeing to divorce and agreeing to the issues of:

      • child custody and access;
      • child support; and
      • spousal support.

      As a group, these issues are called “corollary relief.”

      If you choose to file a joint divorce, you would use the Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce.

      Be Aware

      Sometimes, a couple might think they want to complete a joint divorce and then one of the spouses changes their mind. It is possible to stop the joint divorce process once it is has been started. The matter would then become a “contested divorce” and a different Statement of Claim would need to be filed (see “Statement of Claim for Divorce” just below).

      The joint divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act). If the parties agree on all property issues and no court order is required for any other reasons, the parties can enter into a matrimonial property agreement. For more information about what is needed for that, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

      For more information about completing this kind of Statement of Claim (including all of the other required forms), see section called “The Desk Divorce” on the Process tab of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

      Statement of Claim for Divorce

      This form would be used to start a divorce action. You would use this form in the following circumstances.

      • The divorce is “contested.” This means the parties disagree on some or all of the divorce-related issues.
      • You are not sure if the other party will agree with you or not, so you file to see if it will be contested. If the other party does not respond, the divorce becomes “uncontested.”

      You can include all divorce-related issues in this form except property division. This includes:

      • the divorce itself (in other words, legally ending the marriage);
      • child custody and access;
      • child support; and
      • spousal support.
      Be Aware

      You would not use this form if you also want to divide matrimonial property in the same action. There is a special form for that: the Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property (see just below).

      For more information about completing this kind of Statement of Claim (including all of the other required forms), see the following sections on the Process tab of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

      • “Starting a contested divorce: The Statement of Claim”
      • “The Desk Divorce”

      Statement of Claim for Division of Matrimonial Property

      This form would be used to start a matrimonial property action without starting a divorce action.

      An example of when a married couple may use this form is when:

      • there are no children or support issues;
      • the spouses do not wish to get a divorce; and
      • there are property issues that they disagree on and that need to be decided.

      Or, even if the parties agree on property division, they may use this form simply to get a property “order” because they need an order. For example, a court order is needed to divide an interest in one of Alberta’s public sector pension plans (an agreement is not enough). In such a case, a matrimonial property action can be started, and then ended by applying for summary judgment. This will result in a court order without having to go through time-consuming court processes. For more information about summary judgments, see the “Other pre-trial processes” section below.

      Be Aware

      You would not use this form if you also want to get a divorce in the same action. There is a special form for that: the Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property (see just below).

      For more information about completing the Statement of Claim for Division of Matrimonial Property, see the section called “Non-divorcing spouses: Starting a matrimonial property action without divorce paperwork” on the Process tab of the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

      Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property

      This form would be used to start an action to ask for both a divorce and a division of matrimonial property.

      You can include all divorce-related issues in this form, such as:

      • the divorce itself (in other words, legally ending the marriage);
      • child custody and access;
      • child support;
      • spousal support; and
      • division of property.

      The parties may also reach an agreement on all of these issues after the action was started. If this happens, the parties can:

      • apply for an uncontested desk divorce; and
      • stop the matrimonial property action with an agreement.

      For more information about completing the Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property, see the section called “Divorcing spouses: Starting a matrimonial property action and a divorce action at the same time” on the Process tab of the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

      Starting a family-related action with a Statement of Claim under other laws (such as “unjust enrichment”)

      Other family-related actions may use a “Statement of Claim” form.

      The most common example of this is a claim based on the principle of “unjust enrichment.” Only married couples can use the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA). And, the MPA can only be used to divide property that was obtained during the marriage. Claiming unjust enrichment is a way for either:

      • one person in a non-married relationship to claim an interest in property owned by the other person; or
      • a married person to claim an interest in the property from a time before the marriage.

      For more general information about this, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

      On this Information Page, we will not be including information on these types of actions. If you need help with this sort of issue, contact a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Starting an action by Originating Application

      For some specific legal issues, a person can file an “Originating Application” to ask for a remedy without starting an action with a “Statement of Claim.” The parties themselves do not choose to use an Originating Application. It is only in certain circumstances that an Originating Application can be used. One of these is that a particular law allows it.

      When laws allow Originating Applications, they are generally intended for situations when:

      • there is only one issue to deal with; and
      • that issue can likely be resolved without a trial. In other words, the chambers hearing will be enough.

      Some examples include the following.

      • A request to change an order under the Divorce Act granted by a court outside Alberta
      • An application for a Queen’s Bench Protection Order
      • A request for a restraining order
      • An application to divide jointly owned property under the Law of Property Act (for non-married couples)
      • Registering, enforcing, or changing a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act
      • A request for an order for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home under the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) if no other MPA action has been started
      Be Aware

      It is sometimes possible to later turn an Originating Application into a Statement of Claim. However, this is rare and very complex.

      Originating Applications are started by completing an Originating Application form, and will often include supporting evidence in an Affidavit.

      • The party who files an Originating Application is called the “Applicant.”
      • The party against whom it is filed is called the “Respondent.”

      The Originating Application will set a hearing date, and there will be filing deadlines.

      When using Originating Applications to start an action, many of the rules that apply to actions started by a Statement of Claim will not apply. However, some of the rules will apply. Also, at any time, all of those rules can be made to apply if:

      • the parties agree; or
      • the Court orders it.

      Starting an action by filing an Originating Application is a complicated process. You may wish to consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Scheduling a first hearing (an “Application”) when you file your starting documents

      A “hearing” is a court proceeding, other than a trial, where the parties appear before a judge. The judge will then decide about something that the parties disagree about. To have a hearing, usually one of the parties must make a separate “Application” to court.

      Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, but they are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several Applications. In an Application:

      • One party (the “Applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives the Court evidence about why he or she should get it.
      • The “other side” (the “Respondent”) can then 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.

      When you use the Family Law Act or an Originating Application

      When an action is started under the Family Law Act or started by Originating Application, a first hearing is automatically scheduled when you file your starting documents. There are no separate forms to fill out. The court clerk will help you pick a hearing date when you file your starting documents.

      For more information about what starting documents you need, see the following sections above:

      • “Starting an action under the Family Law Act
      • “Starting an action by Originating Application”

      When you use the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act

      When an action is started with a Statement of Claim under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act, a first hearing is not automatically scheduled.

      The Statement of Claim only starts the action. If you also want a first hearing, you will have to complete separate forms for that. That is called making an “Application.” For example, you may want to start an action for divorce but you want to deal with urgent matters such as child custody and support before the trial. You can ask the Court for interim (temporary) relief by filing an application.

      You can file the documents to request a first hearing at the same time as you file your Statement of Claim that starts the action. Or, you can request one or more hearings at any time before your trial date.

      If you choose to file an Application when you start your action, you will need to choose a hearing date. You will want to pay close attention to the date to make sure the other party will have enough time to:

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

      For more information about asking for an Application, see these sections below.

      • “Chambers: An introduction”
      • “Chambers Applications: An introduction”
      Completing Statements and Affidavits

      This section has general information about Statements and Affidavits, including:

      • how they are different;
      • when they are used; and
      • general tips for completing them properly.

      Differences between Statements and Affidavits

      Statements and Affidavits are similar in that they are both “sworn” documents that are used to provide evidence to the Court. A party will use them to write out the evidence they think will help support a particular action. Although they have a common purpose, there are important differences.

      Statements

      Statements:

      • are only used in actions under the Family Law Act;
      • are mostly “fill in the blank” forms with headings and topics to help the writer organize their points; and
      • can be used to make “arguments” in support of a Claim.

      An “argument” in a legal action is a reason for the request you are making. An example of an argument is: “I should have most of the parenting time because my work schedule allows me to work from home more often and our son will benefit from having me there.”

      Those types of arguments, or reasons, can be summarized in Statements, along with the evidence used to support the arguments.

      Affidavits

      Affidavits:

      • can be used in all family law actions;
      • can be “fill in the blank” or mostly blank, depending on their purposes. Affidavits that are used to provide additional evidence are mostly blank and the person swearing the Affidavit will need to write out their evidence. This is done in a series of numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph should be about a particular fact.
      • cannot be used to make “arguments.” They are only used to provide evidence.

      Using Statements and Affidavits in actions under the Family Law Act

      Statements

      Most people who start a family law action in the Court of Queen’s Bench using the Family Law Act (FLA) will only need to use “Statements” to support their Claim. There are different Statements for the different types of remedies a party can ask for. For example, there is a “Statement - Parenting” form and a “Statement - Child Support” form.

      Statements can also be used to support an “Application” under the FLA. For more information about Applications, see the section below called “Chambers: An introduction.”

      Remember

      Evidence (facts) that you include in a Statement must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. There are places where you can make an argument, but the facts must be personally known.

      Affidavits

      Affidavits are most commonly used in actions under the FLA to prove that documents were properly served. This is called the "Affidavit of Service." For more information about this, see the section below called “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served.”

      Parties can also choose to use Affidavits to provide evidence in support of a Claim.

      • they can use Affidavits instead of Statements; or
      • they can use Affidavits to file additional information.

      However, the Statements are easier to fill out and most people find they can provide the information they need through Statements.

      Although rare for FLA actions, parties may also use Affidavits to exchange certain information as part of the “disclosure” process. For more information, see the section below called “Exchanging evidence (also called “exchanging information”): An introduction.”

      Remember

      Evidence (facts) that you include in an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. And, unlike with Statements, Affidavits cannot be used to make arguments.

      Using Affidavits in actions under other laws (such as the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act)

      In Queen’s Bench actions using laws other than the Family Law Act, there are no “Statements.”

      Instead, evidence is given to the Court in “Affidavits.”

      An Affidavit is series of numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph should be about a particular fact. The “deponent” (the person giving evidence in the Affidavit) describes facts that they know in an organized way and “swears” or “affirms” that the evidence is true.

      Remember

      Evidence (facts) that you include in an Affidavit must be limited to facts that you personally know. In other words, you can only include what you saw, heard, did, or said. The information should not be an opinion. Affidavits cannot be used to make arguments.

      Affidavits are used as evidence in court for various things. For example, an Affidavit may be used for the following.

      • To prove that court documents were served. A specific Affidavit is used for this purpose. It is called an “Affidavit of Service.” For more information, see the section below called “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served.”
      • To support a “Statement of Claim” or an “Originating Application” with additional information and evidence.
      • To support an “Application” with additional information and evidence. The Court relies on this written evidence when a party makes an Application. For more information, see the section below called “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements.”
      • To share relevant information and documents in the overall court action, parties exchange information with each other. One way of doing this is through an “Affidavit of Records.” For more information, see the section below called “Exchanging evidence: The Affidavit of Records.”
      • As a general way for the parties and others to provide evidence to the Court.

      Tips for describing evidence in Statements and Affidavits

      When giving evidence in a Statement or Affidavit, it must be only facts that are:

      • relevant to the issues between the parties; and
      • personally known by the person completing the Statement or Affidavit.

      Statements and Affidavits should not be used to provide opinions, especially about the other party. An example of an “opinion” statement that should not be used is:

      “The Respondent was using drugs all weekend around our son.”

      If you were not actually there all weekend, then you cannot say that. Instead, state briefly what you actually observed. For example:

      “I picked up our son on the evening of March 12, 2017. When the Respondent opened the door, I noticed that his eyes were red and glassy and there was a strong smell of marijuana inside the home.”

      They should also not be used to provide facts that simply make the other party look bad if those facts are not relevant to the issues. For example:
      “As a teenager, the Respondent used to get in fights all the time and would steal bikes and sell them so he could buy drugs.”

      That type of information should only be included if it is directly relevant to the current issues. For example, if the issues involve parenting time and child support:

      • If the Respondent only did those things as a teenager but is now 35 years old with a steady job, then it is probably not relevant. Especially if you only want to include it to make them look bad.
      • However, if you overhear that Respondent telling your child that stealing and doing drugs “can be fun” then it may be relevant to making a decision about parenting.

      Other tips for describing evidence in Affidavits and Statements include:

      • Sentences should be short and to the point. Do not try to use complex language or “legalese” if plain language will do.
      • Refer to yourself as “I” and “me,” not “the Applicant.”
      • Be precise and organized. For example, write about things in the order they happened.
      • Be balanced and fair. Do not exaggerate or use overly emotional language.

      Tips for completing all Affidavits

      As described above, an Affidavit that is used to provide additional evidence will not be a “fill in the blank” form. Instead, the evidence will have to be written out using the following guidelines.

      • Affidavits must be written using a list of numbered paragraphs.
      • Each paragraph should be no more than a few short sentences about a particular fact.
      • The facts should be organized in a way that makes the evidence easy to understand. For example, in the order that events happened.
      • Numbers should be written using actual numerals. For example, “3” instead of “three.”
      • Dates can be written using numerals too. For example, “September 23, 2016.”

      If you wish to include other evidence, you can attach it to your Affidavit as an “exhibit” (see below).

      Exhibits

      An “exhibit” is a piece of evidence that is provided to the Court. When a person wants to include evidence with the documents they give to the Court, they can attach the evidence as part of an Affidavit. When evidence is attached to an Affidavit, it is an “exhibit” to that Affidavit.

      Exhibits can be all sorts of things. For example, you may wish to attach a letter, a bank statement, or an email. However, a letter from someone saying you are a good person is not a proper exhibit. If someone has first-hand knowledge of facts that the Court might need to make a decision, that person must make and swear an Affidavit of their own.

      You must refer to the exhibit in your Affidavit. For example: “On February 1st, I received a bank statement from ABC Bank showing that our joint chequing account was overdrawn. That letter is attached to this Affidavit as Exhibit A.”

      Tip

      You only need to bold the name of the exhibit the first time you mention it. If you have more than one exhibit, mark them A, B, C, etc., and arrange them alphabetically. Number the pages of each exhibit starting from page 1.

      If the Affidavit along with its exhibits is 25 pages or more, you must use separate tabs for each exhibit and:

      • the pages within each tab must be numbered; or
      • the pages of the Affidavit and all exhibits must be numbered using a single series of numbers.

      When you take the Affidavit to be sworn, you must also take all your exhibits. (See the “Finalizing your court documents” section below for more information about “swearing” documents.) The Commissioner for Oaths must identify each exhibit mentioned in the Affidavit. To do this, they sign a certificate that they stamp on the exhibit. The certificate will say something like: “This is Exhibit A referred to in the Affidavit of Jamie Doe sworn (or affirmed) before me on July 1st, 2017.”

      Additional requirements for all Statements and Affidavits that will be used in chambers hearings

      As described above, there is a general and consistent structure to Statements and Affidavits. There are also some very specific and very strict rules for Statements and Affidavits that will be used in chambers hearings.

      All of the actions described on this Information Page will likely end up in chambers.

      • When a Family Law Act action or an Originating Application is started, a chambers date is automatically scheduled.
      • Under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act, most actions usually have at least one chambers Application.

      As a result, whenever a party completes a Statement or an Affidavit, they should review these additional rules. For more information about these rules, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section below.

      More information

      There are many things to think about when providing evidence in your court paperwork. There are also many sources of evidence today that were not available in the past. For each one, there are different approaches and rules to consider.

      See the resources below for more things to consider about:

      • completing Statements and Affidavits in general; and
      • specific types of evidence (such as voicemail, email, texts, and social media posts).

      For more information about completing Statements and Affidavits, see the following resources.

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

      Web Witnesses, Interpreters, Evidence and Preparing For Court
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Start at “Evidence.”

      Web How Do I Prepare an Affidavit?
      Clicklaw
      English
      This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

      PDF Writing an Affidavit
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      This resource is written for people who have experienced family violence, but the general information applies to everyone.

      Video Episode 202: Evidence in Family Court - Web Extra: John Schuman
      AdviceScene (via YouTube)
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      PDF How Not to Present Evidence in a Family Law Case
      Ontario Bar Association
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Legal Writing
      Justice Education Society
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Evidence
      Justice Education Society
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      PDF A Guide to Preparing Your Affidavit
      Justice Education Society
      English
      Note that this resource is from British Columbia, but the general information about completing affidavits applies in Alberta too.

      Web Evidence Inventory Worksheet
      Justice Education Society
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      For more information about email, texting, video, or audio recordings in evidence, see the following resources.

      Web Thinking of Snooping on Spouse’s Email? Read This First
      Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Are tape recordings admissible evidence in Family Court proceedings?
      Barriston Law LLP
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Collecting and Authenticating Online Evidence
      Canadian Bar Association
      English

      Web Texting and Family Law – Top 3 Things to Know
      Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Reasonable Doubt: Creating good evidence for family law cases in the midst of computer rage
      Vancouver Free Press
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Before you post: The use of social media in family law cases
      McKenzie Lake Lawyers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      PDF The Ten Evidence “Rules” That Every Family Law Lawyer Needs to Know
      Law Society of Saskatchewan
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

      Web Recent case law: Admissibility of video recordings
      Luke's Place
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      PDF Social Media Evidence in Family Law Proceedings
      Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

      Web Can secret recordings of your interactions with the other parent be used as evidence?
      Daniel Gloade, Barrister and Solicitor
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web The Admissibility of Surreptitious Tape Recordings as Evidence in a Custody Review
      Feldstein Family Law Group
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      For more information about social media in evidence, see the following resources.


      Web Collecting and Authenticating Online Evidence
      Canadian Bar Association
      English

      Video In The Know - Social media and divorce
      Feldstein Family Law Group
      English

      Web Reasonable Doubt: Your social media activity can impact your family law case
      NOW Communications Inc.
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Before you post: The use of social media in family law cases
      McKenzie Lake Lawyers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Video Watch What You Post!
      Feldstein Family Law Group
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Video Can my Facebook page hurt my family law case? - Social Media
      AdviceScene (via YouTube)
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Reasonable Doubt: Creating good evidence for family law cases in the midst of computer rage
      Vancouver Free Press
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      PDF Social Media Evidence in Family Law Proceedings
      Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

      Web Think before you text!
      Siskinds Law
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Posts from the ‘Texting & Email and Divorce’ Category
      Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
      Finalizing your court documents: Reviewing and “swearing” them

      Once you know which documents you will be using and what information you will be including in them, you can finalize the documents. This is done by:

      • having the documents reviewed; and
      • “swearing” the documents (if needed).

      Getting the paperwork checked over

      Before you file your paperwork or have it “sworn” (if needed), 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” documents to be used in court

      This step will be required if you are filing documents that contain evidence (Statements or Affidavits).

      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.”

      To prove that a document has been sworn or affirmed properly, it must be done in front of a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public (see below for more information about the difference). Also, you must take government-issued photo identification with you. The person who swears the documents for you must verify who you are.

      You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca.

      Resolution and Court Administration Services can also help with this.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Be Aware

      It is a criminal offence to swear information that you know is false. It is considered “perjury,” or lying under oath. The punishment can range anywhere from a fine up to 14 years in prison.

      Commissioner for Oaths

      A Commissioner for Oaths is an official who has the power to administer oaths and affirmations for documents to be used in Alberta. Commissioners for Oaths are appointed under, and get their authority from, the Notaries and Commissioners Act.

      The Commissioner for Oaths will:

      • administer (say) the oath or affirmation to you;
      • ask you to confirm that everything in the document is true;
      • witness your signature; and
      • sign the document as well to confirm that they administered the oath or affirmation.

      The part of the document that the Commissioner for Oaths signs is called the “jurat.” A jurat will look something like this: “Sworn (or affirmed) before me at the City of Red Deer, in the Province of Alberta, this 22nd day of March, 2016. A Commissioner for Oaths in and for the Province of Alberta.”

      Commissioners can often be found working in banks or real estate offices. Many Commissioners are appointed for a limited time. Commissioners who are appointed for a limited time have to include the expiry date of their appointment whenever they “commission” a document.

      Some people are automatically Commissioners for Oaths. These include lawyers and Notaries Public. These people remain Commissioners for as long as they hold that other “office.” For example, as long as a lawyer remains an active lawyer, they will also remain a Commissioner for Oaths.

      For more information about Commissioners for Oaths, see the following resources.

      Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Web What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?
      Patriot Law Group
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      Notary Public

      A Notary Public is similar to a Commissioner for Oaths, but has more powers:

      • A Notary Public may deal with documents that will be used outside of Alberta. For example, an Affidavit to be used in a lawsuit being conducted in the United States.
      • A Notary Public may also certify documents as being true copies of an original.
      • A Notary Public who is a lawyer or a judge may also certify contracts and commercial instruments, such as a promissory note.

      Like Commissioners for Oaths, Notaries Public can be appointed for a limited time or they can be automatically Notaries because of holding some other office (for example, lawyers).

      Every document that a Notary Public deals with must be stamped with the seal of the Notary Public, and contain in his or her name the words “Notary Public” and “Province of Alberta.” On each document, the Notary Public must:

      • clearly sign his or her name; and
      • include the date on which their appointment will expire. Or, if they are a lawyer or a judge, indicate that occupation or status.

      For more information about Notaries Public, see the following resources.

      Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Web What is a “Notary” and why do I need one?
      Patriot Law Group
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.
      Plaintiffs/Applicants: Filing the documents that start your action

      Once your documents are finalized and you are ready to start the court action, you can file them with the Court.

      When you file your documents, there are several things you need to know about, including:

      • Choosing the correct judicial centre
      • Filing your paperwork
      • Court fees (also called “filing fees”)

      These are described below.

      Be Aware

      When you file your documents, you may be told to participate in a court program. For more information, see the section below called “Court programs and services.”

      Words to know

      The documents that start your action can be:

      • a Claim. For example, this is used under the Family Law Act;
      • a Statement of Claim. For example, this is used under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
      • an Originating Application. For example, this is used for some kinds of protective orders.

      If you file a Statement of Claim, you will be called the Plaintiff. You may also include documents for a first chambers hearing. If you do, you would be the Applicant for that hearing.

      If you file a Claim or an Originating Application, you will be called the Applicant. Your first chambers hearing will be automatically scheduled when you file your starting documents.

      Choosing the correct judicial centre

      Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”).

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the general rules are:

      • a person who starts a court action must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live; and
      • once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

      Therefore:

      • If you are filing documents that start a court action, you will file it in the judicial centre where you live.
      • If you are responding to documents that start a court action, you must file your documents in the judicial centre where the Plaintiff/Applicant filed their documents.
      • If you are filing or responding to an application, but there has already been a different application related to the relationship breakdown, then you will file your documents where the court file is located.

      For example:

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

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      It may be possible to move your file. You would need to make a court application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer the file, use the following kit.

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

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

      Filing your paperwork and choosing a court date (if applicable)

      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. The number of copies you need will be different depending on the cause of action and how many respondents there are. However, the usual minimum is 3 copies. You can contact the Court of Queen’s Bench and ask in advance how many copies you will need.

      You file the documents at the courthouse in the correct judicial centre (see just above).

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

      When you hand your documents to the clerk at the Courthouse, they will check everything over to make sure your documents meet the legal requirements. If your documents do not meet these requirements, the clerks will reject them. You will have to take them away and fix whatever problems the clerk identified. The clerks cannot give you advice or make changes to documents for you. This is why it is important to take the time to learn the requirements and check your documents over before going to the Courthouse to file them. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      If your documents meet the legal requirements, they will be filed by the clerk.

      Choosing a court date (if applicable)

      If you are filing only a Statement of Claim, you do not have to pick a date for any hearing. This is because you are not asking for an Application.

      You will have to pick a court date for a hearing if you are filing:

      • a Statement of Claim and a first Application;
      • a Claim; or
      • an Originating Application.

      When choosing a date, you will need to consider:

      • the amount of notice that you need to give the other party;
      • how much time the other party needs to respond; and
      • how much time you and the other party may need to review each other’s documents and evidence.

      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 originals and will return the stamped copies to you.

      All documents must have a court stamp on them. This will usually look like a circular stamp with the word “Filed,” the date, and the judicial centre. These stamped copies are what you will need to “serve” the documents.

      Be Aware

      When you go to file your court documents to start the action, the clerk may direct you to one of the court programs or services to assist parties with family law actions. You may need to attend one or more of these programs before the clerk will accept your documents for filing. For more information, see the “Court programs and services” section below.

      Court fees (also called “filing fees”)

      It costs money to start a court action. Sometimes, you will also need to pay a fee if you are responding to an Application that someone else started. The exact amount that you will need to pay the court will depend on what your legal issues are. Each court has a list for how much certain Applications cost.

      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
      Court programs and services

      There are programs and services available to help parties going through the court system and, whenever possible, solve their issue outside of court. Some of them may be mandatory, which means that you must do them. This will depend on:

      • the type of legal action;
      • whether the program is available in your area; and
      • whether you are represented by a lawyer.

      You may even be required to attend one or more of the following programs before the start of your court action or shortly after it is started:

      • Caseflow Conference;
      • Resolution and Court Administration Services programs;
      • Parenting After Separation course;
      • Brief Conflict Intervention; and
      • meeting with a Dispute Resolution Officer or Child Support Resolution Officer.

      You may also ask to participate in some of these programs, even if it is not required. They are meant to help parties who have a family law action that involves children.

      Taking part in programs and processes to help solve your issues out of court is also a requirement of the Rules of Court. Specifically, Rule 4.16 states that parties are expected to attempt some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). For more information about ADR, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

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

      In order to go to trial, parties will have to prove that they have tried an out-of-court process to resolve their dispute (unless a court orders otherwise).

