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My ex has a protective order against me, but if my ex asks me to come over, I can ignore the Order.

False.

Even if you think that the other party has agreed to breach the Order, do not breach the protective order. It does not matter if the other person agreed, or even contacted you first: you will be the one who suffers the consequences. There can be very serious consequences for breaching a protective order, including fines and jail time.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I’m not going to court, then I don’t need a lawyer.

This is not necessarily true.

Lawyers can be helpful even if your legal issue does not require going to court. Getting legal advice is never a bad idea, and sometimes, the law requires parties to get independent legal advice. For example, if two people enter into an agreement to divide matrimonial property, then they must get independent legal advice for that agreement to be binding.

Most times, legal advice is not required by law, but it can still be helpful. Lawyers can tell you about your rights and responsibilities under the law. They can also discuss whether a certain decision is in your best interest, or if there are better legal options available to you. Also, if the parties do not get independent legal advice before signing an agreement, a court may find that the parties did not truly understand the contract when they signed it (which means the contract may be set aside).

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I don’t speak English, then no one can help me with my legal problems.

False.

Many communities across Alberta have options for providing legal information and legal help. Some organizations specifically serve the immigrant community, and can offer information and help in many different languages. For more information, see the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies website.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
If I get deported, I can just take my kids with me.

Not necessarily.

You cannot take your children with you without the permission of the other parent/guardian(s).

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
If my step-child ended our relationship as a result of the separation, I don’t have to pay child support.

Not necessarily. 

If you were married to the child’s parent, or lived in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence with the child’s parent, and if you treated the child as if the child was your own (this is also called “standing in the place of a parent”), you may have to pay child support. 

There are several reasons why the law has taken this approach:

  • To ensure that a separation will affect the children as little as possible.
  • People are entitled to separate from each other, but not the children who were part of the relationship (and the financial responsibility for those children).
  • Children should be able to count on the fact that, when people act as parents toward them (including providing financial support), that parent-like relationship should continue, and not end simply because of a separation.

If there was a “parent-like” relationship, the law believes that the parent-like relationship generally should continue even when the parents’ relationship breaks down. 

Although a continued relationship is a factor that a judge would look at in determining whether you should pay child support, it is only one of many factors. Therefore, you may still have to pay some support. However, the obligations of the biological or adoptive parents can be greater than yours, so you may pay less child support than would otherwise be required by the Child Support Guidelines.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Owning property in “joint tenancy” with another person means we each own half the property.

False.

When two people own something in joint tenancy, they both own all of it, and they each have the right to deal with all of it.

For example, if you have a joint bank account with another person, you both own all of the money in that account. This means that either one of you can go to the bank and take out all of the money. As joint tenants, either of you are legally allowed to do this. When one of the joint tenants dies, the other joint tenant automatically becomes the sole owner of the account.

On the other hand, when an account is held by two people as “tenants in common,” it means that you each own half of it. If one of you dies, that person’s half does not automatically go to the other owner. Instead, that half goes through the Will of the deceased.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
A safety plan will only put me and my children in more danger.

False.

If you are in an abusive relationship, making a safety plan is a good idea. It can help you to prepare yourself to leave, and to protect you from further danger. By having a safety plan, you will have what you need to stay as safe as possible.

It is important to make sure that the children know and understand your safety plan as well. However, dealing with children can be tricky and complicated. For example, you won’t want them to accidentally tell the abusive parent about the safety planning. Some organizations suggest using neutral phrases. You could say, “we want to prepare for an emergency” rather than “we are preparing for what to do if Dad becomes violent.”

Many organizations suggest going to professionals who have experience safety planning with children. They can help with the safety planning process. They will have ideas about how to bring it up with the children. And they can guide you in actually coming up with a safety plan.

One reason why some people worry about making a safety plan is because they are afraid that the abuser will find it. The abuser might become more angry and dangerous if they find out that the victim is planning to leave. You may feel that there is no safe place inside your home to hide your safety plan. Maybe you could leave it with someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, or coworker. This person can keep it in a safe place for you. Whenever you need to review your safety plan, you will know where to go to look it over.

For more information about services and support, you can contact the Family Violence Info Line. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
My dog barks at night and sometimes the neighbour complains to me. There’s nothing he can do about it though, because the dog is mine and on my property.

False.

Each “municipality” (city, town, or village) has its own bylaws about pet ownership. These may include rules about the behaviour of pets. For example, there may be penalties for excessive barking. Usually