      Caseflow Conference

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

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      The program is mandatory for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact under the Family Law Act in judicial centres where it is offered.

      You may also request a Caseflow Conference even if you have a lawyer or are only applying for child support. You can make this request when filing the documents to start your court action.

      If a Caseflow Conference is required or requested, your first appointment will be with a Caseflow Coordinator instead of appearing in court before a judge. The Caseflow Coordinator is the neutral third party who leads the Caseflow Conference.

      The Caseflow Conference allows the parties to discuss the issues in a private setting that is less formal than a courtroom. The parties are given information about resources available to help them resolve their conflict. For example: mediation, or attending training workshops such as Parenting After Separation (PAS) or Focus On Communication in Separation (FOCIS).

      This program is free. For more information on the program, see the following resources.

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

      Web Support in resolving parenting disputes
      Government of Alberta
      English

      PDF Caseflow Conference Program
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Note that the Caseflow Conference Program is now available outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

      Resolution and Court Administration Services

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

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

      A few examples of the kinds of help available from RCAS are described below.

      Triage

      Triage is offered only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. At triage, you will:

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

      Intake

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

      For more information, see the following resources.

      Web Family court assistance
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Web Intake Services (Alberta)
      Government of Canada
      English

      Web Family mediation
      Government of Alberta
      English
      ​​​​

      Family Court Counsellors

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

      For more information, see the following resources.

      Web Family court assistance
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Web Family court counsellor locations
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Parenting After Separation Course

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

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

      If you apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for child-related issues, the PAS course is mandatory. This means you must take it. You will likely have to prove that you have taken the course before a judge will give you a parenting order (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

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

      For more information, see the following resources.

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

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


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

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

      Brief Conflict Intervention

      Brief Conflict Intervention (BCI) is a service for parties who are not able to resolve parenting issues. This usually happens later in the process, after the parties have tried to resolve their issues in other ways.

      A specialist in parenting conflicts will spend up to 10 hours with the parties. The specialist helps the parties:

      • understand the needs of their children during separation;
      • understand the sources of the conflict and how it affects the children; and
      • reach an agreement about the conflict (if possible).

      At the end of the intervention, the specialist completes a report about the issues resolved and those remaining in dispute. The report does not provide specific recommendations, but it is available to the Court.

      Brief Conflict Intervention may be ordered by the Court. Referrals can also be made by lawyers, mediators, family professionals. Or the parties themselves can request it. Both parties must agree to participate in the intervention and are required to try mediation before using this service.

      Brief Conflict Intervention is available across Alberta. For more information and to register, see the following resource.

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

      Dispute Resolution Officer or Child Support Resolution Officer

      The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) program is offered in Calgary, and the Child Support Resolution Officer (CSRO) program is offered in Edmonton. Both programs allow parties who want to apply for child support or change their child support to meet together with a senior family lawyer.

      In Calgary:

      • The DRO program is mandatory for all applications in the Court of Queen’s Bench for child support or to change child support. There are some exceptions to this requirement.
      • The DRO program is available for those making child support applications in the Provincial Court.
      • The DRO program is available for those who have not yet filed an application, but simply want to meet to discuss child support.

      In Edmonton, the CSRO program is mandatory for self-represented parties in the Court of Queen’s Bench who want to apply for child support or change child support.

      For more information about these programs, see the following resource and the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page or the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

      Web Resolving child support disputes
      Government of Alberta
      English
      How time limits are calculated

      When you deal with your matters in court, you will have to meet many important deadlines. Parties are often required to do something by a certain time.

      These time periods are often a set number of days or months. For example:

      • a party might have to respond “within 20 days” of receiving certain paperwork;
      • a party might have to serve documents one month before a hearing.

      It is important to follow these deadlines. However, sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly when a time period starts, or when it ends. For example: what if the last day in the 20-day time period for serving a document falls on a holiday?

      This section outlines the rules for calculating time periods for court processes. These rules are found in the following laws:

      • the Alberta Rules of Court; and
      • Alberta’s Interpretation Act.

      Counting days

      When counting to or from a certain event in days, the date on which the event occurs is not counted. There are 2 different ways this is done, depending on whether:

      • you are counting forward from an event happening (in other words, you must do something “within” a certain period of the event happening); or
      • you are counting backward from an event that will happen in the future (in other words, you must do something “before” an event happens).

      An example of counting forward (“within” a certain period)

      A Statement of Defence must be served within 20 days after the Statement of Claim is served.

      • If the Statement of Claim was served on January 4, the Statement of Defence must be filed and served on or before January 24.
      • The day of the event—the date the Statement of Claim was served (January 4)—is not counted.

      An example of counting backward (“on or before” a certain date)

      An Originating Application must be served 10 days or more before the date of the hearing.

      • If the hearing is scheduled for May 15, the materials must be filed and served on or before May 5.
      • The day of the event—the scheduled hearing day (May 15)—is not counted.

      Counting months

      When counting to or from a date in months, time is calculated:

      • from the date on which the event occurs in the month to
      • the same-numbered date in a later or previous month.

      For example:

      • A period of 3 months counted forward from an event on January 15 ends on April 15.
      • A period of 3 months counted backward from an event on April 30 ends on January 30.

      If the count ends on the 29, 30, or 31, there may be no same-numbered date in a later or previous month. In this case, the count ends on the last day of the later or previous month.

      • A time period of 3 months counted forward from an event on January 31 ends on April 30.
      • A time period of 3 months counted backward from an event on May 31 ends on February 28.

      Counting years

      When counting to or from a date in years, time is calculated:

      • from the date on which the event occurs in a year to
      • the same-numbered date in a later or previous year.

      For example: A time period of one year counted from an event on January 15 ends on January 15 of the next year.

      However, if the count starts on February 29 and ends in a year that is not a leap year, the count ends on February 28 of the next year.

      Sundays and holidays

      If a deadline falls on a Sunday or a holiday, the deadline will be the next day that is not a Sunday or a holiday.

      For example:

      A Statement of Defence must be served within 20 days after the Statement of Claim is served.

      • If the Statement of Claim was served on December 5, the Statement of Defence must be filed and served on or before December 25.
      • Even though it is a Monday (a normal business day), January 1 is a recognized holiday (New Year’s Day). The period for filing and serving the Statement of Defence will end the following day, January 2.

      Filing or registering during an organization’s “regular” business hours

      Some time limits may involve “registering” or “filing” a document with an organization by a certain date. If that date falls on a day when the organization is not normally open for business, then the registration or filing may be done on the following day (counting before or after) that the organization is normally open for business.

      For example:

      Something must be registered within 10 days of a court decision.

      • The decision was on Wednesday May 8.
      • The office where the registration must be completed is normally closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
      • May 18 is a Saturday.
      • The period for registering the document will end on next normal business day: Monday, May 20.
      Serving documents: What is it and why is it important?

      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.

      When a Plaintiff/Applicant serves the Defendant/Respondent with the court documents that started the action, they are notifying the other party that:

      • a court action has been started; and
      • the date of the first hearing (if one is scheduled).

      If the Defendant/Respondent wants to present evidence to the Court, they must file their responding documents and serve those documents on the Plaintiff/Applicant.

      Serving documents is a very important step. It makes sure that everyone involved in a court case knows:

      • what needs to be decided;
      • what evidence is being used; and
      • when things are happening.

      As a result, there are many rules about service. These rules determine:

      • How the service must be completed
      • How to deal with problems in serving documents
      • The timing of service
      • How to deal with problems in the time for service
      • Proving that documents were served
      • Situations where you can make an application without serving documents. These are called “ex parte” applications.

      The exact rules can change depending on the circumstances. The following sections that start with “Serving documents” introduce these rules.

      Serving documents: Ways to serve

      There are rules about the way court documents can be served.

      Documents starting a court action (the Claim and Statements) must be served personally on the Defendant/Respondent. In other words, they must be given directly to the other party. Sometimes, a picture of the Defendant must be included. For example: in a Statement of Claim that asks for a divorce.

      However, once an action has been started, other documents can be served by any of the following methods:

      • personal service;
      • recorded mail;
      • electronic service (for example, email); or
      • on the other party’s lawyer.

      For example, if the Defendant/Respondent wishes to respond, they may do so by serving the Plaintiff/Applicant using any of those methods. The Plaintiff/Applicant does not have to be served personally.

      Each of these methods is described in more detail below.

      Be Aware

      Once documents have been served, proof of that service must be filed with the Court. This is done by filing an “Affidavit of Service.” If there is a hearing scheduled, this must be done before the hearing date. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section below for information about how to do this.

      For more information about serving court documents, see the following resources.

      Web Serving a notice in a court application
      Government of Alberta
      English

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      See p. 11-13.

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Personal service

      Personal service is simply finding the person to be served and handing them the documents.

      This is required for the following documents.

      • A Claim under the Family Law Act, including any application to change an existing order
      • Any of the Statements of Claim
      • A Notice of Withdrawal from a joint divorce
      • An application for custody, access, child support, or spousal support after a Divorce Judgment has been granted (including an application to change an existing order)
      • A Notice to Disclose where a final decision (a Judgment) has been made in an action for child support or spousal/partner support

      In most cases you can personally serve the documents yourself. However:

      However, it is a good idea to be cautious about serving court documents yourself. It can be difficult for both parties and there may be hard feelings. You may wish to have someone else serve the other party if there could be conflict.

      For more information about personal service, see the following resources.

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Web How Do I Personally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?
      Clicklaw
      English
      This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

      If you want, or need, to have another person complete the service, you can ask a friend or family member. Or you can hire a “process server.” These are people who specialize in this kind of work. For more information about process servers, see the following resources.

      Web About Process Servers - What They Can Do for You
      CanLaw Inc.
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      Web Process Service
      Dominion Process Servers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web What is a Process Server?
      ServeNow
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web Serving a notice in a court application
      Government of Alberta
      English

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Recorded mail

      “Recorded mail” means using mail delivery or a courier where the person receiving the documents must sign for them.

      Any party sending documents this way must make sure they have the correct “address for service” of the other party. This is the address that can be used to serve documents on that party.

      Be Aware

      If you do not have an address for service, you cannot serve the other party using recorded mail.

      If the person being served does not have a lawyer, their “address for service” will be the most recent of the following:

      • an address provided to the court and all other parties in writing;
      • an address provided “on the record” during a court appearance (communicated in court to the judge); or
      • the address given in the most recently filed document in the proceeding.

      If the person being served has a lawyer, then their “address for service” will be the lawyer’s address. This will be the lawyer’s office address and it can be found on the court documents or in written communications (for example, letters) between the parties.

      When documents are served by recorded mail, they are considered to have been served when the other party signs for them. The other party may not accept the documents, or may not sign for them right away. In such a case, as long as the “address for service” is correct, the documents are considered served 7 days after they were sent.

      Electronic service (such as email)

      Documents can also be sent by an electronic method (like email) if the following requirements are met:

      • The person being served must have specifically provided an “address” (like an email address) for the purpose of sending and receiving documents in the action. In other words, the other party must have made it clear that the email address can be used for sending court documents.
      • The document must be received in a form that can be used by that person. This means the other party must be able to open, read, save, and copy the documents. For example, they must be able to be opened and printed. Or saved and opened again.
      • Confirmation of the delivery must be received. The “electronic agent” (program) used by the sender must receive confirmation from the receiver’s electronic agent that the transmission of the documents was successful. You must be able to show this confirmation to prove that the documents were properly received and can be accessed and viewed by the recipient.

      Serving documents electronically may not be effective if:

      • the other party has not provided an email address for serving documents;
      • you do not know if they will access their electronic agent in a timely fashion; or
      • you are unsure how to prove that the documents were actually received by the other party.

      Electronic service may be an effective option where both parties agree in advance to use it and provide the necessary proof of service.

      Documents sent electronically are considered served when the sender receives confirmation that the transmission was successful.

      For more information about how to serve documents electronically, see the following resource and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      See p. 13.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Service on a lawyer

      In general, documents can be served on a party through their lawyer using any of the methods for service described above. The “address for service” of that party becomes the lawyer’s office address or email address. It can be found on the court documents or in written communications (for example, letters) between the parties.

      However, documents starting a court action must be served personally on the Respondent. This means they must be given directly to the Respondent. You cannot serve the documents starting a court action on the Respondent’s lawyer.

      Once documents that start a court action have been served on the Respondent, then future documents can be served on the either party’s “lawyer of record.” A party’s “lawyer of record” (if they have one) is the lawyer whose name appears on the most recent court documents filed in the action.

      Remember

      If there is a hearing scheduled, the person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service and file it with the Court before the hearing. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section below for more information about that.

      Serving documents: Problems with service and what you can do about them

      In some cases it may be difficult to personally serve the other party with court documents. For example:

      • You may not know where the other party is or how to find them.
      • You or your family may be in danger if the other party gets notice that you intend to go to court.
      • The other party may have moved away from Canada.

      For most service issues you will need to get a separate order from the Court allowing you to serve your documents on the Respondent:

      • in any way other than personal service (this is called “substitutional service”);
      • outside of Canada (this is called “service ex juris”).

      Or, in rare cases, you may be able to get an order from the Court allowing you to “dispense with service.” This means you would not have to serve the documents at all.

      You will have to apply to Court to deal with the service problem before you can go to court for your family law problems.

      If your court date is coming up and you have not been able to make a separate Application for a service issue, you can also ask the Court for an order relating to service at your chambers appearance. For example, you may ask the Court for an order allowing you to substitutionally serve the other party. You will need to be prepared to make this request. See the information below, and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

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

      If you ask for this issue to be dealt with at your chambers hearing, it may lead to a delay in dealing with the rest of your issues. You may wish to talk to a lawyer for more information about making an application to deal with a service issue. For information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Sometimes there is a question about whether service was completed. For example:

      • You served the other party. The other party claims they were not served. You need a court order to confirm that you did indeed serve the other party.
      • You were never served. Or, you were improperly served. The other party claims that you were properly served. You need a court order to confirm that you were not properly served.

      This section describes all of the above options for dealing with service problems. It includes:

      • substitutional service;
      • asking the Court to “dispense” with service;
      • serving documents outside of Alberta;
      • serving documents outside of Canada;
      • validating service; and
      • setting aside service.

      Substitutional service

      Sometimes the person you want to serve may be hard to find or hard to serve. For example:

      • you may not be able to find the other person even after an extensive search; or
      • you may know where they are but they refuse to accept the court documents (for example, by running away).

      In such cases, you can apply to Court for an order for “substitutional service.” You can even ask for this if the person lives outside of Alberta.

      If you are aware of another way of bringing the documents to the other party’s attention, an order for substitutional service will allow you to serve the documents in that other way. You can serve another person (a “substitute”), with the expectation that the documents will brought to the attention of the person you wish to serve.

      For more information about substitutional service, see the following resources.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      See p. 12.

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English


      Web How Do I Substitutionally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?
      Clicklaw
      English
      This resource is from British Columbia, but the general concepts apply in Alberta.

      Video You Got Served
      Feldstein Family Law Group
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Before applying for an order for substitutional service, you must put a lot of effort into finding them and serving them. For example, you will be expected to take steps like:

      • Contacting family and friends, either directly or through social media
      • Contacting the other party’s current or former employer
      • Using the phone directory or online searches

      You may also wish to consider hiring a process server. They have experience in finding and serving people. For more information about process servers, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section below.

      Tip

      Make sure you keep a record of every step you took to locate the other party. To get an order for substitutional service, you will need to show the court that you put in a serious effort to find them.

      A common example of substitutional service is where the other party is living with a family member, like a parent. If you know the other party is living with their parent but you have not been able to serve them, you can ask for an order allowing you substitutionally serve them by leaving the documents with their parent instead.

      Other examples of substitutional service include:

      • Sending documents by mail, email, or through social media
      • Leaving the documents with another adult at their place of work
      • Giving the documents to a friend of theirs

      Whichever method you propose, you will need to be able to explain to the Court how that method is likely to bring the documents to the attention of the other party.

      If you cannot locate the other party and you are not aware of any method that is likely to get the documents to their attention, you can ask the Court for an order allowing you post an advertisement in a local newspaper in their last known place of residence.

      To apply to for an order of substitutional service from the Court, you will have to make an Application. For information about how to do that, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below. You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Tip

      If you will be serving this person again, you can ask the Court if all later service can also be done in the same way.

      The order allowing substitutional service must be served along with the other court documents, unless the Court orders otherwise. This does not apply if service is done by advertisement, but the advertisement must mention the order.

      For more information on making an application to the Court of Queen’s Bench for substitutional service, see the section below called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications” and the following resource.

      Asking the Court to “dispense” with service

      You can ask the court to “dispense” with service if:

      • you have tried everything reasonable to locate the person; and
      • there is no one that you can substitutionally serve.

      This will allow you to proceed with your court action without serving the other party.

      For more information about finding someone to serve them and asking the Court to dispense with service, see the following resources.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      See p. 13.

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      To do this, you will need to:

      • show the Court all of the efforts you have made to find and serve the other party; and
      • explain why substitutional service will not work.

      For more information on making this application, see the section below called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications.”

      Serving documents outside of Alberta (but still within Canada)

      In general, if the person that you need to serve lives outside of Alberta but in Canada, then they may be served using:

      • the methods for service that are allowed in Alberta (described above in the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section); or
      • a method for service that is allowed in the jurisdiction where the person lives.

      This rule applies to the following court documents.

      • Two kinds of “starting documents”: a Statement of Claim for Divorce, and a Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.
      • All other court documents that do not start the court action.

      For other documents that start a family law action, there is an additional rule. That rule is that: the document that starts the action must include facts that show that there is a “real and substantial connection” between Alberta and the facts that the action is based on.

      You will have to show the “real and substantial connection” when serving the following starting documents outside of Alberta.

      • A Statement of Claim for Division of Matrimonial Property
      • An Originating Application
      • A Claim under the Family Law Act

      For example:

      • You and your former partner lived together for 20 years. In that time you always lived in Alberta.
      • You and the children still live in Alberta.
      • Your former partner is temporarily staying with family in British Columbia.
      • You are starting an action in Alberta under the Family Law Act.
      • When you file your Claim and Statements you must include all of this information to prove the real and substantial connection to Alberta. In other words, you must mention the reasons for serving the documents outside Alberta.
      • If that information is properly included in the documents and those documents are properly filed, you will be able to serve your former partner in British Columbia.
      • You can then serve your former partner in British Columbia and complete an Affidavit of Service to prove that you did so.

      When you go to court, you can tell the Court the other party was served outside of Alberta. You will also have your Affidavit of Service to prove that you completed the service.

      • If the other party is also in court, there should be no issue about the fact that the service was in British Columbia.
      • If the other party is not in court, the information you gave about the “real and substantial connection” will be important in deciding if the service was “proper” and if the Court can go ahead and hear your matter.

      If you need to include such information in your court documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services. They can help you with the forms.

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

      This is a very complex area of law. There are exceptions to this rule, and a long list of situations where a “real and substantial connection” will be automatic. Also, the fact that the other party is not in Alberta may affect other things. If you are in this situation, consider talking to a lawyer about your next steps and whether there is a “real and substantial connection” between your claim and the province of Alberta. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Tip

      If the person you are serving lives permanently outside of Alberta, there will be many other things to consider before making an application to court. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

      To actually serve someone outside of Alberta but within Canada, you may wish to contact a process server that is able to serve documents throughout Canada. For more information about process servers, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section below.

      For more information, see the following resources.

      Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
      Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more hereSee “Pleadings and Service.”

      Serving documents outside of Canada (“service ex juris”)

      If the person that you need to serve lives outside of Canada, you will need to apply for a court order for “service ex juris.” This means service “outside of the jurisdiction.” If you get an order for service ex juris, you will then need to arrange for the other party to be served.

      Tip

      If the person you need to serve is only outside of Canada temporarily, then you may want to consider waiting until they return to start your action. But, if they are going to be outside of Canada for a while, or you need to serve them urgently and cannot wait, then you will need an order for service ex juris.

      What you need to show the Court to get an order for service ex juris depends on the kinds of documents you want to serve.

      For the following documents, you only have to ask the Court for permission to serve outside of Canada:

      • a Statement of Claim for Divorce; and
      • a Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.

      But for all other documents, you will have to ask for permission to serve outside of Canada and give the Court additional information (described below). These documents include:

      • A Statement of Claim for Division of Matrimonial Property
      • An Originating Application
      • A Claim under the Family Law Act

      Specifically, these documents must include facts that show that there is a “real and substantial connection” between Alberta and the facts in the action.

      For example:

      • You and you former partner lived together for 20 years. In that time you always lived in Alberta.
      • You and the children still live in Alberta.
      • Your former partner is temporarily staying with family in Montana.
      • You are starting an action in Alberta under the Family Law Act.
      • When you file your documents you must include all of this information (to prove the real and substantial connection to Alberta).
      • In other words, you must mention the reasons for serving the document outside Canada.

      When you go to court asking for permission to serve in Montana, the information you gave about the “real and substantial connection” will be important in deciding whether this action should be started in Alberta even though the other party is in Montana.

      To apply for permission from the Court, you will have to make an Application. For information about how to do that, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below. You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Tip

      If you will be serving this person again, you can ask the Court if all later service can also be allowed ex juris.

      If you get a court order for service outside Canada, you can serve the documents using:

      • the methods for service that are allowed in Alberta (described above in the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section);
      • a method for service that is allowed in the jurisdiction where the person lives; or
      • a method for service allowed by the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. See the following resource.
      Web Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (available in multiple languages)
      Hague Conference on Private International Law
      Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Other languages
      Be Aware

      When serving the other party, you will have to serve both the document that starts the action (the document to be served) and a copy of the order allowing the service.

      To actually serve someone outside Canada, you may wish to contact a process server in Canada to see if they work with process servers in the jurisdiction the other party lives in. You can also try contacting a process server in that other jurisdiction. For more information about process servers, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section below.

      If the person you are serving lives permanently outside of Canada, there will be many other things to consider before making an application to court. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

      Be Aware

      This is a very complex area of law. There are exceptions to this rule, and a long list of situations where a “real and substantial connection” will be automatic. Also, the fact that the other party is not in Canada may affect other things. If you are in this situation, consider talking to a lawyer about your next steps and whether there is a “real and substantial connection” between your claim and the province of Alberta. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Validating service

      In certain circumstances, you may apply to court for an order “validating” service. This is an order in which the Court confirms that service has occurred.

      You can apply for this when:

      • a method of service was used that is not in the Alberta Rules of Court, and that method brought the document to the attention of the other party (or was likely to have done so); or
      • the document would have been served on the other party or come to their attention but they took steps to avoid being served.

      This type of order can be applied for whether the service is inside or outside Alberta.

      To apply for a court order validating service, you will have to make an Application. For information about how to do that, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below.

      Setting aside service

      Serving court documents is an important part of the process. The courts want to ensure that the parties are aware that a court action affecting their rights is taking place. If documents are served properly and the other party takes no action, then the Court can give an order without any input from that person.

      Sometimes, however, a Defendant/Respondent may not have received the documents and they want to have a say in the court action.

      A person who is named as a Defendant or Respondent in a court action can apply to court for an order that states they were not properly served. They can do this if they did not receive a document starting an action but the Plaintiff/Applicant:

      • told the Court that the document was served;
      • got an order for substitutional service; or
      • got an order dispensing with service.

      However, the Defendant/Respondent must apply for this order before filing any sort of response documents.

      A Defendant/Respondent can also apply to court to set aside service if they did not receive a document that was served by recorded mail. In general, documents sent by recorded mail are considered served 7 days after being sent. However, a Defendant/Respondent can apply to court if they can show that:

      • they did not receive the document;
      • they did not try to avoid being served; and
      • it would be unfair to them to apply the rule that considers documents served 7 days after being sent by recorded mail.

      To apply for a court order setting aside service, you will have to make an Application. For information about how to do that, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below.

      Serving documents: Time limits

      All of the parties need enough time to read and respond to paperwork so that they can be prepared for court. There are different rules about the time in which documents must be served. These rules depend on:

      • what type of documents are being served;
      • whether the service is coming from the Plaintiff, Applicant, Defendant, or the Respondent; and
      • what step you are at in the court process.

      These time limits are explained in detail in many of the sections below.

      Serving documents: Problems with the time for service and changing that time period

      As described on this Information Page, the parties must serve court documents on each other within certain time periods. Sometimes, either party may have problems with these time periods. If that is the case, you may be able to ask the Court to change the time periods.

      Specifically, you can ask the Court to:

      • Shorten a time period. For example, if you need the Court’s help to deal with an urgent parenting time issue. One situation where this might happen is if the other party is refusing consent for the children to travel and the trip is coming up right away.
      • Extend a time period. For example, you want to provide a detailed reply to an application but you are required to work extra long hours and you need more time.

      To ask the Court to change a time period, you would make an Application. See the section below called “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one.”

      If you already have a hearing scheduled and you want to ask for either of these, you can do one of the following.

      • Go to court on the hearing date that has already been scheduled and ask the judge to order new time periods for service. If you do this, it is likely that the Court will only deal with the new time period at the hearing. The other issues will be postponed to the new hearing date to ensure both parties have been properly served with each other’s court documents.
      • Ask for the hearing date to be moved up so that the service time periods can be dealt with.

      Resolution and Court Administration Services can tell you how to do either of these things.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Tip

      If you need more time to prepare for a chambers hearing, you can ask for an “adjournment” to delay your hearing date. There are different ways to do this. See the “Adjourning chambers Applications” section below for more information.

      Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served (the Affidavit of Service)

      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. An “Affidavit of Service” is a written, sworn statement by that person that describes:

      • what they served;
      • who they served; and
      • when and how the service was done.

      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.” For more information about this process, see the section above called “Finalizing your court documents.”

      The Affidavit of Service must be completed and sworn (or affirmed) by the person who completed the service. Then it must be filed with the Court before the court date.

      Be Aware

      You may need to file the Affidavit of Service yourself, even if someone else completed the service (such as a family member or process server). However, the person who completed the service must fill out the Affidavit of Service form themselves, and swear the form themselves.

      If the service was done by recorded mail or electronic service, the person who sent the documents will have to complete and swear the Affidavit of Service. They will need to attach proof that the documents were received. (See the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.) Again, the Affidavit of Service must be filed with the Court before the court date.

      Remember

      You must file an Affidavit of Service every time you serve the other party with court documents. Where the rules require that the other party be “served,” then you will need to prove that the service occurred by filing an Affidavit of Service. This is true for every kind of service.

      To view an Affidavit of Service for use in the Court of Queen’s Bench by an Applicant in a Family Law Act claim, see the following resource.

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

      To view an Affidavit of Service for use in the Court of Queen’s Bench by a Respondent in a Family Law Act claim, see the following resource.

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

      To view a general Queen’s Bench Affidavit of Service, see the following resource.

      Sometimes, actions in Queen’s Bench have an Affidavit of Service for that specific action. For example, the “Affidavit of Service for a Statement of Claim for Divorce.” Or, a blank Affidavit of Service is included in an application “kit.” For information about these and links to them, see the Information Page for each individual topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      Serving documents: Ex parte applications (applications without serving the other party)

      In some cases it is possible to make an application to court without giving any notice to the other party. This is called making an “ex parte” application. This is a Latin phrase that means “from one party.” In other words, you can go to court without the other party.

      Be Aware

      Courts are generally reluctant to grant ex parte orders. To get one, the Applicant is typically expected to give the Court complete information both for and against their Application. There are also consequences for making an Application based on incomplete or unfair information. For example, an Applicant may have to pay the full court costs of the Respondent.

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench there are 3 situations where an ex parte application may be allowed. These are:

      • applications that deal with a service issue;
      • when your safety (or your children’s safety) may be at risk if the other party knows that you intend to make an application; or
      • if it is necessary to avoid “undue prejudice” to the applicant.

      These situations are described in more detail just below.

      The process for making ex parte applications is the same as making any other application to court. The difference is that you do not serve the other party. For more information about making applications, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      Applications that deal with service issues

      In the “Serving documents: Problems with service and what you can do about them” section above, there are examples of situations where you may have trouble serving the other party. To deal with those service issues, you may need a court order that allows another method of service. Applications for such orders are automatically ex parte applications because the other party will not be there or get notice.

      “Undue prejudice”

      “Undue prejudice” means that “unfair harm” may result.

      In some situations, giving the other party notice of your application may cause the damage you are asking the Court to help you avoid. In such cases, courts may grant ex parte orders.

      Consider a situation where a person has taken some property that belongs to you.

      • You want to ask the Court for an order requiring them to return the property.
      • You know that if you give them notice of your application, they may sell or destroy the property, or remove it from the jurisdiction.
      • In such a case, you may be able to get an ex parte order to have the property returned to you until the ownership of the property can be decided in court.
      • This type of court order is called an “injunction.”

      Another example is applying for an order that is needed on an extremely urgent basis. In these cases, there is simply not enough time to give the other party notice.

      Courts are generally reluctant to grant ex parte orders. To get one, the Applicant is typically expected to give the Court complete information both for and against their Application. There are also consequences for making an Application based on incomplete or unfair information. For example, an Applicant may have to pay the full court costs of the Respondent.

      Safety issues

      Ex parte applications can also be made in situations where there is an issue about the safety of the person making the application. Specifically, when the Applicant’s safety is at risk because of the Respondent.

      Some laws have sections that describe the situations where ex parte applications are allowed. An example of this is an application for exclusive possession of the family home under the Matrimonial Property Act or the Family Law Act. This application may be made ex parte if you can show the Court that there is a risk of injury to you or your children if notice is given.

      Even if there is no section of the law that directly allows ex parte applications, you may be able to ask for one if there is a risk of danger to you or your family. For example, an application for guardianship of a child under the Family Law Act.

      If you have concerns about your safety or your children’s safety as a result of making a court application, talk to staff at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      For more information about serving documents when there are safety concerns, see the following resource.

      PDF Serving Documents on an Abusive Party
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      Tip

      See the Family Violence & the Legal Process Information Page for information about other things to consider when dealing with legal matters as a victim of family violence.

      More information

      The following resource has more information on making ex parte applications in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

      For information about whether you can make an ex parte application, contact the Court of Queen’s Bench in your judicial centre, or ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      You may also wish to speak to a lawyer if you are unsure about whether you can go to court without notice to the other party. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Serving documents: Getting help

      If you are concerned about serving court documents on the other party, you can get help.

      You can contact a “process server” to help you with serving court documents. Process servers specialize in serving court documents.

      • When they serve documents for you, they will prepare the Affidavit of Service to prove that the documents were served. See the section above called “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” for more information.
      • They may also be able to help you locate the other party to serve them.

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

      Web About Process Servers - What They Can Do for You
      CanLaw Inc.
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      Web Process Service
      Dominion Process Servers
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Web What is a Process Server?
      ServeNow
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      You can find process servers in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca.

      Resolution and Court Administration Services can provide information that may assist you. They also have the form that is required to apply to court to deal with a service issue. That form is not available online. The following resource has contact information.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      You can talk to a lawyer about how to properly serve documents. A lawyer can also help you with any application that may be needed to deal with a service issue. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Applicants under the Family Law Act: When to serve the Claim on the Respondent

      Once the Claim documents are filed (including any Statements and Affidavits), you will need to give copies of them to the Respondent. This is called “serving” the court documents. It is a critical part of any court action.

      Your Claim documents start a court action. Documents starting a court action must be served personally on the Respondent. In other words, they must be given directly to the Respondent. This is called “personal service.” There are other important rules about serving court documents. For more information about these rules, see the sections above that start with “Serving documents.”

      Remember

      Your Claim documents will also be used to schedule your first chambers hearing. For more information, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      You will need to serve the Respondent within a certain period of time before the hearing date on the Claim form. These periods are as follows:

      • At least 20 days before the hearing if it is being served in Alberta
      • At least one month before the hearing if it is being served outside Alberta but within Canada
      • At least 2 months before the hearing if it is being served outside Canada

      The Court can extend or shorten these time limits if needed. For more information about this, see the “Serving documents: Problems with the time for service” section above.

      Once documents have been served, proof of that service must be filed with the Court. See the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section above for information about how to do this.

      Remember

      There are rare situations where Claim documents do not need to be served on the Respondent. For more information about when this might be allowed, see the section above called “Serving documents: Ex parte applications.”

      Plaintiffs under the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act: When to serve a Statement of Claim

      Once your Statement of Claim (and any other required documents) are filed, you will need to give copies of them to the Defendant. This is called “serving” the court documents. It is a critical part of any court action.

      Your Statement of Claim starts a court action. Documents starting a court action must be served personally on the Defendant. In other words, they must be given directly to the Defendant. This is called “personal service.” There are other important rules about how to properly serve court documents. For more information about these rules, see the sections above that start with “Serving documents.”

      Once filed with the Court, a Statement of Claim must be served on the Defendant within one year. A judge may extend that time for service, but only for an additional 3 months. To ask a judge for an extension, you must file an Application before the one-year deadline expires.

      Be Aware

      If you want to schedule a first chambers hearing, you will need to serve your starting documents earlier than this deadline. This is because you cannot have a hearing for your Application if the starting documents have not been properly served on the Defendant. Many people serve all the documents at the same time. This includes the documents that start the action as well as the documents needed for a first chambers Application. For more information, see the section above called “Scheduling a first hearing (an “Application”) when you file your starting documents.”

      There are 2 additional rules if you are serving either:

      • a Statement of Claim for Divorce; or
      • a Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.

      These rules are:

      1. The Plaintiff cannot serve the Defendant themselves. Instead, someone else must personally serve the Defendant.
      2. A picture of the Defendant must be included in the Affidavit of Service (unless the Court has ordered that you can serve without a picture). This means that the Plaintiff must give a picture to the person who is serving the document. This helps to identify the Defendant and make sure that the correct person is served. This picture is then attached to the Affidavit of Service as an exhibit.

      For more information about serving court documents, see the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.

      Applicants serving an Originating Application: How and when

      Once your documents are filed, you will need to give copies of them to the Respondent. This is called “serving” the court documents. It is a critical part of any court action.

      There are important rules about how to properly serve court documents. For more information about these rules, see the sections above that start with “Serving documents.”

      Your Originating Application starts a court action. Documents starting a court action must be served personally on the Respondent. In other words, they must be given directly to the Defendant. This is called “personal service.” For more information about this, see the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.

      For actions started by Originating Application, serving the documents lets the other party know that:

      • a court action has been started; and
      • a court hearing date has been set.

      This is because actions started by Originating Application are automatically given a chambers hearing date.

      Once filed with the Court, a copy of the Originating Application and supporting evidence (usually an Affidavit) must be served personally on the Respondent 10 days or more before the hearing date.

      There are exceptions to this time period for Originating Applications that deal with:

      • a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act; or
      • a corollary relief order under the Divorce Act granted by a court outside Alberta.

      The deadlines for those Originating Applications are:

      • 20 days or more before the hearing date if it is served in Alberta
      • 1 month or more before the hearing date if it is served outside Alberta but within Canada
      • 2 months or more before the hearing date if it is served outside Canada
      Respondents under the Family Law Act: Responding to a Claim

      Completing Response documents

      If you have been served with a Claim and wish to respond, you must file a “Response” form.

      You will also want to provide your own evidence. To do that, you must complete a Reply Statement about each topic the Applicant mentioned. For example: there is a “Reply Statement - Parenting” and a “Reply Statement - Partner Support.”

      The Response form and the Reply Statements you need to fill out are included on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: Responses and Reply Statements about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      If you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for and you want to ask for your own order, you can file:

      • a Response form where you describe the parts of the Application you disagree with and explain the order you are applying for;
      • Reply Statement(s) for those parts of the Application you disagree with; and
      • Statement(s) to support the order you are asking for.

      For example:

      The Applicant has filed a Claim and Statement for child support only. You disagree with their request, and you want to ask for an order about parenting time. In this case, you would:

      • Use the Response form to respond to the Applicant’s request about child support and describe your request for an order about parenting time.
      • Reply to the Applicant’s child support request by filing a “Reply Statement” about child support.
      • File a “Statement” about parenting time to support your request.

      For information about completing Statements and Affidavits, see the section above called “Completing Statements and Affidavits.”

      Once complete, the documents will need to be checked over and sworn. For information about that, see the “Finalizing your court documents: Reviewing them and swearing them” section above.

      Filing your Response documents

      Once your Response documents have been finalized, you will need to file your documents with the Court.

      Checking the judicial centre

      Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”).

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the general rules are:

      • a person who starts a court action must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live; and
      • once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

      The Claim form that you were served with will tell you where the Applicant filed their paperwork. You must file your document in the judicial centre where the Applicant filed their documents.

      You may think that the Applicant made a mistake when choosing the judicial centre. Or, you may think that the judicial centre should be changed. For information on what your options are, see the “Responding to court paperwork for the first time” section on the Process tab of the Information Page for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      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

      Time limits

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

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

      Serving the Response

      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 they get the notice as soon as possible. This is a very important step. If the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

      Remember

      You must serve the Applicant with copies of the Response documents within a “reasonable time” before the court date set out in the Claim. Anything less than 10 days’ notice will be considered unreasonable. If for any reason you cannot serve within that time limit, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as they did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

      When you were served with the Claim you were “personally” served. This means that someone handed you the documents. When you are responding to a Claim, you do not have to personally serve the other party. You can serve by other methods. For more information about the different methods of service, and what to think about when choosing your method, see the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above.

      For information about getting help serving your documents, see the “Serving documents: Getting help” section above.

      Once your documents have been served on the other party, you must give the Court proof of that service. To do this, the person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service form, which must be filed with the Court. For more information, see the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section above.

      Defendants under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act: Responding to a Statement of Claim (Statement of Defence)

      A Defendant may respond to a Statement of Claim in several ways. A Defendant may choose to:

      • not respond at all;
      • agree with what the Plaintiff is asking for, but still ask for notice of any court hearings;
      • disagree with what the Plaintiff is asking for; or
      • disagree with what the Plaintiff is asking for and file a claim of their own.

      All of these options are introduced just below. See the following Information Pages for more information.

      Be Aware

      A Plaintiff may also serve notice for a first “Application” at the same time as the Statement of Claim. For more information about how to respond, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      Response options

      Not responding at all

      If you do not respond at all, the Plaintiff may get a court order or judgment giving them the remedy they are asking for. If that happens, you will get a copy of the Judgment in the mail when it is done.

      Filing a “Demand for Notice”

      A “Demand of Notice” will keep you informed about any court proceedings. If you file a Demand for Notice, you can also expect to be contacted to sign further documents.

      Filing a “Statement of Defence”

      In a Statement of Defence you are simply saying that you disagree with what the Plaintiff has asked for, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own on a topic not mentioned by the Applicant.

      The exact Statement of Defence that you use will depend on the kind of Statement of Claim that was filed:

      • If the Plaintiff served you with a Statement of Claim for Divorce, you respond with a Statement of Defence for Divorce.
      • If the Plaintiff served you with a Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property, you respond with a Statement of Defence for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.
      • If the Plaintiff served you with a Statement of Claim for Division of Matrimonial Property, you respond with a Statement of Defence for Division of Matrimonial Property.

      Filing a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim”

      In the Statement of Defence you are simply saying that you disagree. By also filing a Counterclaim, you are asking for very specific things of your own. There are several forms. The one you use will depend on what you were served with and what you want. You have 3 options, as described below.

      File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce”

      You would use these forms if:

      • you disagree with what the other party has asked for; and
      • you are asking for specific corollary relief of your own.

      File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Division of Matrimonial Property”

      You would use these forms if:

      • you disagree with what the other party has asked for relating to the divorce (for example, relating to corollary relief); and
      • you are asking for specific things of your own in terms of property division.

      File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property”

      You would use these forms if:

      • you disagree with what the other party has asked for relating to the divorce (for example, relating to corollary relief) and property division; and
      • you are asking for very specific things of your own in terms of corollary relief and property division.

      Tip

      If you are served with a Statement of Claim and wish to respond, you may also want to talk to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Be Aware

      If are served with a Statement of Claim and you file any of the Counterclaim forms above, you would then be the “Defendant” in the divorce action and the “Plaintiff by Counterclaim” for the issues in dispute. The Plaintiff who filed the original Statement of Claim would then also be the “Defendant by Counterclaim.”

      Time limits for responding

      If you choose to file a Response, you must file your documents with the Court and serve the Plaintiff within the following time periods:

      • If you were served in Alberta, within 20 days of the day you were served
      • If you were served elsewhere in Canada, within 1 month of the day you were served
      • If you were served outside of Canada, within 2 months of the day you were served

      The documents you use to respond to the Statement of Claim must be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in the judicial centre shown on the Statement of Claim. 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.

      Remember

      The Plaintiff may also have served you with a notice for a first “application” at the same time as the Statement of Claim. There are different time limits for responding to that. For more information about how to respond, see the sections that start with "Chambers Applications" below.

      Be Aware

      When you were served with the Statement of Claim you may also have been served with a Notice to Disclose/Application. This is the court document that requires you to give your spouse detailed financial information within one month. For more information about that, see the Process tabs of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page and the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

      Serving the Response documents

      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 they get the notice as soon as possible. This is a very important step. If the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

      Remember

      You must serve the Applicant with copies of the Response documents within a “reasonable time” before the court date set out in the Claim. Anything less than 10 days’ notice will be considered unreasonable.

      When you were served with the Claim you were “personally” served. This means that someone handed you the documents. When you are responding to a Claim, you do not have to personally serve the other party. You can serve by other methods.

      Once your documents have been served on the other party, you must give the Court proof of that service. To do this, the person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service form, which must be filed with the Court before the hearing date.

      For more information about all of this, see the sections starting with “Serving documents” above.

      More information

      For more information about responding to a Statement of Claim under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act, see the following Information Pages.

      Responding to an Originating Application

      If you have been served with an Originating Application and wish to respond, you must file an Affidavit with the Court in the judicial centre shown on the Originating Application.

      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.

      Once filed, this responding Affidavit must then be served on the Applicant within a “reasonable time” before the court date set out in the Application. A useful guideline for determining a “reasonable time” would be to ask whether the other party will have enough time to:

      • review your Affidavit; and
      • prepare, file, and serve a reply Affidavit (if they choose to do so).

      See the “Serving documents: Ways to serve” section above for information about how this is done.

      For more information about responding to an Originating Application, see the following resource.

      Web Respond to an Originating Application
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Some examples of issues that can be brought to the Court of Queen’s Bench through an Originating Application include applications for the following.

      • A request to change an order under the Divorce Act granted by a court outside Alberta
      • A Queen’s Bench Protection Order
      • A restraining order
      • Dividing jointly owned property under the Law of Property Act (for non-married couples)
      • Registering, enforcing, or changing a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act
      • An order for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home under the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) if no other MPA action has been started. This can be done either on its own or as part of a divorce action.

      If you agree with what is being asked for

      If you agree with what is being asked for, you do not have to file any paperwork. The hearing will go ahead without your input.

      If you disagree with what is being asked for

      If you disagree with what is being asked for, you have 2 choices:

      1. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the other party wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own, or if it is not clear what the other party is asking for.
      2. File an Affidavit and Application of your own (this is called a “Cross Application”). You do this if you disagree with what the other party wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

      Filing only an Affidavit

      If you choose to respond to the other party’s Application with only an Affidavit, you will file an “Affidavit in Response.” See the following form.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. For more information, see the section called “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” below.

      Filing an Affidavit and a Cross Application

      If you are responding to the other party’s Application by filing a Cross Application, you would file and serve your own Application.

      • For some actions, there will be specific forms for this. You can find them on the Information Pages for those topics. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.
      • If there is no specific form, you can use the “Originating Application” form. For more information about that, see the “Starting an action by Originating Application" section above.

      A few things you should know:

      • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by the other party 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 the other party’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
      • Because there are now 2 applications with various time requirements, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delay) of your hearing to give the other party and yourself enough time to review and file all of the paperwork.
      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling Cross Applications. For more information, see the following sections below.

      • “Chambers Applications: Responding to an Application in regular chambers”
      • “Chambers Applications: Asking for, or responding to, an Application in special chambers”
      Applicants under the Family Law Act: Responding to Response documents

      You may have been served with Response documents where the Respondent is asking for their own order from the Court. In other words, they are making their own claim. In this case, you may want to file additional documents to respond to the requests.

      If you are responding to a claim by the Respondent:

      • you can provide evidence using Reply Statements or Affidavits, or both; and
      • you must file these Reply Statements or Affidavits with the Court within a “reasonable time.” Anything less than 5 days’ notice will be considered unreasonable.

      The Reply Statements can be found on the Process tabs of the Information Pages for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

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

      When there are Statements and Reply Statements from both parties, it can get very confusing knowing which documents go with which requests, 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 on a calendar; and
      • maybe even draw a little chart for yourself.
      Plaintiffs under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act: Responding to Response documents

      Completing a Statement of Defence to Counterclaim

      In response to your Statement of Claim, the other party may have filed a “Counterclaim.” If so, you will also need to file a “Statement of Defence” to the Counterclaim. This now makes you the “Defendant by Counterclaim” in addition to being the “Plaintiff.”

      You have limited time to do this.

      • If you were served in Alberta, you must file within 20 days of the day you were served.
      • If you were served elsewhere in Canada, you must file within 1 month of the day you were served.
      • If you were served outside of Canada, you must file within 2 months of the day you were served.

      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.

      To file a Statement of Defence to Counterclaim, you will use the Statement of Defence form. However, you will need to:

      • check off the box that says that you are the “Defendant by Counterclaim” (even though you are the Plaintiff in the Claim); and
      • fill it out very carefully so that it is clear that this is a response to a Counterclaim.
      • This can get quite confusing, so it is important to keep your paperwork well organized.

      When this form is complete, you may want to get it checked over by the court clerks. Then, you will need to “swear” the form, file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench, and serve it on your spouse, just as you did with your Statement of Claim.

      If the Defendant applied to have response deadlines extended

      The other party may have applied to the Court to have more time to respond to your Statement of Claim. This request is just like any other court “Application” and you will need to respond to it. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below.

      More information

      For more information, see the following Information Pages.

      Applicants who file an Originating Application: Replying to the Respondents documents

      If the other party responded with only an Affidavit

      If you want to respond to the information in the Respondent’s Affidavit, you may be able to file a “Supplemental Affidavit.”

      You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. For example:

      • something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit; or
      • to respond to some updated facts provided by the other party.

      If you fill out one of these Supplemental Affidavits, 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.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of Affidavits you are allowed in chambers. For more information, see the section called “Chambers Applications: Rules for Completing Affidavits and Statements” below.

      If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers, there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are not common in regular chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers. For more information about chambers, see the sections below that start with “Chambers Applications.”

      Regardless of 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 more information about adjournments, see the “Adjourning chambers Applications” 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. You risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give the other party enough time to review your documents.

      If the other party responded with an Affidavit and a Cross Application

      You are now the Applicant in your own Application, and the Respondent in the other party’s Application.

      As a result, it is now your turn to file a “Response” to the new Application. The other party will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit to your response, if they want to.

      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. As a result, it is helpful to:

      • keep all of the paperwork together,
      • keep things well organized (for example: in a binder),
      • mark deadlines and court hearings on a calendar, and
      • even draw a little chart for yourself, if you need to.
      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about Cross Applications. For more information, see the following sections below.

      • Chambers Applications: Responding to an Application in regular chambers
      • Chambers Applications: Asking for or responding to an Application in special chambers
      Making changes or adding new evidence to starting documents

      New evidence or changes in Family Law Act actions: “Update Statements”

      When parties file their Statements, Reply Statements, or Affidavits, they are expected to provide all of the relevant evidence they have to support their claim. (See the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above for more information about this.)

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

      • update some facts about you, such as a change of income or contact details;
      • respond to some updated facts given by the other party; or
      • add something that is related to the remedy you are asking for. For example: you are applying for parenting, but now you have booked a trip. You realize that you have to ask about travel consent as well.

      If this happens, you can let the Court know by filing an “Update Statement” or an Affidavit containing the new evidence.

      Be Aware

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

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

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

      This document must be served on the other party within a “reasonable time” before the date set out in the Claim. A useful guideline for determining a “reasonable time” would be to ask whether the other party will have enough time to:

      • review your documents; and
      • reply to your documents (if they choose to do so).

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

      Changes to pleadings: The Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act

      “Pleadings” are the beginning stages of a lawsuit, when the parties formally submit their claims and defences. This is where each party gets to name all of the topics they want the Court to decide about. The pleadings are like the chapters of a book—they give the outline of the book. In other words, the pleadings clearly state what needs to be done in order to resolve the dispute, including:

      • what issues need to be dealt with; and
      • what questions need to be answered.

      At some point, pleadings need to “close.” When pleadings close:

      • each side will know everything that will be dealt with in court; and
      • the Court can then move forward with trying to decide the issues. To be fair to both parties, the Court must know all of the issues that are in dispute.

      The issues, and the resulting decisions, will always be based on what the parties asked for in the pleadings. If pleadings did not “close,” matters might never get resolved in a timely manner. To continue with the book comparison: the judge cannot help write the book if the outline of the story is always changing, and the book would never end if chapters continued to be added.

      Pleadings in an action under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act include:

      • any of the Statements of Claim;
      • the Statement of Defence; and
      • any of the Counterclaims.

      Once these documents have all been filed and served, the pleadings are considered “closed.”

      Even if the above documents are not filed, the pleadings can still close. Each of these documents has time limits in which they must be filed. Once all of the time limits have passed (including any extensions that may have been given), the pleadings will be considered closed.

      After the pleadings have closed, the parties generally:

      • cannot add more issues; and
      • cannot deal with any new issues in court hearings.

      There is nothing you have to do to close pleadings. There is no separate form to sign, and court staff does not check or send reminders. Therefore, the parties need to be sure they have properly filed the pleadings and that they have all of the correct information in them.

      Be Aware

      You cannot book a trial until the pleadings have closed.

      If a topic is not included in the pleadings, it cannot be brought up later. As a result, if one of the parties wants to bring up a new topic, they would have to change (“amend”) the pleadings.

      It is difficult to correct or change pleadings after they are filed.

      Changing pleadings before they “close”

      Before the pleadings close, they can be corrected or changed by re-filing all of the documents. This includes serving these new documents and filing a new Affidavit of Service. However, when amending pleadings, there is a shorter 10-day time limit to serve the new documents.

      Changing pleadings after they “close”

      After the pleadings close, you cannot correct or change them without either:

      • getting the consent of the other party; or
      • asking the permission of the Court.

      If the other party agrees, you can change the pleadings by simply completing all of the documents again and having the other party sign his or her consent. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      If you ask the permission of the Court, the Court does not have to give permission to change the pleadings. It will not give permission if the proposed change would give an advantage to one party that could not be fixed by making an order for “costs.” (See the “Asking for costs” section below.) Even if the Court does agree, it may impose a time limit for making changes.

      To ask for the Court’s permission to amend the pleadings, you will have to make a chambers application to the Court. For more information, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      Be Aware

      If the other party has been allowed to change his or her pleadings, you can then make changes in your pleadings to respond to those changes without asking the Court for permission.

      New evidence or changes in actions that start with Originating Applications

      When parties file their documents they are expected to provide all of the relevant evidence they have to support their claim. (See the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above for more information about this.)

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

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

      If this occurs, you can let the Court know by filing a “Supplemental Affidavit” containing the new evidence.

      You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. For example:

      • something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit; or
      • to respond to some updated facts provided by the other party.

      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.

      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. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for Completing Affidavits and Statements” section below.

      If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers, there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are not common in regular chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers. For more information about chambers, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      Regardless of 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 more information about adjournments, see the “Adjourning chambers applications” 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. You risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give the other party enough time to review your documents.

      Problems with time limits

      There are many deadlines that apply to court processes. For example, there are deadlines for:

      • filing and serving the documents that start a court action;
      • filing and serving responding documents;
      • exchanging certain financial information; and
      • filing and serving documents related to chambers Applications.

      These are discussed throughout this Information Page.

      Tip

      See the “How time limits are calculated” section above for detailed information about calculating deadlines in court proceedings.

      If a party cannot meet a deadline or needs to have a step occur faster, they can ask the Court to change a deadline. The party asking for the change must apply to chambers (see the sections below). Courts expect parties to follow deadlines carefully. As a result, requesting party must have a very good reason to ask for the change.

      In most cases, the Court can order that a deadline be changed even if the deadline has already passed. However, an Application to extend the time limit for serving a Statement of Claim (for example, under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act) must be made before the original time limit expires (1 year from filing). And the extension can only be for 3 months.

      Chambers: An introduction

      Court actions are not like you see on television. They do not usually go straight to trial. Instead, many matters are first dealt with in “hearings” that happen in “chambers.”

      This is especially true for family law matters. It is likely that your first appearance in a courtroom for your family law action will be a hearing in chambers. This is mainly because of the following.

      • All actions started under the Family Law Act must go to chambers first. And many will be resolved through chambers. Very, very few ever go to a trial.
      • All actions started by Originating Applications must also go to chambers first. Again, very few go to trial.
      • Other actions can take a long time to get to trial, and families often need to deal with issues like child custody and support in chambers right away.
      • There may be service problems or other procedural issues that need to be dealt with. These matters are addressed in chambers.

      This section has information about:

      • What “chambers” is, and the types of remedies you can get in chambers
      • How to get into chambers for family law matters by making an “Application”

      What is “chambers”?

      Chambers” is a type of court hearing held in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers hearings are usually held in a courtroom that is open to the public. Or, more rarely, they may be held in “private chambers.” Private chambers hearings happen in the Justice’s or Master’s office. As a result, the word “chambers” may also refer to a judge’s office.

      A “hearing” is a court proceeding, other than a trial, where the parties appear before a decision-maker (usually a judge). That person will then decide about something that the parties disagree about. Usually, it is a smaller individual issue within the overall court action.

      If the hearing is in a courtroom, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. The judge may or may not deal with the cases in the order that they appear on the list.

      The Court’s decision in a hearing is called an “order.”

      For more general information about chambers, see the following resources.

      Web Court hearings “In Chambers”: how the courts manage their workflow
      Patriot Law Group
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      Web Pre-Trial Applications FAQs
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      How do you get to chambers?

      To get into chambers, you make an “Application” to the Court. In an Application:

      • One party (the “Applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives the Court evidence about why he or she should get it.
      • The “other side” (the “Respondent”) can then 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.
      Be Aware

      Not all Applications will require a hearing. For example, the parties may make an Application, but come to an agreement before the hearing. Or, an Application may be a “desk application.” This means that the paperwork is sent to the judge’s office for a decision, and the parties do not have to appear before the judge.

      Actions under the Family Law Act or started using an Originating Application

      If you start your action under the Family Law Act or by using an Originating Application, a first chambers hearing is automatically scheduled. And, the documents you used to start your action will also be used for your first chambers hearing. You do not have to complete a separate “Application” for your first chambers hearing. If you want any more chambers hearings, you or the other party will have to file additional documents.

      Actions under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act

      When an action is started using a Statement of Claim, a first chambers hearing is not automatically scheduled. You will need to complete separate documents to ask for a chambers hearing. There are specific forms and processes that are used to make an Application. They include forms that provide evidence.

      Matters that can be dealt with in chambers

      Judges in chambers can give various kinds of orders. Depending on the order being asked for, Applications can also be made at various times in a court action. They can be made:

      • before a trial;
      • during a trial; or
      • after a trial.

      Applications often take place before a trial to deal with various issues, including:

      • procedural matters;
      • preliminary matters;
      • temporary (“interim”) matters; or
      • varying (changing) existing orders.

      Procedural matters

      These are issues involving the rules that apply to court processes (mostly found in the Alberta Rules of Court). You may need an order to solve a problem with a particular step or process in the action.

      For example:

      • If you are having trouble serving the other party with court documents, you may need to make an Application to get the Court’s help with the service problem.
      • If you need more time to complete a certain step, you can apply for an order extending a deadline.

      Preliminary matters

      These are issues that need to be addressed because they are urgent or they are needed before a trial can happen.

      The following are examples of preliminary family law matters that can be dealt with in chambers:

      • One party wants to travel outside of Canada with a child. For that to happen, the other party has to give their consent. If that other party does not give their consent, the first party can apply to court for an order allowing the trip. This kind of urgent matter can be heard in chambers while the overall action involving child custody or parenting time continues.
      • A separating couple may be going to trial to determine how their property will be divided. One person may try to sell or give away some of the property before the trial. The other person may make an Application for an order that stops the other person from doing this.
      • One party serves the other party with a Request for Financial Information and the other party does not provide the requested information. At the scheduled hearing date, the first party can ask the Court to order that the other party disclose financial information.

      “Interim” (temporary) arrangements

      Interim orders are “temporary” orders. They are intended to put short-term arrangements in place while the parties work out longer-term plans.

      These are very common in family law actions involving:

      • child custody/parenting time;
      • child support; or
      • spousal/partner support.

      This is because it may be a long time from the start of an action to a trial (or final “judgment”). It can take months or even years. When parties first separate, they will often have to deal with these types of issues right away.

      For example: a spouse may have no income of their own and may need to apply for support right away. If the parties cannot agree on an interim arrangement, either party can apply to chambers for an order to put a temporary arrangement in place.

      Remember

      Actions started under the Family Law Act or an Originating Application will automatically go to chambers. In such cases, it is common for interim orders to be made at this first chambers hearing.

      Many people find that arrangements made by an interim order work very well and they do not need to continue with the legal action. In other words, they never go to trial. If the parties need to make any changes to the order, they can make another Application.

      “Varying” (changing) existing orders

      “Varying” an order may be needed if the parties’ circumstances have changed.

      For example:

      • A person may be paying child support based on an annual income of $60,000.
      • That person gets a new job and their income rises to $80,000 per year.
      • The court order may have to be changed because the amount of child support should be based on the new income.

      Either party can apply to change an existing order by making an Application to the Court that issued the first order. However, there must be a change in circumstances that makes a change necessary.

      For more information about applying to change a particular type of order, see the Process tab of the Information Pages for each legal topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      Be Aware

      Changing an order is not the same as an appeal. Varying a court order requires a change in circumstances, as described in the legislation. An appeal is asking a higher court to overturn all or a part of a lower court’s decision. For more information, see the “Appeals” section below.

      The different kinds of chambers that hear family law matters

      There are 3 different types of chambers that can deal with family law matters:

      • Family Justice Chambers
      • Special Family Law Chambers
      • Masters’ Chambers

      These are introduced below.

      Family Justice Chambers

      This kind of chambers goes by a few other names. For example, it can sometimes be called:

      • Family Law Chambers;
      • Family Chambers;
      • Regular Chambers;
      • Morning Family Law Chambers; or just
      • morning chambers.

      This is a type of chambers where a Queen’s Bench Justice deals with less complicated family law matters. To be heard in Family Justice Chambers, the matter must take less than 20 minutes (10 minutes for each party to present his or her case). If your matter will take longer than this, you will be scheduled in Special Family Law Chambers (see below).

      Be Aware

      In most of Alberta, if you are going to chambers for a family law matter, all of your issues (even procedural ones) will be dealt with in Family Justice Chambers. However, in Edmonton and Calgary, if you are dealing with an issue that a Master has the authority to hear (such as a procedural issue), then that particular issue must be dealt with in Masters’ Chambers. This is currently a pilot project. For more information, see the following resource.

      Special Family Law Chambers

      This is a type of chambers where a Queen’s Bench Justice deals with more complicated family law matters.

      You go to Special Family Law Chambers for legal issues that are expected to take longer than 20 minutes, but not more than one hour.

      If your matter will take longer than one hour, you must contact the Special Chambers Trial Coordinator to schedule up to a half day chambers hearing. See the following resource for contact information.

      Web Court of Queen's Bench: Trial Coordinators
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Be Aware

      The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For more information, see the sections that start with “Chambers Applications” below.

      Masters’ Chambers

      This is a type of chambers where the judge (who is called a “Master”) only has the power to make decisions for certain types of civil law issues. This includes many procedural matters.

      For more information about what kinds of issues must be heard by a Master, see the following resource.

      In most of Alberta, if you are going to chambers for a family law matter, all of your issues (even procedural ones) will be dealt with in Family Justice Chambers. However, in Edmonton and Calgary, if you are dealing with an issue that a Master has the authority to hear (such as a procedural issue), then that particular issue must be dealt with in Masters’ Chambers. This is currently a pilot project. For more information, see the following resource.

      Chambers Applications: An introduction

      When does a matter go to chambers?

      Actions under the Family Law Act and actions that start with an Originating Application

      In actions under the Family Law Act or started with an Originating Application, a first hearing is automatically scheduled when a party files their documents that start the court action. There are no separate forms to fill out.

      However, as the action continues, the parties may find that they have to go back to chambers to deal with other issues. That will mean that a new request has to be made. This is called making an “Application.” See just below for more information.

      Actions that start with a Statement of Claim

      When a person starts an action with a Statement of Claim, that Statement of Claim only starts the action. If they want a first chambers hearing, they will have to complete separate forms for that. That is called making an “Application.”

      As the action continues, the parties may find that they have to go back to chambers to deal with other issues. That means that a new Application has to be made. See just below for more information.

      How to make an Application

      To make an Application to chambers for a family law matter, you will need to file 2 documents with the Court:

      • an application document that describes the remedy you are asking for; and
      • written evidence to support your request.

      Before you file your application document, you will need to know the law that your action was started under. The forms you use will be different depending on whether your family law action was started:

      • under the Family Law Act;
      • under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
      • using an Originating Application.

      The differences in the required forms to ask for the Application are described in the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section below.

      The requirements for the written evidence are described in the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section below.

      Remember

      For all Applications, the party who makes the Application is called the “Applicant” and the other party is called the “Respondent.”

      Things to consider when scheduling a chambers hearing

      Do you need Family Chambers or Masters’ Chambers?

      In most of Alberta, if you are going to chambers for a family law matter, all of your issues (even procedural ones) will be dealt with in Family Chambers.

      However, in Edmonton and Calgary, if you are dealing with an issue that a Master has the authority to hear (such as a procedural issue), then that particular issue must be dealt with in Masters’ Chambers. This is currently a pilot project. For more information, see the following resource.

      For more information about what kinds of issues must be heard by a Master, see the following resource.

      If you need Family Chambers: Regular Chambers or Special Chambers?

      You will need to think about how much time you think you will need to make your Application. This will determine whether you apply to Regular Family Law Chambers or Special Family Law Chambers.

      • If you think you and the other party can present your case in 10 minutes each, then you can apply to Family Law Chambers.
      • If you think you need more than 10 minutes each but less than 30 minutes each, then you can apply to Special Family Law Chambers. Additional documents will be required (see below).
      • If you think you need more than 30 minutes each, then you can contact the Special Chambers Trial Coordinator to schedule a half-day Special Family Law Chambers hearing.
      Web Court of Queen's Bench: Trial Coordinators
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Also, regardless of the expected time, some kinds of Applications must go to Special Family Law Chambers. They are:

      • Applications for a change of custody under the Divorce Act; and
      • Applications for major changes to a parenting arrangement under the Family Law Act.

      Do you need to take the Parenting After Separation course?

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, any party who is applying for an order dealing with children must take the Parenting After Separation course. This includes non-parents. You will likely have to prove that you have taken the course before you can make your Application (although there are exceptions: ask court staff).

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

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

      Rules for chambers

      There are many rules that apply to chambers hearings. Many of these are described in the sections below that start with “Chambers Applications.” These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need to ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that.

      Many of the rules specific to family chambers are in the following resource.

      Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one

      Applications under the Family Law Act

      To make an Application in an action under the Family Law Act (FLA), you must file the same forms that you would use to start an action under the FLA.

      The paperwork

      This means you must complete:

      • a Claim form that describes the remedy you are asking for; and
      • Statement(s) or an Affidavit that sets out the evidence that supports your request.

      You can ask for more than one type of remedy in your Claim.

      Statements are mostly "fill in the blank" forms. For each type of remedy you are asking for in your Claim, you can complete one Statement. For example, if you are asking for an order about parenting time and child support, you would file:

      • one Statement for your parenting claim; and
      • one Statement for your child support claim.

      Or, you can complete Affidavits instead of Statements. Affidavits are generally not "fill in the blank" forms. Instead, you include what you want to say in numbered paragraphs. An Affidavit can be used to:

      • provide more evidence than can be included in a Statement; and
      • attach other evidence as “exhibits.”

      In many cases under the Family Law Act, Affidavits other than the “Affidavit of Service” are not used very much. This is because there are specific Statements for most issues, and the Statements are simpler to complete.

      For more information about the differences between Claims and Statements, see the “Starting an action under the Family Law Act” section above.

      For more information about completing Claims and Statements, see:

      • the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above; and
      • the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section below.

      Sometimes, there are also additional forms to complete or requirements to meet. For example, for Applications for child support there is also a “Disclosure Statement” that must be included. For more information about the Application requirements for each specific family law issue, see the Process tabs of the Information Pages about those topics. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      For more general information about making an Application under the FLA using a Claim form.

      Added requirements and options for some self-represented litigants

      There are programs and services available to help people without a lawyer going through the court system. Some of them may be mandatory. This means that you must do them. This will depend on:

      • the type of legal action; and
      • whether the program is available in your area.

      For example:

      • In many locations, self-represented litigants will have to go through an intake process. At intake, RCAS staff will discuss your options with you. This may include a referral to court-supported family mediation when appropriate.
      • In some locations, parties must go through Caseflow Conference. This is for anyone without a lawyer who is applying for parenting, guardianship, or contact in judicial centres where it is offered.
      • For parties making an application to ask for or to change to child support, some locations require that self-represented parties meet with a Child Support Resolution Officer or Dispute Resolution Officer.

      For more information about all of these requirements, see the “Court programs and services” section above.

      Applications under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act

      For Applications under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act, you must complete:

      • an Application form that describes the remedy you are asking for; and
      • an Affidavit that sets out the evidence that supports your request.

      You can ask for more than one type of remedy in your Application form. For example, you can ask for an order relating to parenting time and child support in a single Application. You would file one supporting Affidavit to provide the evidence for all the remedies you are asking for. See the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section below for more information.

      Be Aware

      When a person files an Application, they are called an “Applicant.” The person who has the Application filed against them is the called the “Respondent.” Because either party can file an Application, a person can be a “Plaintiff” and “Applicant” or a “Respondent” at the time time. Similarly, a person can be a “Defendant” and “Applicant” or a “Respondent” at the time time. This can get confusing, especially if there is more than one application in the action and the party applying is not always the same party.

      See the following resource for more information about making an Application using an Application form.

      Sometimes, there are also additional forms to complete. For example, for Applications for child support there is also a “Disclosure Statement” that must be included. The exact forms that you will need will depend on what you are asking for.

      For many issues, Alberta Courts have created application “packages” that have all of the forms and information you need. The links to the exact forms that you need can be found on the Process tabs of the Information Pages for each family law topic.

      If you are making an Application about a topic that does not have its own form or form package, you can use the generic forms. The following resource includes the generic Application form, supporting Affidavit, and Affidavit of Service.

      Applications under other laws if you started your action with an Originating Application

      To make an Application when you started your action with an Originating Application, you must complete:

      • an Originating Application form that describes the remedy you are asking for; and
      • an Affidavit that sets out the evidence that supports your request.

      Separate Applications within an action started by Originating Application are only available for the following matters:

      • a request to change a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act; and
      • a request to change a corollary relief order granted by a court outside Alberta under the Divorce Act.

      For these issues, Alberta Courts have created specific forms or application “packages” that you can use. You can find these on the Process tab of the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

      See the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section below for more information.

      Finalizing and swearing the Application material

      Carefully review your Application material to make sure it follows all rules and is complete.

      Remember

      Your Application material must contain all the information you want the Court to know. You cannot ask the Court for something in chambers unless you have asked for it in the Application material. Similarly, you cannot use evidence to support your Application unless it is in a Statement or Affidavit.

      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

      Once your Application material is complete, you must then swear (or affirm) that the information in your Statement(s) or Affidavit is true. For more information about that, see the “Finalizing your court documents” section above.

      You may wish to contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help with reviewing and swearing (or affirming) your Application material.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Filing the Application material

      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. The number of copies you need will be different depending on the cause of action and how many respondents there are. However, the usual minimum is 3 copies. You can contact the Court of Queen’s Bench and ask in advance how many copies you will need.

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

      When you hand your documents to the clerk at the Courthouse, they will check everything over to make sure your documents meet the legal requirements. If your documents do not meet these requirements, the clerks will reject them. You will have to take them away and fix whatever problems the clerk identified. The clerks cannot give you advice or make changes to documents for you. This is why it is important to take the time to learn the requirements and check your documents over before going to the Courthouse to file them. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      When you speak to the clerk about filing your Application material, you will need to pick a date for the hearing. You must pick a date that is far enough in the future to:

      • meet the notice requirements (see the “Serving the Respondent” heading below); and
      • allow enough time for both parties to review each other’s evidence.
      Be Aware

      Either party may be questioned about the evidence in their Affidavit. See the “Chambers Applications: Questioning on Affidavit” section below for more information about that. If there is a lot of evidence to review or if questioning is likely, you will want to schedule a hearing date far enough in the future to allow these steps to occur. If there has not been enough time, the hearing may be adjourned (delayed) to allow additional time for review or questioning.

      Once the date has been picked and the Application material has been filed, the Clerk will stamp and keep the original documents. They will also stamp the copies and give those copies to you. This will prove that the Application has been filed. You must then serve one of the stamped copies of the Application materials on the Respondent(s).

      Serving the Respondent

      The deadlines for serving your Application documents will depend on whether your Application is being made:

      • under the Family Law Act;
      • under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
      • when you have started your action with an Originating Application.

      For Applications under the Family Law Act, you must serve the Application material on the Respondent at least 20 days before the date scheduled for the hearing.

      For Applications under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act, you must serve the Application material on the Respondent at least 5 days before the date scheduled for the hearing.

      For Applications when you have started your action with an Originating Application, you must serve the Application material on the Respondent at least 10 days before the date scheduled for the hearing.

      For more information on how to serve court documents, see the sections that start with “Serving documents” above.

      Every time you serve court documents on the other party, you must file an Affidavit of Service with the Court. This is to prove to the Court that the other party was given the documents. For more information, see the “Serving documents: Proving that the paperwork was served” section above.

      Remember

      It is possible to make an Application without giving notice to the other party. These are called “ex parte” Applications and may be done in certain urgent circumstances or where safety is a concern. For more information, see the “Serving documents: Ex parte applications” section above.

      Get ready for the Response

      Before the chambers hearing date, the other party will be serving you with their Response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “Chambers Applications: Responding to an Application in regular chambers” section below). You will need to read their paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date.

      Do you need to respond to the other party’s Response?

      For Applications in actions that were started under the Family Law Act

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

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

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

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

      These forms are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. In this document, you should explain:

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

      The use of these documents should be rare, and the Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately.

      There is more information about how to use Update Statements on the Process tabs of the Information Pages about each individual topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      For Applications in actions that were started with a Statement of Claim or with an Originating Application

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

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

      If this occurs, you can let the Court know by filing a “Supplemental Affidavit.” The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

      PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Be Aware

      Sometimes, the other party may provide updated facts in their own Supplemental Affidavit. In this case, you cannot just file a Supplemental Affidavit to respond. This is not allowed. Instead, you must first ask permission of the Court. This is also called “getting a fiat” or “asking for leave of the Court.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Supplemental Affidavits are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case. In this document, you should explain:

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

      The use of these documents should be rare, and the Court may limit the use of them if it feels that they are being used inappropriately

      There is more information about how to use Supplemental Affidavits on the Process tabs of the Information Pages about each individual topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements

      Affidavits and Statements are documents that are used to provide evidence that can be used in legal proceedings. The person describes facts that they know in an organized way and “swears” or “affirms” that the evidence is true.

      Your Affidavit or Statement is the evidence that the judge will use when making a decision. You will not be allowed to introduce evidence at a chambers hearing unless it is in an Affidavit or Statement that has been filed with the Court.

      Remember

      When completing your Affidavit or Statement, you must only describe facts that are true and relevant to what you are asking for. For more information, see the sections above called “Completing Statements and Affidavits” and “Finalizing your court documents.”

      There are also specific rules that apply to Affidavits used when making an Application in regular chambers. These are listed in Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Note 2. A summary of those rules is as follows.

      • Your pages must be printed on one side only (no double sided printing or copying).
      • Number all of your pages, starting with the first page of your Affidavit and finishing with the last page of your exhibits.
      • All Affidavits (excluding exhibits) must be no more than 5 pages, with one-inch margins. If you want to go over this limit, you will need permission from the Court.
      • The font has to be at least 12 point Times New Roman (or something similar).
      • Handwritten Affidavits will be accepted if they are easy to read.
      • The exhibits included with the Affidavit must be relevant and should not be copies of material already on the Court file.
      • You cannot have more than 40 total pages of exhibits. If you want to go over this limit, you will need permission from the Court. The pages must be numbered and each exhibit must be separated from the other exhibits by tabs.
      • If you want to attach documents as exhibits that are smaller than 8½ by 11 inches, you must tape them to a piece of paper.
      • Related documents can grouped into one exhibit.
      • Exhibits are labeled with letters: Exhibit “A,” Exhibit “B,” etc.
      • You must have a table of contents at the beginning of the exhibits that identifies each exhibit and its tab number.
      • If you refer to certain parts of an exhibit in your Affidavit, those parts of the exhibits should be highlighted.
      • You can only include electronic exhibits (CDs, DVDs, flash drives, etc.) with the permission of the Court.

      Once you have your Affidavit or Statement and exhibits (if any) completed, you will need to swear or affirm that everything is true.

      Each party is only allowed to file one Affidavit or Statement. You can only file an additional Affidavit/Statement if:

      • there has been a change in some relevant facts between the time the Application was filed and the date of the hearing; or
      • you have the permission of the Court.

      This additional Affidavit/Statement can be:

      • an "Update Statement" (under the FLA); or
      • a “Supplementary Affidavit” (for all other situations).

      These documents can only deal with the facts that have changed, or the facts the Court has given permission to mention. Also, they must meet the same general requirements that apply to the Affidavits/Statements for Applications (as described above).

      For more information on preparing Affidavits and Statements, the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above.

      For more information about the requirements described in Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Note 2, see the following resource.

      Chambers Applications: Responding to an Application in regular chambers

      You have been served with court documents that say that there will a hearing in chambers. In this Application, you will be called the “Respondent.” If you wish to do so, you can file documents in response to the Application. This will allow you to tell your side of the story.

      How you can respond to an Application will depend on whether the Application was made:

      • under the Family Law Act;
      • under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
      • using an Originating Application.

      How you respond will also depend on what you want.

      • Maybe you agree with the Applicant and do not want to ask for anything of your own. In this case, you may not need to respond at all. You may be able to work with the Applicant to get a Consent Order. See the “Consent Orders” section below.
      • Maybe you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for. For example: the Applicant may have asked for a certain amount for partner support. You think that amount should be less.
      • Or, maybe you want to ask for something of your own. For example, if the Applicant is asking for a child support order and you want to respond to that and ask for an order about child custody.

      The rest of this section describes your options for responding.

      Applications made under the Family Law Act

      In actions under the Family Law Act, you will be responding to a “Claim” form and usually one or more “Statements.” There may also be one or more “Affidavits.”

      If you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for, but don’t want anything of your own

      If you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for, you respond with a “Response” form.

      You will also want to provide your own evidence. To do that, you must complete a Reply Statement about each topic the Applicant mentioned. For example: there is a “Reply Statement - Parenting” and a “Reply Statement - Partner Support.”

      The exact Response form and Reply Statements you need to fill out are included on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      You may choose to file an Affidavit instead of Reply Statements. For more information about completing an Affidavit to use in an Application, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section above. There is also good information and tips about completing this paperwork in the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section above.

      If you disagree with the Applicant and you want to ask for something of your own

      If you disagree with what the Applicant is asking for and you want to ask for your own order, you can file:

      • a Response form where you describe the parts of the Application you disagree with and explain the order you are applying for;
      • Reply Statement(s) for those parts of the Application you disagree with; and
      • Statement(s) to support the order you are asking for.

      For example:

      The Applicant has filed a Claim and Statement for child support only. You disagree with their request, and you want to ask for an order about parenting time. In this case, you would:

      • Use the "Response" form to respond to the Applicant’s request about child support and describe your request for an order about parenting time.
      • Reply to the Applicant’s child support request by filing a “Reply Statement” about child support.
      • File a “Statement” about parenting time to support your request.
      Tip

      These documents are the same for responding to the documents that started the FLA action. For more information about completing Response documents, see the section above called “Respondents under the Family Law Act: Responding to a Claim.”

      When you ask for your own order, it is called making a “Cross Application.” Your Cross Application may not be heard at the same time as the Applicant’s Application. See the “Scheduling Cross Applications” heading below for more information.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section above.

      For more information about responding to Applications under the Family Law Act, see the following resource.

      Web Respond to a Family Law Act Application
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Applications made under the Divorce Act and/or the Matrimonial Property Act

      When responding to an Application, you generally have 3 choices:

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

      If the Application includes a “Notice to Disclose,” you will have to respond. For more information, see the “Exchanging evidence in actions started with a Statement of Claim or an Originating Application” section below.

      Filing only an Affidavit

      If you choose to respond to your spouse’s Application with only an Affidavit, you will need to complete an Affidavit in response.

      Remember

      Your Affidavit can only reply to the issues and evidence raised by the Applicant. If you want to ask for a different order, you will need to file a “Cross Application” (see below).

      For many issues, Alberta Courts have created application “packages” that have all of the forms and information you need. The links to the exact forms that you need can be found on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For example: court forms about child support are on the Information Page about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      If you are completing an Affidavit about a topic that does not have its own forms package, you can use the generic form. See the following resource for a copy of the generic Application form, supporting Affidavit, and Affidavit of Service.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section above.

      Filing an Affidavit and a Cross Application

      If you want to ask for a different order, you will need to file a “Cross Application” and an Affidavit of your own. A Cross Application is simply an Application being made by the Respondent.

      The procedure for making a Cross Application is the same as if you were the Applicant who started the process. You can follow same steps described in the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section above.

      The Cross Application might not be heard at the same time as the Applicant’s Application. This is because Applications in regular chambers are limited to 20 minutes. There are also very detailed and strict rules about scheduling Cross Applications. For more information about these, see the “Scheduling Cross Applications” heading below.

      Applications that are part of an action started by Originating Application

      When responding to an Originating Application, you generally 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.
      3. File an Affidavit and Originating 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 about the same issue.

      Filing only an Affidavit

      If you choose to respond to the Applicant’s Originating Application with only an Affidavit, you will need to complete an Affidavit in response.

      Remember

      Your Affidavit can only reply to the issues and evidence raised by the Applicant. If you want to ask for a different order, you will need to file a “Cross Application” (see below).

      For many issues, Alberta Courts have created application “packages” that have all of the forms and information you need. The links to the exact forms that you need can be found on the Process tabs of the Information Page for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      If you are completing an Affidavit about a topic that does not have its own forms package, you can use the generic form. See the following resource for a copy of the generic Affidavit.

      Be Aware

      There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of Affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” section above.

      Filing an Affidavit and a Cross Application

      If you want to ask for a different order, you will need to file a “Cross Application” and an Affidavit of your own. A Cross Application in this case is simply an Originating Application being made by the Respondent.

      Separate Applications within an action started by Originating Application are only available for the following matters:

      • a request to change a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act; and
      • a request to change a corollary relief order granted by a court outside Alberta under the Divorce Act.

      The procedure for making a Cross Application is the same as if you were the Applicant who started the process. You can follow same steps described in the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section above.

      The Cross Application might not be heard at the same time as the Applicant’s Originating Application. This is because Applications to regular chambers are limited to 20 minutes. There are also very detailed and strict rules about scheduling Cross Applications. For more information about these, see the “Scheduling Cross Applications” heading just below.

      For these issues, Alberta Courts have created specific forms or application “packages” that you can use. You can find these on the Process tab of the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

      Scheduling Cross Applications

      The Cross Application may or may not be heard at the same time as the original Application.

      It is rare for 2 Applications in the same action to be heard at the same time in regular chambers. This is because Applications to regular chambers are limited to 20 minutes. It is unlikely that 2 separate issues can be dealt with in such a limited time. It may make more sense to schedule the hearing in Special Family Law Chambers instead (which would allow up to one hour), or to schedule a half-day hearing.

      For more information about special chambers, see the “Chambers Applications: Asking for, or responding to, an Application in Special Chambers” section below.

      If the Cross Application is directly related to the original Application and it may extend the time of the original Application beyond one hour, the Court may:

      • set a new date for both the Application and the Cross Application;
      • hear the Application and Cross Application; or
      • hear only the Application and require the Cross Applicant to get a new date for the Cross Application.

      If the Cross Application raises an issue that is not related to the original Application and it may extend the time of the original Application beyond one hour:

      • the Cross Applicant must get a new date for the Cross Application; and
      • the Cross Application will not be heard at the same time as the original Application.

      If it is not clear whether the Cross Application is related to the original Application, either party can ask for direction from the Court as to whether the Cross Application can be heard at the same time as the original Application. For more information about this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Finalizing and swearing your Response documents

      Carefully review your response documents to make sure they follow all rules and are complete.

      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.

      For more information about that, see the “Finalizing your court documents” section above.

      You may wish to contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for help with reviewing and swearing (or affirming) your documents.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Filing your Response documents

      Once your Response documents have been finalized, you will need to file your documents with the Court.

      Checking the judicial centre

      Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). Your situation will determine where you must file your documents.

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the general rules are:

      • a person who starts a court action must file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live; and
      • once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

      Therefore, you must file your documents where the court file is located. The forms that you were served with will tell you in which judicial centre the Applicant filed their paperwork.

      If you have questions about where to file your documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      It may be possible to move your file. You would need to make an Application in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. If you want to apply to transfer the file, use the following kit.

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

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

      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. The number of copies you need will be different depending on the cause of action and how many other parties there are. However, the usual minimum is 3 copies. You can contact the Court of Queen’s Bench and ask in advance how many copies you will need.

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

      When you hand your documents to the clerk at the Courthouse, they will check everything over to make sure your documents meet the legal requirements. If your documents do not meet these requirements, the clerk will reject them. You will have to take them away and fix whatever problems the clerk identified. The clerks cannot give you advice or make changes to documents for you. This is why it is important to take the time to learn the requirements and check your documents over before going to the Courthouse to file them. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      If your documents meet the legal requirements, they will be filed by the clerk.

      Serving your Response documents

      All Response documents must be served on the other party within a reasonable time before the date of the chambers hearing. A useful guideline for determining a “reasonable time” would be to ask whether the other party will have enough time to:

      • review your Response; and
      • prepare, file, and serve a response of their own (if they choose to do so).

      However, for chambers hearings under the Family Law Act, anything less than 10 days’ notice will be presumed to be “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. In other words: it is best to serve the other side 10 days (or more) before the date of the hearing.

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

      For more information on how to serve the Applicant with your Response documents, see the sections above that start with “Serving documents”.

      More information

      For more information about responding to an Application, see the following resources.

      Chambers Applications: Asking for, or responding to, an Application in Special Chambers

      The process for making an Application to Special Family Law Chambers is generally the same as the process for making an Application to regular Family Law Chambers. For information about that, see the sections above that start with “Chambers Applications.”

      However, there are 4 important differences. These are as follows.

      • The deadlines for filing and serving documents are different.
      • There are different rules about making a Cross Application.
      • Affidavits can be longer.
      • Both parties must file an additional document called a “Confirming Letter.”

      These differences are explained below.

      Different deadlines for both Applicants and Respondents

      The deadlines for filing and serving documents for an Application to Special Family Law Chambers are longer than they are for regular chambers.

      They are as follows:

      • The Applicant’s Application and supporting Affidavit must be filed and served on the Respondent by 4:00 p.m. on the 6th Friday before the hearing date.
      • The Respondent’s Response and Cross Application (if any) and supporting Affidavit(s) must be filed and served on the Applicant by 4:00 p.m. on the 4th Friday before the hearing date.
      • The Applicant’s reply to the Cross Application (if any) must be filed and served on the Respondent by 4:00 p.m. on the 2nd Friday before the hearing date.
      • The Applicant’s and Respondent’s Confirming Letters (see below) are due by 4:00 p.m. on the Wednesday of the week before the hearing date.
      Be Aware

      Judicial centres outside Edmonton and Calgary may require Confirming Letters to be filed even earlier.

      If any of these deadlines fall on a holiday, the deadline is the working day just before the holiday.

      If a party does not meet these filing deadlines, the Application or Cross Application may be “struck.” This means that it will not go ahead, and the Applicant must start the process all over again.

      Changing the deadlines

      Sometimes it may be possible to change the above deadlines. But this is not easy.

      To file documents after the deadlines set out above, a party must get permission by applying for a “fiat” permitting late filing. A fiat is an order granting permission to file a document that does not follow the rules.

      To ask for a fiat, the party who is asking:

      • must get the written consent of the other party to ask for the fiat; or
      • must provide notice of this application to the other party.

      This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      The Court may or may not permit late filing. Also, the Court may award costs to the other party (see the “Asking for costs” section below).

      Making a Cross Application: Documents

      If you have been served with an Application and you want to ask for a different order, you can file your own Application and supporting evidence. When you ask for your own order, it is called making a “Cross Application.”

      The procedure for making a Cross Application in special chambers is the same as if you were the Applicant who started the process. Examples are given just below. For more information, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section above.

      Example of a Cross Application under the Family Law Act

      An Applicant is making an Application for child support, but the Respondent wants to ask for an order about parenting. The Respondent would file:

      • a Response and a Reply Statement or Affidavit in response to the Applicant’s Claim about child support;
      • a Claim of their own (the Cross Application) for parenting; and
      • a Statement or Affidavit in support of the Cross Application about parenting.

      The Applicant would then be able to file a Reply Statement or Affidavit in response to the Respondent’s Cross Application.

      Any Statements, Reply Statements, or Affidavits filed for the Cross Application must only deal with the issues involved in the Cross Application. This applies to both:

      • the Respondent filing documents in support of the Cross Application; and
      • the Applicant filing documents in response to the Cross Application.

      Examples of Cross Applications under the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act

      An example under the Divorce Act: The Applicant is making an Application for child support, but the Respondent wants to ask for an order about custody. The Respondent would file:

      • an Affidavit in response to the Applicant’s Application about child support;
      • an Application of their own (the Cross Application) for custody; and
      • another Affidavit in support of the Cross Application about custody.

      An example under the Matrimonial Property Act: The Applicant is making an Application about the matrimonial home, but the Respondent wants to ask for an order about the RRSPs. The Respondent would file:

      • an Affidavit in response to the Applicant’s Application about the matrimonial home;
      • an Application of their own (the Cross Application) about the RRSPs; and
      • another Affidavit in support of the Cross Application about the RRSPs.

      In either of these cases, the Applicant would then be able to file an Affidavit in response to the Respondent’s Cross Application.

      Any Affidavits filed for the Cross Application must only deal with the issues involved in the Cross Application. This applies to both:

      • the Respondent filing documents in support of the Cross Application; and
      • the Applicant filing documents in response to the Cross Application.

      Example of a Cross Application involving an Originating Application

      The Applicant is making an Originating Application, but the Respondent wants to ask for a different order. The Respondent would file:

      • an Affidavit in response to the Applicant’s Originating Application about the matrimonial home;
      • an Originating Application of their own (the Cross Application) for the different order; and
      • another Affidavit in support of the Cross Application.

      The Applicant would then be able to file an Affidavit in response to the Respondent’s Cross Application.

      Any Affidavits filed for the Cross Application must only deal with the issues involved in the Cross Application. This applies to both:

      • the Respondent filing documents in support of the Cross Application; and
      • the Applicant filing documents in response to the Cross Application.

      Making a Cross Application: Scheduling

      The Cross Application may or may not be heard at the same time as the original Application.

      If the Cross Application is directly related to the original Application and it may extend the time of the original Application beyond one hour, the Court may:

      • set a new date for both the Application and the Cross Application;
      • hear the Application and Cross Application; or
      • hear only the Application and require the Cross Applicant to get a new date for the Cross Application.

      If the Cross Application raises an issue that is not related to the original Application and it may extend the time of the original Application beyond one hour:

      • the Cross Applicant must get a new date for the Cross Application; and
      • the Cross Application will not be heard at the same time as the original Application.

      If it is not clear whether the Cross Application is related to the original Application, either party can ask for direction from the Court as to whether the Cross Application can be heard at the same time as the original Application. For more information about this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Length of Affidavits

      All of the rules about Affidavits to be used in Applications to regular chambers apply in Special Family Law Chambers too. See the section above called “Chambers Applications: Rules for completing Affidavits and Statements” for information about those rules.

      The only difference in special chambers is the length: Affidavits used for Applications to Special Family Law Chambers can be 8 pages long (excluding exhibits).

      “Confirming Letters”

      In addition to the regular Application documents, the Applicant and Respondent must file and serve “Confirming Letters” on each other. A Confirming Letter is a short statement summarizing what the party is asking for and why.

      The Confirming Letter must clearly state:

      • the names of the parties and their lawyers (if any), making it clear which lawyer is acting for which party;
      • what order(s) the parties are applying for;
      • the issues raised in the Application and Cross Application (if any);
      • the relevant facts, as verified by the Affidavits filed for the Application and Cross Application (if any);
      • the parties’ positions on the issues; and
      • any relevant case law being used.

      If there is no Cross Application, the parties’ Confirming Letters must be no longer than 5 pages.

      If there is a Cross Application, each Confirming Letter must be no longer than 10 pages:

      • 5 pages relating to the Application; and
      • 5 pages relating to the Cross Application.

      All Confirming Letters must be in 12 point font, Times New Roman (or equivalent), with one-inch margins. You will need to send it to the courthouse where the Application is scheduled to be heard, with “Attention: Chambers Coordinator” in the address.

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

      The following may be attached to the Confirming Letter and will not count in the page limit:

      • copies of the current Affidavit and relevant portions of previously filed Affidavits, with the relevant portions highlighted;
      • copies of relevant previous court Orders, with the relevant portions highlighted;
      • copies of current and relevant financial information;
      • copies of any relevant portions of transcripts from previous court hearings;
      • copies of the relevant cases (other than leading cases set out in Appendix C of Practice Note 2), or portions of them if they are long, with the relevant parts highlighted;
      • any information sheets required by the Court from time to time; and
      • an estimate of the time required for argument on both sides.
      Be Aware

      In some judicial centres, the Chambers Justice will not receive the entire file before the hearing. Therefore, the documents attached to the Confirming Letter should provide all the necessary information and evidence for the Application.

      Chambers Applications: Using “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 action, 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.

      Written interrogatories are not very common for chambers Applications. This is because there is often not enough time to complete this process. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information.

      Be Aware

      Written interrogatories may be used in Family Law Act actions, but this is extremely rare. This because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it came with its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes causes delays and results in greater cost to the parties.

      For more information, see the “Asking for more evidence or information: Written interrogatories” section below.

      Chambers Applications: Questioning on Affidavit

      Before a scheduled chambers hearing, it is possible for the parties to formally “question” each other about some of the facts set out in their paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is like being questioned in court, except this type of questioning takes place outside of a courtroom and the judge will not be there.

      Using this process is not very common. When it is used, it is more likely to be used for special chambers than for regular chambers. This is because regular chambers is intended for less complicated matters and the hearings are scheduled much sooner than for special chambers.

      Be Aware

      “Questioning on Affidavit” may be used in Family Law Act actions, but it is extremely rare. This because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it has its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes causes delays and results in greater cost to the parties.

      How Questioning on Affidavit can help

      The process of questioning serves several purposes.

      • You can learn more about the other party’s position about the issues.
      • You can get more information from the other party.
      • You may learn that there are areas of agreement between you and the other party.
      • You may get the other party to admit facts and information that can be used against them in the Application.

      What happens during the questioning

      When the parties have lawyers, they will usually schedule questioning to take place at one of the lawyers’ offices.

      A court reporter is present. They administer the oath and record the questions and answers. This record is called a “transcript.” The record of the questions and answers can later be used in court. The party answering questions must answer the questions truthfully. Being dishonest in a proceeding under oath could be considered perjury, which is a criminal offence.

      The lawyer who is doing the questioning can ask questions about the matters in dispute. The lawyer for the party who is being questioned makes sure that all the questions asked are proper and relevant. They can “object” if they feel that any questions are not proper or relevant. This means they give a legal reason why their client should not answer the question.

      The party being questioned is expected to reasonably prepare. They must also bring documents that are likely to be required and those that are specified in the Notice of Appointment for Questioning (if one is served).

      Be Aware

      Documents that are “privileged” do not have to be brought. A document is privileged if it is a communication between a lawyer and their client that involves legal advice.

      The questioning party may ask questions about anything that is relevant to the issues. A matter is considered relevant if it could help the judge make a decision about one or more of the issues in the Application.

      A party being questioned may not want to answer a question. However, they can only refuse to answer for one of the following reasons:

      • the matter is covered by “privilege” (see above); or
      • the question is not relevant.
      Be Aware

      Determining what is “relevant” and knowing what kinds of questions are allowed can be complicated and require detailed legal knowledge. You may wish to talk to a lawyer or use the services of a lawyer when questioning or being questioned. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      The questioning party is responsible for getting the transcript of the questions and answers from the court reporter. The transcript can be used in the Application by filing it with the Court and referring to it during the Application. It can also be used in later Applications or at trial. If the parties agree, the transcript does not have to be filed with the Court.

      When questioning can happen

      Generally, questioning of a party can be done after that party has filed their documents for the Application.

      For Applications under the Family Law Act, this means that:

      • once the Applicant has filed a Statement and/or Affidavit, the other party may question them; and
      • once the Respondent has filed a Reply Statement and/or Affidavit, the other party may question them.

      For Applications in an action started by a Statement of Claim (Divorce Act, Matrimonial Property Act, unjust enrichment):

      • once the Applicant has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them; and
      • once the Respondent has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them.

      For Originating Applications, this means that:

      • once the Applicant has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them; and
      • once the Respondent has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them.

      Setting an appointment for questioning

      There are 2 ways to set an appointment for questioning:

      • both parties can agree about a time and location for questioning; or
      • one party requires the other to attend by serving them with a “Notice of Appointment for Questioning.”

      The Notice of Appointment must be served at least 5 days before the date of the appointment. It must:

      • specify a reasonable date, time, and place for the appointment for questioning;
      • describe any records the person is required to bring with them to the questioning; and
      • request that the person to be questioned informs the other party about any arrangements necessary to meet their reasonable needs. For example, an interpreter or accommodations for a physical disability.

      The Notice of Appointment is in the following resource.

      If a party serves a Notice of Appointment for Questioning, they must pay an allowance to the party to be questioned. If the party being questioned has a lawyer, the allowance can be paid to the lawyer on the party’s behalf.

      Be Aware

      If the parties agree on an appointment for questioning (so no Notice is required) then no allowance is paid.

      The amount of the allowance is set out in the Alberta Rules of Court and starts at $50 per day. If the person being questioned has to travel more than a reasonable commuting distance, there may be additional costs for travel, food, and accommodation.

      If an allowance is not paid, then the party served with the Notice of Appointment does not need to attend unless ordered to do so by the Court.

      Responsibilities of the party questioning

      The questioning party is responsible for:

      • arranging the location for questioning (usually an office space or meeting room);
      • booking the court reporter;
      • paying the required allowance to the party being questioned (if any); and
      • arranging for an interpreter or making other accommodations for the party being questioned (if needed).

      For information about using the services of court reporters, see the following resources.

      Web Court Reporting & Transcription Services
      ACE Reporting Services Inc.
      English

      Web Services
      Independent Reporters
      English

      Web Welcome to Dicta Court Reporting.
      Dicta Court Reporting Inc.
      English

      Responsibilities of the party being questioned

      The party who is served with a Notice of Appointment must tell the questioning party if they have any special needs that will need to be accommodated. The requests must be reasonable, and the questioning party must accommodate those needs as best as they reasonably can.

      For example:

      • there may be mobility or health issues that must be taken into account; or
      • if the party being questioned speaks a different language, they may need an interpreter.

      If there are issues about the questioning

      Either party may make an Application to the Court to resolve issues about an appointment for questioning, including:

      • the date, time, and place for questioning;
      • the person to be questioned; 
      • the documents that must be brought to the questioning; and
      • the payment or amount of the allowance.

      If you need to make such an Application, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information about your next steps.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      More information

      For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, see the following resources.

      PDF Guide to Questioning
      Meridian Law Group
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.

      Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
      Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.
      Chambers Applications: Filing additional information

      You will need the Court’s permission to file any of the following.

      • Affidavits or exhibits exceeding the page limits.
      • Additional Affidavits. Affidavits to update or correct information provided in a prior Affidavit are permitted without permission, but filing an Affidavit with new information requires the Court’s permission.
      • Electronic exhibits.

      To get permission, you must apply for a “fiat” in regular chambers. A fiat is an order granting permission to file a document that does not follow the rules.

      To ask for a fiat, the party who is asking:

      • must get the written consent of the other party to ask for the fiat; or
      • must provide notice of this Application to the other party.
      Chambers Applications: Oral evidence

      In chambers, the evidence that the parties plan to use is given to the Court through written evidence: Statements and Affidavits. It is very rare to give oral (spoken) evidence at the hearing.

      In fact, to give oral evidence at the hearing, you must first get permission from the Court.

      To get permission, you must make a separate Application to:

      • the judge assigned to the hearing; or
      • if a judge has not been assigned, a judge in regular Family Law Chambers.

      You must also:

      • get the written consent of the other party to make the Application for permission; or
      • give the other party notice of the Application.

      Even if you have the consent of the other party, these Applications cannot be done by Consent Order. The Court must review and consider the Application even if both parties agree.

      These rules are required by a “Notice” issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench about allowing oral evidence: Notice to the Profession 2014-2.

      The Notice has a sample form that has “fill in the blank” areas that show the information required. The evidence must demonstrate the need for oral evidence in the hearing. This information can be provided by:

      • a statement of facts, agreed on and signed by both parties; or
      • an Affidavit completed by the Applicant.

      The Notice and the sample form are in the following resource.

      Adjourning chambers Applications

      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.”

      The process to ask for an adjournment is different depending on if you are going to regular chambers or special chambers. These processes are described just below.

      Regular chambers

      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

      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.
      • If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes.

      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.

      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.

      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.

      Special chambers

      Before the filing deadline for the Confirming Letter

      If the parties agree to adjourn before the filing deadline for the Confirming Letter, the hearing may be adjourned by contacting the court.

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

      If the parties do not agree to the adjournment, the party asking for the adjournment must apply for an adjournment in regular Family Law Chambers as soon as possible, with notice to the other party. These adjournment Applications follow the same process as all other Applications.

      For an Application under actions that were started using the Family Law Act, the forms you need are in the following resource.

      For an Application under actions that were started with a Statement of Claim or an Originating Application, the forms you need are in the following resource.

      For more information about making an Application, see the “Chambers Applications: Completing and filing the paperwork to ask for one” section above.

      After the filing deadline for the Confirming Letter

      If either party or both parties want an adjournment after the filing deadline for the Confirming Letter, one party must apply to adjourn to the Justice assigned to hear the Application. If no Justice has been assigned, the Application must be made to the supervising Justice or a Justice in regular Family Law Chambers.

      More information

      For more information about adjournments, see the following resource and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Preparing for chambers

      You will have to spend a lot of time and effort preparing for your chambers hearing. It is critical for several reasons:

      • To make sure you have and present all of your relevant evidence.
      • To make sure that you cover everything that you are asking for from the judge.
      • To make sure that your case is clear and easy for a judge to follow and understand.

      In Family Law Chambers, there can be many Applications on a list for the judge to get through. You want to be sure not to waste any of the Court’s time.

      It will be important to review all of the documents that have been filed for the Application. You will want to:

      • make sure everything has been filed and served properly;
      • be familiar with everything in the documents so you can speak clearly and accurately on the material without having to search through it; and
      • make sure you have copies of all the documents that have been filed for the Application (yours and the other party’s).

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

      Web Courtroom etiquette
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Going to a hearing or a trial can be time-consuming and stressful. You may wish to consider having a lawyer help you or represent you. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

      Tip

      For more information about what to expect and how to act in chambers, see the “Appearing in chambers” section below.

      Consent Orders

      At any time, the parties can agree on some or all of the issues between them. This can happen:

      • before a court action has been started; or
      • after a court action has been started.

      However, having an agreement does not mean that the parties will necessarily follow that agreement. For that reason, once they have an agreement, they may wish to make sure that the agreement can be enforced. To help do that, the parties can turn their agreement into a court order. This is called a Consent Order. Consent Orders are still “orders” and must be signed by a judge. Usually, this is done by bringing a draft of the Consent Order to a judge in chambers.

      Be Aware

      The agreement must meet legal requirements for each topic. For example, an agreement where one parent has sole custody of the children and the other does not pay child support is not legally allowed. To make sure your Consent Order meets the legal requirements, learn about the law on the Information Pages for each legal topic. For a list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      Sometimes the exact form of the Consent Order or some of the wording that must be included will differ depending on:

      • the laws you are using; and/or
      • the topics that are included in the Consent Order.

      For example:

      • For child-related issues under the Divorce Act, there are different forms depending on whether the Consent Order is a first-time consent order or a consent order to change a previous court order.
      • Any orders that will be filed with the Maintenance Enforcement Program must have certain wording.
      • All court orders related to child support must include a standard clause about the Child Support Recalculation Program.

      As a result, you will want to review the Process tabs of the Information Pages for each of the topics you want to include in your consent order (see “Consent Orders” under the relevant Process tabs). For a list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

      If a court action has been started

      The steps you will take are:

      • Put the terms of your agreement into a draft Consent Order.
      • All of the parties sign it.
      • Ask a judge grant the order. In most judicial centres you will do that by attending chambers.
      Be Aware

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

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      If you go to chambers, you can attend:

      • on a regular chambers sitting date (sitting dates are different in every judicial centre); or
      • on the day of your scheduled hearing, if you already have a chambers hearing scheduled about the topics in the Consent Order

      Even if you have a scheduled chambers hearing, you do not have to wait for that day. You can still go to a regular chambers sitting date. If the Consent Order makes the hearing unnecessary, you can simply cancel the scheduled hearing. Or, you can continue the Application (and any larger court action) for other issues not addressed in the Consent Order. For example, you can agree on a Consent Order for child support and continue to disagree on partner support.

      If you want to go on a regular chambers sitting date, contact the Queen’s Bench court clerk in the appropriate judicial centre and ask when the regular Family Chambers hearings are held.

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

      Whichever date you choose to attend, you should plan to arrive for chambers early so you can find the correct courtroom. You can talk to courthouse staff to find the location for Family Chambers. There will be a list outside the courtroom that has all the matters scheduled for that courtroom.

      When you enter the courtroom, you will tell the clerk your name and what your matter is. The clerk will then decide the order in which the matters will be heard. Often, matters where there are lawyers involved will be heard toward the beginning of the list, and matters involving self-represented litigants are heard toward the end of the list.

      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.

      When it is your turn, the judge will review the terms and sign the order if it meets the legal requirements. Once it is signed by a judge, the agreement becomes a court order.

      You must make 2 copies of the signed Consent Order. Bring the original and the 2 copies to the Queen’s Bench clerk’s counter. They will keep the original and give you one certified copy and one filed copy back. If only one party was in the courtroom, the party who attended must serve a filed copy on the other party. For more information, see these sections above:

      • “Serving documents: What is it and why is it important”
      • “Serving documents: Ways to serve”

      If a court action has not yet been started

      You must first get your draft Consent Order signed by a judge. The process for doing that depends on:

      • your judicial centre; and/or
      • the law you are using.

      For example:

      • You may have to take the draft Consent Order to regular chambers to have the judge sign it. Once you have done that, you take the signed Consent Order to the filing counter and the clerks will open a court file with the Order.
      • You may be able to give the draft Consent Order to the court clerks directly, who will get it to a judge for review and let you know whether the judge approved it. Once the Consent Order is signed, the clerks will open a court file with the signed Order.
      • You may have to start your action first. For example, under the Divorce Act, you will first have to file a Statement of Claim.

      Either way, there will be a filing fee.

      Web Court fees
      Government of Alberta
      English

      For more information about which process you need to follow in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Once you have the Consent Order, remember to make sure that it is filed with the Court. If only one party was present, they must serve a filed copy on the other party. For more information, see the above sections:

      • “Serving documents: What is it and why is it important”;
      • “Serving documents: Ways to serve”.
      Appearing in chambers

      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. Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

      Arrive early

      On your court date, plan to arrive early, especially if you want to talk to “duty counsel” before court (see below). 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.

      Make sure you come prepared by bringing the following.

      • A copy of all the documents that started the action.
      • A copy of all documents related to the action and the Application. This includes your documents and the other party's.
      • A copy of your Affidavit(s) of Service.
      • Pen and paper for taking notes and writing down the judge’s decision.

      You may want to bring your entire file relating to the action. The judge may ask a question about information in another document that has been filed in the action. However, the general rule is that you are only allowed to refer to evidence contained in the documents filed for that Application.

      Chambers hearings are held in a courtroom that is open to the public. In this court, judges will hear many cases on the same day. When you go to chambers, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. This list will be either outside the door or on a table inside the courtroom. The list will not necessarily be called in order.

      Expect to be in the courtroom for at least 2 hours. Once you arrive in the courtroom, you should check in with the clerk to let them know who you are and which matter you are there for. You should tell the clerk:

      • if you are asking for an adjournment; or
      • if you have a Consent Order you want the judge to sign.

      Sometimes, it is not possible for all matters to be heard. If your matter is not heard, you and the other party can book another date at the courthouse (if you agree).

      Family Court Counsellors

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

      See the following resources for more information.

      Web Family court assistance
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Web Family court counsellor locations
      Government of Alberta
      English

      Duty counsel

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

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

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

      The chambers hearing process

      The usual procedure in a chambers hearing is as follows:

      1. Applicant’s case. The Applicant should introduce themselves and the Respondent (or their lawyer). The Applicant can start by giving a summary of their case and what they are asking for. The Applicant can talk about the facts set out in their Statements or Affidavits and make any arguments they want to make.
      2. Respondent’s case. The Respondent can introduce themselves if the Applicant did not do so. The Respondent can give a summary of their case or their position on the issues. The Respondent can then talk about the facts set out in their Statements or Affidavits and make any arguments they want to make. If the Respondent filed a Cross Application that is being heard at the same time, the Respondent can make arguments and refer to evidence about their Cross Application as well.
      3. Reply opportunities. Both parties can respond to matters raised in the case presented by the other. The Applicant goes first and the Respondent goes second. The Respondent is usually only given a chance to respond when the Applicant has replied to the Respondent’s Cross Application.
      4. Closing statements. The Applicant gives a summary of their case and what they want. The Respondent then does the same thing.
      5. Judge’s decision. The judge will usually give their decision at the end of the hearing. They may take a short break (a “recess”) before giving their decision. When the judge gives their decision, it is important that both parties write it down as accurately as possible. This should include the judge’s name, the room number of the courtroom you were in, and the date.
      Be Aware

      If the Respondent has a lawyer and the Applicant does not, the judge may sometimes allow the Respondent to go first.

      The judge may ask questions throughout the hearing. It is important that you provide clear answers to any questions asked, even if you had planned to provide that information later in your case.

      When the judge gives their decision, make sure they have addressed everything you want decided. If they did not, politely ask the judge about it. It may help to have a checklist with you before you start, so you can make sure the judge has dealt with all of the issues.

      For more information about the chambers process and appearing in court, see the following resources.

      PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English
      See p. 9-10.

      Web Pre-Trial Applications FAQs
      Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
      English

      Video Ready – Set – Go? : Most Family Law Cases Don't Go to Trial
      Feldstein Family Law Group
      English
      This resource is from a private source outside Alberta.Learn more here.

      Web Court hearings “In Chambers”: how the courts manage their workflow
      Patriot Law Group
      English
      This is a private source. Learn more here.


      Chambers etiquette

      When the judge enters the courtroom, everyone stands. The judge will say when everyone can sit down. When your name is called, go to the front of the courtroom.

      Any time you are in court, you are expected to be prepared, polite, and respectful.

      For more detailed information about procedures and etiquette for appearing in chambers, see the following resources.

      Web Courtroom etiquette
      Government of Alberta
      English


      Webinar Your Day in Family Court: How to prepare and what to expect
      Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
      English
      This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

      Preparing and filing the chambers court order

      When the Judge gives their decision, write it down as accurately as possible. Be sure to include the judge’s name and the courtroom number. This decision is the court Order that both parties must follow. Writing it down will help you make sure everything is included in the order.

      In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the successful party usually has to prepare the order. However, in some courts, a court clerk may prepare the order. Court orders are written documents describing what the judge decided. An order must be written every time a judge makes an order. There are certain rules that you must follow when you prepare an order—see the following resource.

      Web Alberta Rules of Court
      Government of Alberta
      English
      See Rule 9.1.

      In some locations, there may be help available for you. You can ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English

      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.

      If you have questions about preparing, filing, or serving the Order, you can ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

      Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
      Government of Alberta
      English
      Exchanging evidence (also called “exchanging information”): An introduction

      In every court action, both parties must share with each other the evidence that they intend to use. You may hear this called “discovery” or “disclosure.”

      There are several reasons why information is shared:

      • it helps the parties assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case;
      • it helps narrow the issues to be decided in court;
      • it can help parties reach an agreement; and
      • it makes the court process more efficient and fair.

      If either party does not properly disclose required information, it may cause unnecessary delays in the action. The party who caused the delay may face a penalty, such as an order to pay the other party’s costs.

      There are exceptions to the disclosure requirements. For example, communication between a party and their lawyer should not be shared. Therefore, it is important that all of the parties involved understand their disclosure obligations.

        For most family law actions, there are specific forms that are used to request information and provide information. These are discussed in the sections below that start with “Exchanging evidence.”

        Be Aware

        The sections below only provide an overview of the processes involved in exchanging information. To learn more about the types of information that may be needed for your particular court action, see the Information Pages for the various topics that might apply. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        Exchanging evidence in actions under the Family Law Act

        The Family Law Act (FLA) was introduced as a way for families to resolve their issues more quickly and cheaply than under other laws. To do this, special forms were created (the Claim and the Statements), and simpler rules were created to go along with those forms. These rules were put in place for actions under the FLA in both the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench. The intent was to make the FLA processes in Queen’s Bench quicker and easier (similar to those in Provincial Court).

        These rules and forms work well in Provincial Court. However, they are more of a challenge in the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). This is because QB already has very complex rules, and some them continue apply to FLA actions. Also, there are some differences in the FLA rules between QB and Provincial Court.

        The result:

        • When a QB action is under the Family Law Act, most of the same FLA rules from the Provincial Court will apply. This is because the FLA rules were included in the QB rules, but with a few changes to fit with the QB rules that were already in place. Whenever possible, parties should use these modified FLA rules because they are designed to make the process quicker and easier.
        • But, in many cases, the rest of the QB Rules of Court remain available to help the parties, and the parties can ask to use these rules. However, this is rarely done.

        How evidence is exchanged

        In Family Law Act actions, the parties exchange most of their evidence through the Statements and Affidavits. These Statements and Affidavits are “sworn” or “affirmed” as being true. They are then filed with the Court and served on the other party.

        It is the “swearing” or “affirming” that turns the information into “evidence” that the Court can consider. Evidence cannot be given to the Court without being sworn or affirmed. The act of swearing or affirming makes it reliable. This is because the penalties for lying on a document that is sworn or affirmed are severe (up to 14 years in prison). Having written evidence allows cases to run more quickly and efficiently, because all parties know what evidence is before the Court.

        Remember

        Statements can be used to provide facts, evidence, and a summary of your argument to support your claim. Affidavits are only for the facts and evidence that support your claim. For more general information about Statements and Affidavits, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above.

        For specific information about how to use these Statements for the remedies you want, see the Process tabs of the Information Pages about those topics. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        Asking for more information

        Sometimes, when you see the other party’s evidence, it may remind you of other evidence you need to include. The same thing might happen to the other party when they see your evidence. As a result, exchanging information may take some time. Either party may provide new evidence using an Update Statement. For more information on this, see the section above called “Making changes or adding new evidence to starting documents.”

        Applicants may want to schedule the hearing quite far in the future to allow enough time to exchange and review evidence. If there is not enough time, either party may ask for an adjournment to have more time to review evidence. However, the judge may not grant this adjournment. For more information about this, see the section above called “Adjourning chambers Applications.”

        Sometimes, you may specifically request evidence from the other party and they do not provide it. For example, perhaps they have a document with information you need. You know that the document exists and there is no other way to get it.

        If that happens, you can ask the Court to order the other party to give it to you when you appear in court. This may then lead to a delay in dealing with the rest of your issues.

        In rare cases, it is possible question the other party under oath about their evidence. For more information about this, see the section below called “Asking for more evidence or information: Questioning under Oath.”

        Exchanging financial information (also called “financial disclosure”)

        In many family law actions, child support or partner/spousal support are an issue. In these cases, both parties will be required to exchange specific financial information. This process of exchanging financial information is called “financial disclosure.”

        This is required by both:

        • the Alberta Child Support Guidelines; and
        • the Family Law Act General Regulation.

        Under the Family Law Act, there are 3 ways to get financial disclosure.

        • The parties can just agree to share their financial information with each other.
        • Use a “Disclosure Statement” form (required for child support Applications)
        • Use a “Request for Financial Information” form

        The method you will use depends on the kind of issue and the rules around it.

        The “Disclosure Statement” (child support)

        For Applications involving child support, both parties must file a “Disclosure Statement” with the Court. The exact information that must be provided is explained on the form.

        Be Aware

        This is not set out in the Rules of Court. However, judges in Alberta have required this form as part of the general disclosure requirements.

        The Applicant must give the Court financial disclosure in this form, or they will not be allowed to file their Application.

        The Applicant serves their Disclosure Statement on the Respondent. The Respondent must then file and serve their own Disclosure Statement on the Applicant.

        To give the Court your financial disclosure, use the following package.

        PDF Instructions: Providing Financial Disclosure
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This form will automatically download on your computer.

        For more information about how to complete or respond to the Disclosure Statement, see the following Information Pages.

        Be Aware

        In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for child support without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        The “Request for Financial Information”

        When you are dealing with support issues, you can also use a “Request for Financial Information.” For example: you could use this form if you want to apply for partner support.

        A Request for Financial Information requires the other party to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. The exact financial information that must be given is listed on the form. You can also just ask the other party for their financial information. But if they are not providing it, using a Request for Financial Information makes sure that you will get it.

        For example, you could use this form if you:

        • want to apply for partner support;
        • are considering applying for child support and just want some financial information before deciding; or
        • want a financial update from the other party to see if you should ask for a change in support.
        Remember

        If you are applying for child support, you do not need to use this form. Instead, you would use the Disclosure Statement described above.

        When you serve a Request for Financial Information on the other party, you must give them all of the same financial information that you are asking of them. You cannot serve the other party with a Request for Financial Information without providing your own financial information. You can attach all of your financial information to your Statement.

        A Request for Financial Information cannot be filed on its own. It can only be filed at the same time as the paperwork about one or more other issues (such as partner support). The matters are all combined into one hearing.

        For detailed information about how to use this form, see:

        Choosing to use the disclosure rules in the Alberta Rules of Court

        The Alberta Rules of Court are available to help parties in FLA actions. For example, the following options from the Alberta Rules of Court can be used in FLA actions:

        • Questioning on Affidavit;
        • Written Interrogatories; and
        • Affidavits of Records.

        However, in practice these are rarely used in FLA actions. This because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it came with its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes can cause delays and result in greater cost to the parties.

        Be Aware

        The Alberta Rules of Court are very complicated and there are many exceptions to what is available. Consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        Exchanging evidence in actions started with a Statement of Claim or an Originating Application

        How evidence is exchanged in general

        Affidavits

        The parties exchange much of their evidence through their Affidavits. This is because Affidavits are used in the following processes where evidence is exchanged:

        • in chambers hearings, where many family law issues are dealt with (see the “Chambers” sections above);
        • to provide an Affidavit of Records (see below); and
        • to respond to written interrogatories or questioning (see above).

        These Affidavits are “sworn” or “affirmed” as being true. They are then filed with the Court and served on the other party.

        It is the “swearing” or “affirming” that turns the information into “evidence” that the Court can consider. Evidence cannot be given to the Court without being sworn or affirmed. The penalties for lying on a document that is sworn or affirmed are so severe (up to 14 years in prison) that the act of swearing or affirming makes it reliable. Having written evidence allows cases to run more quickly and efficiently, because all parties know what evidence is before the Court.

        For more general information about Affidavits, see the “Completing Statements and Affidavits” section above.

        For specific information about how to use these Affidavits for the remedies you want, see the Process tabs of the Information Pages about those topics. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        Remember

        Affidavits are only for the facts and evidence that support your claim. They are not for opinion or argument.

        Oral questioning

        Evidence can also be exchanged through oral questioning processes. Although less common in family law matters, they are available for parties to use. See the following sections below:

        • “Exchanging evidence: Questioning on Affidavit”
        • “Asking for more evidence or information: Questioning under Oath”

        Exchanging financial information (also called “financial disclosure”)

        In many family law actions, the parties must exchange specific financial information.

        For example:

        • Before you can get a court order for child support or spousal/partner support, you will need certain financial information. For example: income, investments, the value of property, and expenses.
        • You may also need this information for your matrimonial property issues.

        The list of information that may be required is described in detail on the following Information Pages.

        There is more than one way that a party can get financial disclosure. The method you will use depends on the kind of issue and the rules around it.

        The “Disclosure Statement” (child support)

        For Applications involving child support, both parties must file a “Disclosure Statement” with the Court. The exact information that must be provided is explained on the form.

        Be Aware

        This is not set out in the Rules of Court. However, judges in Alberta have required this form as part of the general disclosure requirements.

        The Applicant must give the Court financial disclosure in this form, or they will not be allowed to file their Application.

        The Disclosure Statement is served on the Respondent. The Respondent must then file and serve their own Disclosure Statement.

        Be Aware

        In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for child support without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        To give the Court your financial disclosure, use the following package.

        For more information about how to complete or respond to the Disclosure Statement, see the following Information Pages.

        The “Notice to Disclose”

        When you are dealing with support and matrimonial property issues, you can also use a “Notice to Disclose/Application.”

        A Notice to Disclose requires the other party to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. The exact financial information that must be given is listed on the form. You can also just ask the other party for their financial information. But if they are not providing it, using a Notice to Disclose makes sure that you will get it.

        For example: you could use this form if you:

        • want to apply for spousal support;
        • want to divide matrimonial property;
        • are considering applying for support and just want some financial information before deciding; or
        • want a financial update from the other party to see if you should ask for a change in support.

        After the “Notice to Disclose/Application” has been filed and served, the other party must share detailed financial information within one month. If the information is not provided within a month, there will be a court hearing. On the other hand, if all of the information is given, the hearing can be cancelled.

        The Notice to Disclose can be filed and served on its own. For example, a party may want to see the other party’s financial information before deciding whether to apply for support.

        Or, a Notice to Disclose can be filed and served at the same time as the documents starting the action, or at the same time as another Application.

        When you serve a Notice to Disclose, you must give the other party the same financial information about you.

        For more information about how to complete or respond to the Notice to Disclose/Application, see the following Information Pages.

        Exchanging evidence: Questioning on Affidavit

        Before a scheduled 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 like being questioned in court, except this type of questioning takes place outside of a courtroom and the judge will not be there.

        Using this process is not very common. When it is used, it is more likely to be used for special chambers than for regular chambers. This is because regular chambers is intended for less complicated matters and the hearings are scheduled much sooner than for special chambers.

        Be Aware

        “Questioning on Affidavit” may be used in Family Law Act actions, but it is extremely rare. This is because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it has its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes causes delays and results in greater cost to the parties.

        For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, see the “Chambers Applications: Questioning on Affidavit” section above.

        Exchanging evidence: Getting expert evidence

        In court actions, certain professionals can give their opinions within their area of expertise about an issue. For example:

        • An accountant can provide an estimate of the value of a business in an action under the Matrimonial Property Act.
        • A psychologist can complete a Parenting Assessment to give recommendations about the custody of a child.

        These professionals are called “experts.” Any report they write to help settle an issue in a court action is called an “expert report.” These reports can be used for chambers Applications or at trial. If the parties go to trial, the experts may be called to be a witness at the trial. They are then called “expert witnesses.” Their testimony is called “expert evidence” or “opinion evidence.”

        Judges can rely on expert opinions because the expert:

        • has training and qualifications that make their opinions reliable; and
        • is objective (because they are independent from the parties).

        Unless the Court gives its permission, only one expert is permitted to give “opinion evidence” on a specific subject on behalf of a party. Parties who want to use an expert report in their action must share it with the other party.

        There is a very complex process that must be followed to use an expert report in a court action. This is true for both chambers and trial. It begins at Rules 5.34 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

        Web Alberta Rules of Court
        Government of Alberta
        English

        For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English
        Exchanging evidence: The Affidavit of Records

        In general, each party in a court action in the Court of Queen’s Bench will be required to provide every other party with an “Affidavit of Records.” This is a requirement of the Alberta Rules of Court.

        However, this requirement does not apply to most actions started by Originating Application. It only applies to Originating Application actions to change:

        • a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act; or
        • a corollary relief order made by a court in another province under the Divorce Act.

        What it is?

        An Affidavit of Records is an Affidavit that discloses all of the “records” known to the party that may be “relevant and material.”

        A “record” is any kind of information that is stored or recorded in a way that can be viewed or heard. This includes paper documents, electronic documents, and sound recordings.

        A record is “relevant and material” if it could help the judge make a decision about one or more of the issues in the action.

        Be Aware

        Providing an Affidavit of Records is a separate process from providing financial information using the forms described above. If an Affidavit of Records is completed, all relevant and material financial documents will have to be listed, even if they were already provided in other disclosure.

        When it must be given?

        The Affidavit of Records does not have to be given to the other parties right away. The deadline is whichever comes last:

        • the scheduling of the trial date; or
        • 3 months before the trial date.

        However, most parties will want to start the process sooner.

        Forcing the other side to give their Affidavit of Records

        In most family law matters, parties will disclose relevant records to each other over the course of the action. Because disclosure is legally required, it is rare to have to force the other party to provide an Affidavit of Records.

        However, if it becomes a problem, you can file and serve the other party with a “Notice to Produce an Affidavit of Records.” See the following resource.

        Once this Notice is filed and served, all parties have to provide each other with an Affidavit of Records within 3 months of the date they were served with the Notice.

        What must be included?

        All records that are “relevant and material” must be listed. This includes records that are not under a party’s control. An example of this might be records about employment that are held by a party’s employer.

        However, not all records must be shared with the other party. Some records are “exempt” from disclosure. For example, records between a party and their lawyer are protected by “solicitor-client privilege” and cannot be disclosed.

        Be Aware

        A record is not exempt from disclosure simply because you do not want to share it.

        If a party does not disclose a record, they cannot use the record as evidence in the action.

        Understanding what a “record” is, whether it is “relevant and material,” and whether it has to be shared can be complicated legal questions. You may have to make court Applications to get records held by other parties. You may wish to talk to a lawyer about this process. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        Be Aware

        There are penalties for not providing an Affidavit of Records and for refusing to provide records when ordered to do so. Unless they are exempt, all records must be disclosed.

        How it is put together?

        The Affidavit of Records is a list and description of records known to the party making the Affidavit.

        The records themselves do not have to be included. However, the other party must be given the chance to inspect the records and make copies of them. Usually, lawyers will provide each other with copies of the actual records that are listed in the Affidavit of Records.

        Remember

        A party who gave an Affidavit of Records can be questioned about it under oath. For more information, see the “Asking for more evidence or information: Questioning under Oath” section below.

        The Affidavit of Records is divided into 3 “schedules.” Each “schedule” is a list that is attached to the Affidavit.

        • The first schedule lists all records that the party has (or has access to) that can be disclosed.
        • The second schedule lists all records that the party has (or has access to) that may be exempt from disclosure.
        • The third schedule lists all records that the party had, but are now held elsewhere.

        To complete an Affidavit of Records, use the following form.

        PDF Affidavit of Records (Form 26 / CTS3796)
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        More information

        For more information about the Affidavit of Records, see the following resources.

        PDF Client Guide to Record Production
        Field Law
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
        Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.
        Asking for more evidence or information: 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 action, 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.

        Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. They are not that common when parties are only going to chambers. This is because, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information.

        Be Aware

        Written interrogatories may be used in Family Law Act actions, but this is extremely rare. This is because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it came with its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes causes delays and results in greater cost to the parties.

        How to use this process

        To use this process, a party must file and serve the other party with a “Notice to Reply to Written Interrogatories/Application.” This form is available in the following resource.

        The “Notice to Reply to Written Interrogatories” is actually a document for making an Application. When you file the Notice, you are also setting up a chambers hearing date.

        • If the other party has not given you answers to the questions by the date of that hearing, the Court can take action to get the information.
        • On the other hand, if you get all of the information that you asked for before the hearing date, you can cancel the hearing by contacting the Court.

        The following rules apply to the use of written interrogatories.

        • The Notice can contain up to 30 separate, numbered questions.
        • The procedure can only be done once before a final decision (a Judgment) is made in the action.
        • If a Judgment has been made, the procedure can only be done once in an Application to change that Judgment.
        • The Notice must be served at least 1 month before the hearing date.

        How to respond to a Notice to Reply to Written Interrogatories

        If you were served with a Notice to Reply to Written Interrogatories, you must respond with an Affidavit that states the questions asked along with their answers. The Affidavit must be filed and served on the Applicant within one month of receiving the Notice.

        The following is a blank Affidavit that you can use to respond.

        If you believe you should not have to answer one or more of the questions, you must file and serve the Applicant with an Affidavit describing why you think you should not have to provide an answer. This Affidavit must be filed and served within a reasonable time before the hearing date set out in the Notice. Anything less than 10 days is considered unreasonable.

        If you were served with a Notice and do not respond, at the hearing the Court may:

        • order you to answer the questions by a certain date; and/or
        • order you to pay the Applicant’s full costs of the proceeding.

        The Applicant’s next steps

        After the receiving the Respondent’s answers, the Applicant may submit another Notice with another list of questions related to the answers given by the Respondent. The process for the second Notice is the same as the first Notice. However, the Applicant cannot submit a third Notice.

        If the Applicant believes the answers provided by the Respondent are unsatisfactory, he or she can ask the Court at the hearing to order the Respondent to answer additional questions.

        Asking for more evidence or information: Questioning under Oath (formerly called “discovery”)

        Under the Alberta Rules of Court, each party is entitled to question the other party under oath. It is like being questioned in court, except this type of questioning takes place outside of a courtroom and the judge will not be there. This process used to be called “examinations for discovery.”

        Be Aware

        “Questioning under Oath” may be used in Family Law Act actions, but it is extremely rare. This because the FLA was intended to make resolution easier, quicker, and less expensive for the parties. That is why it has its own set of simplified rules and forms. Using these more complex processes causes delays and results in greater cost to the parties.

        How Questioning under Oath can help

        The process of questioning serves several purposes.

        • You can learn more about the other party’s position about the issues.
        • You can get more information from the other party.
        • You may learn that there are areas of agreement between you and the other party.
        • You may get the other party to admit facts and information that can be used against them in a court proceeding.

        What happens during the questioning?

        When the parties have lawyers, they will usually schedule questioning to take place at one of the lawyers’ offices.

        A court reporter is present. They administer the oath and record the questions and answers. This record is called a “transcript.” The record of the questions and answers can later be used in court. The party answering questions must answer the questions truthfully. Being dishonest in a proceeding under oath could be considered perjury, which is a criminal offence.

        The lawyer who is doing the questioning can ask questions about the matters in dispute. The lawyer for the party who is being questioned makes sure that all the questions asked are proper and relevant. They can “object” if they feel that any questions are not proper or relevant. This means they give a legal reason why their client should not answer the question.

        The party being questioned is expected to reasonably prepare. They must also bring documents that are likely to be required and those that are named in the Notice of Appointment for Questioning (if one is served).

        Be Aware

        Documents that are “privileged” do not have to be brought. A document is privileged if it is a communication between a lawyer and their client that involves legal advice.

        The questioning party may ask questions about anything that is “relevant and material” to the issues. A matter is considered “relevant and material” if it could help the judge make a decision about one or more of the issues in the action.

        A party being questioned may not want to answer a question. However, they can only refuse to answer for one of the following reasons:

        • the matter is covered by “privilege” (see above);
        • the question is not relevant and material;
        • the question is unreasonable or unnecessary; or
        • there is another legal reason for not having to answer.
        Be Aware

        Determining what is “relevant and material” and knowing what kinds of questions are allowed can be complicated and require detailed legal knowledge. You may wish to talk to a lawyer or use the services of a lawyer when questioning or being questioned. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        Documents brought for questioning may become “exhibits.” An “exhibit” is a document, record, or object that is introduced as evidence in a court proceeding. Something introduced as an exhibit during questioning must either be attached to the transcript or produced at a court proceeding.

        It is common for the parties to take turns questioning each other. Each questioning party is responsible for getting the transcript of the questions and answers from the court reporter. The transcript can be used in Applications or at trial.

        When can questioning happen in the court process?

        Generally, questioning can occur once an action has been started.

        The questioning party does not have to have sent Written Interrogatories first. Similarly, the questioning party does not have to have an Affidavit of Records before questioning the other party. However, questioning may be more useful once an Affidavit of Records and the responses to any Written Interrogatories have been received. Having the opportunity to review their records and information will allow you to prepare questions for them. For more information about these options, see these sections above.

        • “Asking for more evidence or information: Written interrogatories”
        • “Exchanging evidence: The Affidavit of Records”

        For actions started under the Family Law Act:

        • once the Applicant has filed a Statement or Affidavit, the other party may question them; and
        • once the Respondent has filed a Reply Statement or Affidavit, the other party may question them.

        For actions with pleadings:

        • the Plaintiff may question the Defendant at any time after a Statement of Defence has been served by the Defendant, or at any time after the time period for filing a Statement of Defence has expired; and
        • the Defendant may question the Plaintiff any time after serving a Statement of Defence.

        For actions started with an Originating Application:

        • once the Applicant has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them; and
        • once the Respondent has filed an Affidavit, the other party may question them.

        Setting an appointment for questioning

        There are 2 ways to set an appointment for questioning:

        • both parties can agree about a time and location for questioning; or
        • one party requires the other to attend by filing and serving a “Notice of Appointment for Questioning.”

        The Notice of Appointment must be served at least 20 days before the date of the appointment. It must:

        • specify a reasonable date, time, and place for the appointment for questioning;
        • describe any records the person is required to bring with them to the questioning; and
        • request that the person to be questioned tells the other party about any arrangements necessary to meet the person’s reasonable needs. For example, an interpreter or accommodations for a physical disability.

        The Notice of Appointment is in the following resource.

        If a party serves a Notice of Appointment for Questioning, they must pay an allowance to the party to be questioned. If the party being questioned has a lawyer, the allowance can be paid to the lawyer on the party’s behalf.

        Be Aware

        If the parties agree on an appointment for questioning (so no Notice is required) then no allowance is paid.

        The amount of the allowance is set out in the Alberta Rules of Court and starts at $50 per day. If the person being questioned has to travel more than a reasonable commuting distance, there may be additional costs for travel, food, and accommodation.

        If an allowance is not paid, then the party served with the Notice of Appointment does not need to attend unless ordered to do so by the Court.

        Responsibilities of the party questioning

        The questioning party is responsible for:

        • arranging the location for questioning (usually an office space or meeting room);
        • booking the court reporter;
        • paying the required allowance to the party being questioned (if any); and
        • arranging for an interpreter or making other accommodations for the party being questioned (if needed).

        For information about using the services of court reporters, see the following resources.

        Web Court Reporting & Transcription Services
        ACE Reporting Services Inc.
        English

        Web Services
        Independent Reporters
        English

        Web Welcome to Dicta Court Reporting.
        Dicta Court Reporting Inc.
        English

        Responsibilities of the party being questioned

        The party who is served with a Notice of Appointment must inform the questioning party if they have any special needs that will need to be accommodated. The requests must be reasonable, and the questioning party must accommodate those needs as best as they reasonably can.

        For example:

        • there may be mobility or health issues that must be taken into account; or
        • if the party being questioned speaks a different language, they may need an interpreter.

        If there are issues about the questioning

        Either party may make an Application to the Court to resolve issues about an appointment for questioning, including:

        • the date, time, and place for questioning;
        • the person to be questioned;
        • the documents that must be brought to the questioning; and
        • the payment or amount of the allowance.

        If you need to make such an Application, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information about your next steps.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        Continuing duty to disclose

        A party who has been questioned may need to later correct the information they provided during questioning. They must do so if the answer they gave:

        • was incorrect or could be misleading; or
        • becomes incorrect or misleading as a result of new information.

        The information must be corrected by filing an Affidavit and serving it on the questioning party. That Affidavit must be served as soon as possible after the party who was questioned learns that their answer was incorrect or misleading.

        Undertakings

        If the party being questioned does not know the answer to a question, they must “undertake” to provide the answer within a reasonable time after questioning. To “undertake” or “provide an undertaking” is to promise that something will be done.

        The party being questioned must undertake to provide the requested information when:

        • they would have known the answer if they had reasonably prepared for questioning; or
        • they have access to a record that is relevant and material (and not privileged).

        Once a party has completed their undertakings, the questioning party may question that party on the new information. This may be done either orally or in writing.

        More information

        For more information about Questioning under Oath, see the following resources.

        PDF Guide to Questioning
        Meridian Law Group
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
        Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.
        Using exchanged information

        Information that you get from the other party can be used as evidence in any court proceeding. This includes trials and chambers Applications.

        The information that can be used includes:

        • the transcript and exhibits from Questioning under Oath;
        • an Affidavit of Records;
        • other Affidavits, including responses to written interrogatories, and Affidavits to correct answers given in questioning.

        Information received from the other party must be treated as confidential and only used for the purposes of the court action. The only exceptions to this rule are where:

        • the Court orders otherwise;
        • the parties agree otherwise; or
        • there is a law that allows the use of the information (for example: a criminal law).
        Managing your case

        The parties are responsible for managing their court action in an efficient and cost-effective way. This means that the parties must do the following.

        • Act and respond in a reasonable time. This includes following deadlines.
        • Try an out-of-court process to resolve their dispute, unless the Court orders otherwise. See the section above called “Court programs and services” for more information.
        • Follow the processes in the Alberta Rules of Court for managing court actions (see below).

        The parties must also avoid causing unnecessary delays, or taking steps that are meant to frustrate the other party. The Court can impose penalties on a party who causes delays or abuses court processes on purpose. These include:

        • making that party pay costs to the other party, including extra costs as a punishment;
        • holding that party in contempt of court, with fines or even imprisonment. This can happen if they behave inappropriately in court or fail to follow court orders; or
        • preventing that party from using court processes without permission (if they regularly use court processes to frustrate or harass another party).

        The Alberta Rules of Court have several options to help parties move their court action forward effectively. The Rules also allow judges to order that certain procedures be followed in order to help the action along.

        This section introduces these options, which include:

        • “Litigation plans”
        • Procedural orders and procedural conferences
        • Case management and Family Law Conferences
        • Judicial Disputes Resolution
        • Formal Offers to Settle

        These processes are not available for actions started by Originating Application, except for:

        • Applications to vary a custody order under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act; and
        • Applications to vary, suspend, or cancel a corollary relief order granted by a court in another province under the Divorce Act.
        Be Aware

        Most family law actions do not require a lot of intervention by the Court. However, these options are available if needed.

        For more information about any of these processes, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        “Categorizing” the action and the “litigation plan”

        All actions must be put into a category. Each one will be either a “standard” case or a “complex” case.

        This category determines:

        • how an action will be managed;
        • what steps will need to be taken; and
        • whether or not you will need a “litigation plan.”

        A litigation plan is a document that sets out a timeline for completing the major steps in the action. For example: closing pleadings, disclosing information and applying for trial.

        • In a “standard” case, a litigation plan is optional.
        • In a “complex” case, a litigation plan is required.

        Most family law cases are “standard” and litigation plans are not often made.

        The parties can agree on the category. Or they can apply to the Court for a decision. If the parties do not agree, or if the Court does not decide that the case is “complex,” the action is deemed a standard case. This would happen 4 months after the date the Statement of Defence or the Response is filed.

        Things that must be considered by the parties, or by the Court, in making the decision include:

        • the number and complexity of the issues involved;
        • the number of parties;
        • the number of documents involved;
        • how long Questioning under Oath is likely to take; and
        • whether expert reports will be required and if so, the time it will take to exchange reports and to question experts.

        This is complex area of law. And, it is a very important step. If you need to make a litigation plan, consider getting legal advice. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page. You can also ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        For more information, see the following resources.

        Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
        Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here. See "Categorizing Litigation.”

        PDF Rules Remix
        Field Law
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here. See “1. New Responsibilities to Manage Litigation.”

        Web New Alberta Rules of Court
        Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here. See “Standard and Complex Cases – Rule 4.3(1).”

        Web New Alberta Rules of Court: A Client’s Perspective
        McCarthy Tétrault LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here. See “2. Standard and Complex Cases.”

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

        Book Moving Ahead: Litigation Plans In Action (article included in "Case Management, Litigation Plans and the 'Drop Dead' Rule")
        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.

        “Procedural orders” and “conferences” for procedural issues

        If either party believes the action is not being managed according to the Rules, they can apply to Court for an order about the procedures that should be followed.

        In this Application, either party can ask for:

        • an order that resolves a dispute about a procedure (this is sometimes called a “procedural order”), or
        • an order to attend a conference with a judge to discuss procedural issues.

        Aparty who files an Application for a conference under this rule must:

        • give a reason for the conference; and
        • file and serve notice of the Application and any material to be used in the Application on the other parties. This must be done a reasonable time before the scheduled date of the conference.

        The Court may also make a procedural order or direct the parties to attend a conference without anyone making an Application. The Court may do this if it thinks that the parties are not managing the action according to the Rules.

        A conference about procedural issues would require the parties to consider things like:

        • dispute resolution possibilities;
        • simplifying a claim or an issue;
        • making a complex case litigation plan or a change to the plan;
        • case management by a judge (see below); and
        • procedural or other issues or questions and how to resolve them.

        The Court may make a procedural order before, at, or following the conference. A procedural order will usually direct one or both parties to take certain steps within a certain time. For example, if there has been difficulty with disclosure of information, the Court may order the parties to provide each other with an Affidavit of Records by a specific date.

        Case management & Family Law Conferences

        Some court actions may have high conflict or there may just be a lot of difficulty moving the matter forward. In such situations, “case management” or a “Family Law Conference” may be used.

        Case management

        Case management is a process where one judge takes responsibility for helping the parties manage a court action. The Case Management Judge will:

        • advise and direct the parties on the steps that are required to prepare for trial;
        • explore possible areas of agreement or settlement; and
        • make any procedural orders that are needed.

        The parties can apply to the Chief Justice for case management, or the Chief Justice (acting on their own) may order that the matter be assigned to case management. For information about how to apply for case management, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        The parties may also be referred to Case Management Counsel. These are senior lawyers who are appointed under the Court of Queen’s Bench Act to act in a way similar to a Case Management Judge. They will discuss litigation plans, explore settlement, and generally advise the parties as to how to proceed effectively.

        Parties may be directed to Case Management Counsel:

        • by the Chief Justice (in Calgary) or Associate Chief Justice (in Edmonton) before going before a Case Management Judge, or
        • by the assigned Case Management Judge, once the case is already in case management.

        For more information about case management, see the following resources.


        Web Case Management Counsel in the Court of Queen’s Bench
        Legal Education Society of Alberta
        English

        PDF Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta: Notice to the Profession: Case Management Counsel Pilot Project
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This resource describes the project in its early stages. It is now no longer just a pilot project. All of the information still applies. Also, this program is now available outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

        Web Case Management: The Pros and Cons
        Vogel LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        Family Law Conferences

        Be Aware

        In many judicial centres, Family Law Conferences are no longer used. Instead, case management or procedural conferences are used. For information on what is available in your judicial centre, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        A Family Law Conference is an informal meeting between the parties and a judge (who is called the “Conference Justice”). The Conference Justice will not be the trial judge, unless the parties agree. Family Law Conferences may be requested by the parties or ordered by the Court.

        Family Law Conferences have 2 main purposes:

        1. Settling issues. The parties are encouraged to outline their settlement proposals and identify their positions on the issues.
        2. Case management. The purpose of case management is to prepare the parties for trial. The parties must identify the evidence they intend to use and discuss how much time they will need at trial. The parties will try to agree on as many of the facts as possible before the trial. If the matter is not ready for trial, the parties will discuss what steps are still required.

        The Conference Justice will give a report to the Trial Coordinator about any directions he or she gave regarding case management. The Trial Coordinator is the person who is responsible for scheduling trials for the Court. The Justice can also order the parties to take additional steps or provide up-to-date information to each other in preparation for trial.

        For more information on Family Law Conferences, see the following resource.

        Judicial Dispute Resolution

        Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties to discuss any matters in dispute. If the parties have lawyers, they would attend too. JDR is intended to avoid dealing with all of the issues in court.

        However, JDR does not happen “instead of” going to court, because parties have to already be involved in the court system to get a JDR appointment.

        In some areas of Alberta, there are not currently enough judges available to meet the demand for JDR. If you would like to try JDR, talk to your lawyer or Resolution and Court Administration Services about whether it could work for you and when there might be a date available.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        If you do attempt to resolve your issues through JDR, your court action can be put “on hold.” For example, you may have a scheduled court date coming up, but you have the chance to try JDR. In this case, you can delay (“adjourn”) your court date. It can be adjourned to a specific date after the JDR, or it can be adjourned without a set date (sometimes called “sine die”). If the JDR is not successful and you don’t have a specific court date set, you can contact the Court to schedule a new court date.

        Remember

        If you have agreed to binding JDR, the judge’s decision in the matter is final. For more information about the difference between binding and non-binding JDR, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

        For more information about JDR, see the following resources.

        Web Judicial Dispute Resolution (Alberta)
        Government of Canada
        English

        PDF Client Guide to Judicial Dispute Resolution
        Field Law
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        PDF Guidelines for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
        Government of Alberta
        English

        PDF A Handbook on Judicial Dispute Resolution for Canadian Lawyers
        Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch
        English
        This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

         

        Formal Offers to Settle

        The Alberta Rules of Court allow parties to make a “Formal Offer to Settle.” This process is meant to encourage the parties to settle the action without going to court. This is because a party who rejects a Formal Offer to Settle and then loses in court later will have to pay some amount of costs to the other party. In other words, if you get a good offer to settle and you do not settle, you have to pay more if you lose your case.

        A Formal Offer to Settle is a specific court process. It must be in the correct form (see below). It may be served on the other party any time after the action is started, and up to 10 days before a trial or hearing.

        Be Aware

        This “Formal Offer to Settle” process is different from informal offers between the parties. On their own, the parties may come to an agreement and settle their issues themselves at any time. That can be done in various ways and does not require a court process.

        The costs awarded are based on all steps taken between the service of the offer and the date of the Court’s decision. For example:

        • A Defendant makes a formal offer but the Plaintiff does not accept it. The Plaintiff then fails to get more than that offer at trial. The Plaintiff must pay the Defendant’s legal costs from the time of the offer. And, if the Plaintiff’s claim is dismissed, the Defendant is entitled to double the usual amount of costs.
        • A Plaintiff makes a formal offer but the Defendant does not accept it. Later, at the trial, the Plaintiff then gets more than they had offered. The Plaintiff is entitled to double costs for those steps taken after the offer was made.

        Making an offer does not mean the party is “admitting” anything, and it is kept confidential. The Court will not know about it until:

        • the offer is accepted and the parties apply for a Consent Order that reflects the terms of the agreement; or
        • the action or issue is decided. At that point the offer will be disclosed to the Court for the purposes of deciding the costs award.

        There are specific rules about:

        • how offers may be taken back (“withdrawn”);
        • accepting an offer; and
        • how long such offers remain open.

        For more information about making or accepting a formal offer of settlement, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        To view a formal offer to settle, see the following resource.

        PDF Formal Offer to Settle (Form 22 / CTS3792)
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        For more information, see the following resource.

        Web Formal Offers to Settle
        HART Legal
        English
        This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
        Other pre-trial processes

        There are many ways for parties to deal with their family law issues once an action has been started without actually going to trial. For example, using chambers Applications to temporarily deal with urgent issues (such as child support right after separation).

        There are many programs and services available to help parties resolve their issues or keep their action going efficiently. Information about these is above in the following sections.

        • “Chambers: An introduction”
        • “Court programs and services”
        • “Managing your case”

        There are other court processes available to help parties deal with specific issues. Depending on the issues, these may be used to:

        • help the parties deal with difficult issues before a trial; and/or
        • avoid a trial by resolving the issues in another way.

        These court processes are introduced below.

        Interventions and assessments

        If there are difficult matters involving children, the Court of Queen’s Bench may order an intervention or an assessment. Or, the parties can agree to take part in one of these processes.

        These processes involve experts who evaluate the family’s situation and report to the Court. These are covered in Court of Queen’s Bench Practice Notes 7 and 8. For detailed information about interventions and assessments, see the “Possible challenges when making a parenting plan” sections of the following Information Pages.

        Caseflow conferences

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

        For more information, see the “Court programs and services” section above.

        Dispute Resolution Officer or Child Support Resolution Officer programs

        These programs allow parties who want to apply for child support or change their child support to meet together with a senior family lawyer. In judicial centres where they are offered, they are mandatory. This means you must participate.

        For more information, see the “Court programs and services” section above.

        Summary judgments and summary trials

        Summary judgments and summary trials are processes that allow certain actions to be resolved quickly. They are meant to keep one party from continuing the action unnecessarily just to frustrate or drive up costs for the other party.

        To ask for a summary judgment, the action (or just a part of the action) must have no chance for success.

        To ask for a summary trial, the action (or just a part of the action) must be a simple matter that can be decided in chambers.

        The information below is just an introduction. Summary judgments and summary trials are a complex area of law. Consider consulting a lawyer for help. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        Summary judgment

        Summary judgment is a remedy that allows one party to apply to the Court for a decision on a matter where the other party has no chance of success. A summary judgment is a final court decision that resolves an action without having a trial.

        The purpose of a summary judgment is to prevent people from continuing actions where they have no chance of succeeding. Specifically:

        • a Plaintiff can apply when they think that the Defendant has no defence;
        • a Defendant can apply when they think the Plaintiff’s claim has no merit; and
        • either party can apply when the only real issue is the amount to be awarded.

        Summary judgment is not available for:

        • an action under the Divorce Act. This is true even if the corollary relief has been separated (“severed”) from the rest of the action;
        • a combined action under the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act; or
        • an action under the Family Law Act.

        However, summary judgment is available for an action under the Matrimonial Property Act by itself. This includes an action that was combined with a proceeding under the Divorce Act and later separated from it.

        Summary judgment may be used in family law to resolve a property issue. This can happen, for example, when the parties want to use the “desk divorce” process, but also want an order dealing with a property issue. This is because “desk divorces” do not deal with property matters.

        One situation where this may be necessary is to divide a public sector pension in Alberta. The pension administrator must have a Matrimonial Property Order (MPO) to divide a public sector pension. But the Divorce Act does not deal with property issues and the uncontested desk divorce paperwork does not include any documents that deal with property. Instead, if you want to try to get your property issue (like the MPO) dealt with quickly, you may be able to:

        • start an action under the Matrimonial Property Act; and
        • then apply for a summary judgment.

        An Application for summary judgment can only be heard in special chambers (not regular chambers). For more information about making Applications in special chambers, see the “Chambers Applications: Asking for, or responding to, an Application in Special Chambers” section above.

        Be Aware

        If you ask for a summary judgment, the Court may or may not give you what you asked for. Or, you may not be granted the summary judgment at all. For example: the judge may decide that more information is needed and may require a summary trial.

        For more information on summary judgments, see the following resource.

        Web A Year on the Books: Reflections on Summary Judgment in Alberta
        Miller Thomson LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        Summary trial

        A summary trial is procedure where all or part of an action is decided through a short “trial.” However, it is not like a full trial, because the Court will usually only consider written evidence. It is similar to an Application in chambers. Giving oral evidence is possible, but requires a separate Application to court to allow it.

        Summary trials are designed to quickly deal with matters where:

        • the facts are not really in dispute; or
        • the facts needed to decide the matter are available in documents on the court record.

        It allows the parties to ask the Court to make a decision on the issue “summarily.” This means very quickly and without the usual formal processes.

        However, most parties will use an Application to chambers instead. This is because there are forms and rules specifically for family law chambers that make it easy for people to use. Also, such Applications are usually easier than asking for a summary trial.

        For more information about summary trials, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English
        Trial

        If the parties are not able to come to an agreement after exchanging information and making any chambers Applications, a trial may be required.

        At a trial, the parties present their evidence to a judge and have the judge make a decision about the matters in dispute.

        Going to trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench for family law matters is not very common. Most matters are resolved in chambers or out of court before a trial is necessary.

        The procedure for getting to trial is different depending on the law you are using.

        • Actions started under the Family Law Act or with an Originating Application are mostly dealt with in chambers. They only go to trial if they cannot be resolved earlier. There are many programs and processes that are specifically designed to help resolve matters quickly. Also, judges are more active in exploring settlement.
        • Actions started with a Statement of Claim (such as the Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act) generally will go to trial if the parties cannot resolve their issues. However, pre-trial resolution is an important goal.

        There are rules and processes for trials that must be followed. This section provides an introduction to these, including the following.

        • Scheduling a trial
        • Arranging for and using witnesses
        • Preparing for trial
        • Courtroom etiquette
        • Basic trial procedures
        • Using witnesses at the trial
        • Proving facts at trial
        • The Judgment
        Be Aware

        The information provided here is just an introduction to some of the basic rules around trials. There are many other complex laws and rules about trials. Consider talking to a lawyer about preparing for a trial. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        Scheduling a trial

        Under the Alberta Rules of Court, a trial may be scheduled when:

        • the parties agree to request one; or
        • a judge orders one after one of the parties makes an Application to schedule a trial.
        Be Aware

        In actions under the Family Law Act, parties do not request a trial by agreement. This is because the matter is usually handled in chambers. A trial will be ordered by a judge only after the parties have explored pre-trial resolution options.

        In either case, the parties will have to file documents to schedule the trial (see below). These documents must be filed no later than 3 months before the date(s) scheduled for the trial.

        Trial scheduled by the parties

        If the parties agree to go to trial and they agree on a timeframe, they can file a “Request to Schedule a Trial Date” form. This form is filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench clerk in the appropriate judicial centre. You will want to confirm whether your requested dates are available with the Trial Coordinator before filing the Request form. See the following resource for contact information.

        Web Court of Queen's Bench: Trial Coordinators
        Government of Alberta
        English
        Remember

        In actions under the Family Law Act, parties do not request a trial by agreement in this way. This is because the matter is usually handled in chambers. A trial will be ordered by a judge only after the parties have explored pre-trial resolution options.

        The Request form must contain the following information:

        • the expected number of witnesses;
        • the expected length of the trial; and
        • a copy of the pleadings for the judge to use at the trial.

        In addition, the parties have to confirm that:

        • they have participated in a dispute resolution process, or that the Court ordered that this requirement did not have to be met;
        • any expert reports have been exchanged (see below for more information about that);
        • all processes for exchanging information have been completed and the necessary information has been exchanged;
        • any undertaking given by a person who was questioned under oath have been provided;
        • they will be ready for trial by the scheduled date;
        • any amendments to the pleadings have been filed and served; and
        • all Applications related to the action have been finished and there are no other pre-trial steps required.

        If the court clerk is satisfied that the Request contains the necessary information, they will schedule a trial date.

        If the parties cannot give all the confirmations listed above, but claim the outstanding matters will be completed before the trial, they must state this in the Request form. They can still request the court clerk to schedule a trial date.

        • If the court clerk is satisfied that the parties will or are likely to be ready by the proposed trial date, they may schedule a trial date.
        • If the court clerk is in doubt about any matter, they must refer the matter to a judge for direction or a decision.

        The Request to Schedule a Trial Date form is in the following resource.

        PDF Request to Schedule a Trial Date (Form 37 / CTS3807)
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        Trial scheduled by a judge

        Either party may apply to court to have a judge set a trial date. This may be necessary where the parties are ready for a trial, but one of them is not cooperating on setting a date.

        The party asking the judge to set the trial date must file an “Application for Court to Set a Trial Date” form.

        A trial date may only be set if the judge is satisfied that:

        • the parties have participated in a dispute resolution process (as required by the Rules of Court); or
        • there is a court order saying the parties do not have to do so (this is rare).

        The judge will also need to get the following information:

        • the expected number of witnesses, including the number of expert witnesses;
        • the expected length of trial; and
        • a copy of the pleadings for the judge to use at trial.

        The judge will also want to confirm that all steps have been taken and all information exchanged (see just above for a list). Even if one or more confirmations is not provided, the judge can set a date and give whatever directions may be needed for the parties to complete the necessary steps.

        The Application for Court to Set a Trial Date form is in the following resource.

        PDF Application for Court to Set a Trial Date (Form 38 / CTS3808)
        Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        Notice and confirmation of the trial date

        Once a trial date has been set, the court clerk must give notice of that date to every party.

        After that, a trial can only be adjourned if:

        • the action has been formally discontinued. To do this, the party who started the action would file a “discontinuance” form;
        • the parties settle the action and file the agreement with the Court; or
        • the judge allows it.

        To change the trial date, or the period of time scheduled for the trial, the judge’s permission is required.

        At least 3 months before the trial date, each party must file a “Confirmation of Trial Date” form. With this form, each party confirms for the Court:

        • that they will be ready to go ahead with the trial on the scheduled trial date; and
        • the estimated number of witnesses and the estimated length of the trial.

        Also with this form, either party may change:

        • their original estimate for the number of witnesses; or
        • their original estimate for the length of the trial.

        If a party asks for an increase in the period of time for the trial, the Court may:

        • confirm the original trial dates; or
        • schedule a new date to accommodate the increased period of time required.

        If only one party confirms that they are ready for trial, the scheduled date for the trial remains unless the judge orders otherwise.

        If no party confirms they are ready for the trial, the trial date is cancelled.

        The Confirmation of Trial Date form is in the following resource.

        PDF Confirmation of Trial Date (Form 39 / CTS3809)
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        Arranging witnesses

        You may want certain people to provide evidence at your trial. These people are called “witnesses.” Generally, witnesses are required to come to court and provide oral evidence about what they have seen or what they know about the matters in dispute. This is called “testimony.” However, they may also provide written evidence in certain circumstances. For example, a judge may allow affidavit evidence if a witness has serious health issues.

        Who can be a witness?

        Friends and family members are often witnesses in family law matters.

        Each party can also be a witness at their own trial.

        Certain professionals (such as accountants or psychologists) can also be witnesses to give opinions within their area of expertise about an issue.

        • These witnesses are called “experts” or “expert witnesses."
        • Any report they write for the purposes of giving evidence at the trial is called an “expert report.”
        • Their testimony is called “expert evidence” or “opinion evidence.”
        Be Aware

        There is a process that must be followed to use an expert report in a court action. There is also a specific form that must be used for an expert report. And expert reports must be exchanged before the parties can get a trial date. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        Judges can rely on expert opinions because the expert:

        • has training and qualifications that make their opinions reliable, and
        • is objective (because they are independent from the parties).

        Unless the Court gives its permission, only one expert is permitted to give “opinion evidence” on a specific subject on behalf of a party.

        Getting witnesses to the trial

        It is important to discuss the trial with your witnesses. They may or may not agree to attend.

        If they agree to attend on their own, then all you have to do is let them know when it is and what they can expect. For more information about this, see the “Procedure at trial” heading below.

        However, if a witness does not want to attend and you think their evidence is necessary, you can serve that witness with a notice requiring them to attend. This form is called a “Notice to Attend as Witness at Trial.”

        This Notice must be served 20 days or more before the trial date and:

        • must state the date, time, place, and the period during which the person must attend; and
        • may require the person to bring any records that the person could be required to produce at trial.

        The Notice must be served using one of the permitted methods of service. See the section above called “Serving documents: Ways to serve” for more information about this. If a person served with the Notice is represented by a lawyer, it must also be served on the lawyer.

        If a party serves the Notice, they must also pay an “allowance” to the party to be questioned. The amount of the allowance is set out in the Alberta Rules of Court and starts at $50 per day. If the person being questioned has to travel more than a reasonable commuting distance, there may be additional costs for travel, food, and accommodation. The allowance must be paid at least 10 days before the trial date.

        The Notice to Attend as Witness at Trial form is in the following resource.

        PDF Notice to Attend as Witness at Trial (Form 40 / CTS3810)
        Government of Alberta
        English
        This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

        Telling the Court about your witnesses

        The Plaintiff/Applicant must provide a list of their witnesses’ names to the Court one month before the trial date. The Defendant/Respondent must provide a list of their witnesses’ names to the Court 20 days before the trial date.

        If a witness does not come to the trial

        If a witness does not attend the trial as required by the Notice, the Court may:

        • order the witness to attend court; or
        • direct a peace officer to apprehend the witness anywhere in Alberta.

        Before doing either of these things, the Court must be satisfied that:

        • the Notice was properly served and the allowance was properly paid;
        • the witness either did not attend or did not stay long enough; and
        • the witness is necessary to decide the issues.

        The Court may order one or more of the following:

        • that the witness be brought into court at a specific time;
        • that the witness bring certain records to produce at trial;
        • that the witness be kept in custody until the presence of the witness is no longer required;
        • that the witness be released on the condition that they appear when required; or
        • anything else necessary to ensure the witness attends, and produces the records ordered to be produced.

        Preparing for trial

        You will have to spend a lot of time and effort preparing for your trial. This is critical for several reasons:

        • To make sure you have and present all of your relevant evidence.
        • To make sure that you cover everything that you are asking for from the judge.
        • To make sure that your case is clear and easy for a judge to follow and understand.

        It will be important to review all of the documents that have been filed in the action. You will want to:

        • make sure everything has been filed and served properly;
        • be familiar with everything in the documents so you can speak clearly and accurately on the material without having to search through it; and
        • make sure you have copies of all the documents that have been filed for the action (yours and the other party’s).

        You may want to prepare a trial book that organizes all of the evidence you intend to use in the order you want to present it. A trial book should have:

        • your opening statement and arguments;
        • copies of all the documents filed in the action;
        • copies of the evidence you intend to use (for example, bank statements, pictures, emails);
        • lists of questions for each witness; and
        • copies of the legal cases you want to rely on, with the relevant portions highlighted.

        It is important to have enough copies of documents for you, the judge, and the other party.

        You will also want to make sure you have thoroughly researched the following:

        • the law that applies to your action (for example, the law and cases about child support under the Divorce Act);
        • rules that apply to court procedures and trials;
        • rules about using evidence in court (what is allowed and what is not allowed); and
        • rules about questioning witnesses.

        Courtroom etiquette

        In addition to the rules about court processes, there is certain behaviour that is expected in court. This is called “courtroom etiquette.” Knowing how to behave will help the process go more smoothly.

        Any time you are in court, you are expected to be prepared, polite, and respectful.

        It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with courtroom behaviour and procedures before you are scheduled to appear in court. You may wish to go to court to watch how proceedings are conducted so you know what to expect.

        See the following resources for more information about how to act and dress in court.

        PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
        Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
        English
        See p. 29-30.

        PDF Coping with the Courtroom: Essential Tips and Information for Self-represented Litigants
        The National Self-Represented Litigants Project
        English

        Web Courtroom etiquette
        Government of Alberta
        English


        Video Tips on Court Protocol
        Feldstein Family Law Group
        English
        This is a private source from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

        Web Pointers for Representing yourself in the Courtroom
        Government of Nova Scotia
        English
        This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

        Web Tips for conducting your Supreme Court trial
        Legal Services Society
        English
        This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

        Procedure at trial

        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.

        The usual procedure for a trial is set out below. Please note:

        • The terms “Plaintiff” and “Defendant” have been used to make this information easier to read. If your action is under the Family Law Act, the parties would be the “Applicant” and the “Respondent.”
        • The Justice may direct that the procedure be changed. It is important to follow the Justice’s direction.

        Opening statement(s). The Plaintiff can give a summary of their case and what they are asking for. The Defendant may also give their opening statement, or wait until it is their turn to present their case.

        Plaintiff’s case. The Plaintiff provides evidence and questions their own witnesses. This is called “direct examination.” The Defendant has a chance to question these witnesses. This is called “cross examination.” If something came up in cross examination that the Plaintiff wishes to ask more questions about, they can do so. This is called “re-examination.”

        Defendant’s case. The Defendant can make their opening statement in this step if they choose, before presenting their evidence and witnesses. The same procedures for direct examination, cross examination, and re-examination apply.

        Plaintiff’s reply. This step is optional. Here, the Plaintiff can clarify information provided by the Defendant when the Defendant presented their case.

        Closing statements. The Plaintiff gives a summary of their case and what they want. The Defendant then does the same thing. The Plaintiff then has one last chance to reply to the Defendant’s statement.

        Be Aware

        The Justice may ask questions throughout the trial. It is important that you provide clear answers to any questions asked, even if you had planned to provide that information later in your case.

        For an introduction to trials in family law matters, see the following resource.

        Video The Court Process: Trials
        Feldstein Family Law Group
        English
        This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

        Witnesses at the trial

        Generally, evidence given at a trial should be presented orally by the relevant witness. This allows the Justice and the parties to properly evaluate the witness and ask questions.

        If a witness attends the trial, the Justice may keep a witness outside the courtroom until the witness is called to give evidence. This is called “excluding” the witness. If this happens, no person may communicate with the witness about evidence given at trial during the time that the witness is excluded.

        A witness may have already given evidence, but cannot attend the trial. In such cases, and with the Justice's permission, a party may read all or part of the evidence given by someone else at Questioning under Oath. This is called “reading in” evidence. This may happen if the person who was questioned:

        • is dead;
        • is physically unable to give evidence in Court;
        • refuses to take an oath or to answer proper questions; or
        • cannot be required to attend the trial for any other reason.

        Justices will usually only give permission to “read in” evidence if the facts given under questioning by the witness are important to the case.

        Effective questioning of witnesses is important and can be difficult. You may wish to talk to a lawyer with trial experience. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        For more information about witnesses in a trial, see the following resources.

        Audio/Web Appearing as a Witness
        Calgary Legal Guidance
        English

        PDF The Witness and the Justice System in Alberta
        Government of Alberta
        English

        Proving facts at trial

        To get a Judgment from the Court, you must prove the facts that your claim is based on. To prove facts, you need to provide evidence that shows that those facts are true. It is critical that you get the evidence that supports your claim into court.

        There are several ways to get evidence into court.

        • Witness testimony.
        • Documents. For example, the parties can refer to Affidavits or questioning transcripts.
        • Exhibits. For example: objects, documents, or electronic recordings can be admitted as “exhibits” to an Affidavit.
        Be Aware

        The information provided here is just an introduction to some of the basic rules from the Alberta Rules of Court about using evidence. There are many complex laws and rules about using evidence in court. Some evidence may not be “admissible” (it cannot be used in court). Some evidence may only be admitted with a judge’s permission. This is both complicated and critically important, so you may want to talk to a lawyer about preparing for a trial, or appearing in a trial. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        The judge will want the best information possible to help them decide the issues. As a result, a fact that can be proven by the evidence of a witness generally must be proven by questioning that witness in Court. This is true unless:

        • there is a rule that allows otherwise. For example: if the witness is dead (see “Witnesses at the trial” above); or
        • the parties agree to that fact.

        Or, the Court can decide that the evidence of a witness does not have to be proven by questioning. In other words, the Court can decide that the written evidence will be enough. However, the Court will not usually do that if:

        • a party, for good reason, wants to cross-examine the witness, and
        • the witness is able, or can be required, to attend the trial.

        This is because it is an important part of our legal system that each party should be able to question the evidence of the other party in front of the judge.

        Evidence given in any other action may be presented at trial. However, this is only allowed if the party who wants to submit the evidence:

        • gives the other parties written notice of this 5 days or more before the trial is scheduled to start; and
        • gets the Court’s permission to submit the evidence.

        The rules about using evidence at trials can be complicated. The strategy for presenting evidence can be complicated as well. For example, you will need to consider the following.

        • Does the evidence actually prove the fact you are trying to prove?
        • Can you prove the facts needed to legally support your claim?
        • Is your evidence strong or weak?

        These types of questions require legal analysis. You may want to talk to a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        The Judgment

        The decision of the Justice after a trial is called a “Judgment.” The Justice may give their decision right away or they may take some time to consider it.

        Unless the Justice states another date, every Judgment and Order comes into effect when it is given.

        When giving a Judgment right away, the Justice may state which party needs to prepare a draft of the Judgment to file. If the Justice does not do so, the most “successful” party is responsible for preparing this draft. If you are not sure about who is to draft the Judgment, you can politely ask the judge. It is important that you carefully write down the judge’s decision so you can either draft the Judgment or carefully review the other party’s draft.

        The responsible party must prepare a draft of the Judgment and serve it on every party within 10 days after the Judgment.

        Judgments must be divided into numbered paragraphs. Every Judgment must include:

        • the date it was given;
        • the location at which it was given;
        • the name of the Justice who gave it; and
        • the date it was filed.

        Within 10 days after the draft Judgment is served, the other party may:

        • approve the draft;
        • disagree with the draft and describe why; or
        • do nothing.

        If the other party does nothing within the 10 days, the Judgment may be signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk as long as:

        • all other requirements are met; and
        • service of the draft is proved.
        Be Aware

        The exact process for the above steps could be different in every judicial centre. It may also be different depending on the facts of the case and the parties involved. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services in your judicial centre.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English

        A Judgment must be filed within 3 months of the Justice giving the Judgment, unless the Court permits otherwise. Once the Judgment is filed with the Court, it must be served on the other party.

        For more information, see the following resource.

        Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
        Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.
        Asking for “costs”

        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. These amounts are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court (Schedule C).
        • 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 might have been unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

        For more information about how to ask for costs, see the Process tabs of the Information Pages for each family law topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page. You may also want to talk to a lawyer about costs. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        For more general information about costs, see the following resources.

        PDF Client Guide to Basic Costs
        Field Law
        English
        This is a private source. Learn more here.

        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.
        Enforcing judgments and orders

        “Enforcing” an order or a judgment means making sure that what the court ordered is actually done. When a judge makes an order or a judgment, the parties are expected to do what the judge has decided.

        Some judgments by the Court do not require any enforcement. For example, a Divorce Judgment will automatically end the marriage after the appeal period is over. Nothing else needs to be done for this to happen.

        Other judgments and orders may require enforcement. For example, if one party is not paying support as required in an order, the other party may have to take steps to enforce the order.

        For support issues, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) can help. Most judgments and orders will contain wording that will allow the parties to register with the MEP.

        For judgments and orders about the care and control of children (such as guardianship, parenting time, custody, access, and contact), there are 2 ways to ensure it is followed.

        • An “enforcement clause” can be added to the order or judgment. This allows the police to help enforce the order if necessary.
        • Under the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act, parties can apply for an Enforcement Order. An Enforcement Order allows the Court to give penalties, order make-up time, and direct the police to get involved.

        For judgments and orders about the division of property, enforcement may require additional legal processes. For example, a judgment or order for the payment of money can be enforced through the seizure of property. This is called “civil enforcement.” There are specific legal steps that have to be taken. If this is required, you may want to speak to a lawyer about your options. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        For more information about the enforcement of orders about specific topics, see the Process tabs of the Information Page for each topic. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        Someone who does not obey a court order could be found to be “in contempt of court.” If someone is found in contempt of court, they may be fined, imprisoned, or both. Although rare in family law cases, the penalties can be serious.

        For more information about the importance of following court orders, see the following resource.

        Video An Order is An Order is An Order
        Feldstein Family Law Group
        English
        This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
        Changing orders or judgments

        In family law matters, it is sometimes possible to change (“vary”) a court order or judgment. This is because the law recognizes that people’s circumstances change over time. These changes may affect certain family law arrangements, such as child custody and the payment of support. For example:

        • A person may be paying child support based on an annual income of $60,000. If that person’s income rises to $80,000 per year, then the court order may have to be changed. This is because the amount of child support should be based on the new income.
        • Separated parents may have a court order stating that parenting time is to be shared equally. One of those parents is no longer able to share parenting time (perhaps due to illness or having to move for a new job). The parenting time order may have to be changed.

        Whether you will be able to vary a court order or judgment depends on:

        • the law that was used; and
        • the topics addressed in the order or judgement.
        Be Aware

        Not every change in circumstance will allow for a variation of a court order. In every situation, there are legal tests that have to be met.

        Under the Family Law Act & the Divorce Act

        The Family Law Act and the Divorce Act allow parties to apply to court to “vary” an existing order or judgement if there is a large “change in circumstances.” This applies only to:

        • custody and access orders under the Divorce Act;
        • guardianship, parenting, and contact orders under the Family Law Act; and
        • child support and spousal/partner support orders under the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act.

        Under other laws

        Under other laws, there are different requirements that need to be met before parties can apply for a variation of an order or judgment.

        More information

        Detailed information about whether, and how, parties can apply for a variation is on the Information Pages for each individual family law topic. For example, for some issues, Alberta Courts have created variation “packages” that have all of the forms and information you need. For other topics there are no such packages. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        Be Aware

        Varying a judgment or order is not the same as an appeal. When it is allowed, varying a court order requires a change in circumstances. An appeal is asking a higher court to overturn all or a part of a lower court’s decision. There are different rules about that. See the “Appeals” section just below for more information.

        Appeals

        A party may believe that a judge made a serious error when issuing a decision. In that case, the party may ask a higher court to review the matter and make a different decision. This process is called an “appeal.” The person filing for an appeal is called the “appellant.”

        Grounds to appeal

        You cannot appeal a decision simply because you do not like it. You must have a valid legal reason to appeal a decision. These reasons are called “grounds” to appeal.

        If you are thinking of appealing a court decision, consider the following.

        • Higher courts will only consider appeals if there is evidence that the lower court committed a serious error. Simply disagreeing with the result is not enough.
        • There are additional forms, processes, costs, and time limits to consider. Appeals are complex and must be done within a short time of the original decision.
        • If your appeal is unsuccessful, you will likely have to pay the other party’s costs.

        The kinds of “serious errors” that may justify an appeal typically fall into 2 categories:

        • An error of law. The appellant will have to show that the judge made a mistake when applying the law.
        • A substantial error of fact. The appellant will have to show that the judge got an important fact wrong and then used that incorrect fact as the basis for their decision.

        Whether you have grounds for an appeal is a complicated legal question. You may wish to speak with a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        The appeal process

        Court of Queen’s Bench decisions can be appealed as follows:

        • Orders given in Master’s Chambers are appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in chambers.
        • All other Queen’s Bench appeals are made to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

        You will need to get the permission of the Alberta Court of Appeal before making an appeal if:

        • the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench is on an appeal from Provincial Court. In that situation, only errors of law or jurisdiction may be heard by the Court of Appeal;
        • the decision being appealed is a consent order or consent judgment;
        • the decision being appealed only relates to costs; and
        • the decision being appealed relates to an interim Application (before the trial).

        There are other situations where appeals require permission. These are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court.

        Remember

        Appeals are complicated and require detailed legal research and analysis. They can also be expensive. You may wish to talk to a lawyer if you are considering an appeal. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        More information

        For more information about making an appeal in the Alberta Court of Appeal, see the following resources.

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

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

        Web Court of Appeal Publications & Forms
        Government of Alberta
        English

        Web Court of Appeal
        Government of Alberta
        English

        Web Filing Appeals
        Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
        English

        For more information about the appeal process, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English
        Other available procedures

        The information on this Process tab is a very simple introduction to the most common rules that are used in typical family law matters. There are many other procedures available for legal matters.

        Some of these other procedures may be specific to a particular family law issue. Information about these procedures may be on the Process tab of the Information Page for that topic. For example: information about processes that can be used to enforce a child support order are on the Information Pages about child support. For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        However, there are also many other procedures in the Alberta Rules of Court that are available for Queen’s Bench actions. They have not been described in much detail because they are less common in family law matters. Some of these are listed below, along with the specific Rule from the Alberta Rules of Court where they are explained.

        • Transferring an action from one judicial centre to another (Rule 3.5)
        • Applying Statement of Claim rules to an action started by Originating Application (Rule 3.12)
        • Separating claims into separate actions, if 2 or more claims are made in the same action (Rule 3.71)
        • Dealing with long delays, including dismissing an action due to delay (Rules 4.31 - 4.33)
        • Web Alberta's New Rules of Court
          Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
          English
          This is a private source. Learn more here.
        • Electronic hearings and trials (Rules 6.10 and 8.18)
        • Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
          Government of Alberta
          English
        • Appealing the decision of a Master’ (Rule 6.14)
        • Applying to deal with a particular question or issue, like a question about interpreting a law (Rule 7.1)
        • Applying to correct a mistake in a Judgment or Order, like a typo (Rule 9.12)
        • Applying for a further order if something from a Judgment or Order is missing but needed to make that first Judgment or Order work properly (Rule 9.14)
        • Having a lawyer’s bill reviewed to see if it is reasonable (Rule 10.9)
        • Appealing a Judgment or Order in a family law matter to the Alberta Court of Appeal (Rules 12.59 - 12.71)
        • Using filed Affidavits (Rule 13.25)

        Just like all of the processes discussed on this page, court procedures can be very complicated. You may wish to consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English
        Other rules about evidence

        The information on this Process tab is a very simple introduction to the more common rules about getting and using evidence in typical family law matters. There are many other rules that deal with evidence.

        Some of these other rules are found in the Alberta Evidence Act.

        Some of these other rules may be specific to a particular family law issue. Information about these rules may be on the Process tab of the Information Page for that topic. For example: information about evidence from children in a child custody action is on the Information Pages about child custody (Divorce Act) or parenting (Family Law Act). For a complete list of the family law topics, see the Legal Topics page.

        However, there are also many other rules about evidence in the Alberta Rules of Court that apply to Queen’s Bench actions. They have not been described in much detail because they are less common in family law matters. Some of these are listed below, along with the specific Rule from the Alberta Rules of Court where they are explained.

        • Getting records (documents) that are held by someone other than the other party (Rule 5.13 and 5.14)
        • Using documents that were not disclosed but should have been (Rule 5.16)
        • Getting, using and exchanging expert reports (Rules 5.34 - 5.40)
        • Getting an order for the medical examination (mental or physical) of a party or other person (Rules 5.41 - 5.44)
        • Questioning a witness to get a transcript of their evidence to use in an Application (Rule 6.8)
        • Questioning a person to preserve their evidence if they may not be available to give their evidence in court (Rule 6.21)
        • Questioning someone outside of Alberta (Rules 6.22 - 6.24)
        • Preserving and protecting property that is in dispute (Rules 6.25 - 6.27)
        • Filing exhibits for hearings and trials, and getting them back (Rule 13.26)
        • Using photographs of personal property as evidence (Rule 13.30)
        • Using electronic processes and evidence in legal actions (Court of Queen’s Bench Civil Practice Note 4)

        Getting and using evidence for legal actions is very complicated. You may wish to consider talking to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

        You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

        Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
        Government of Alberta
        English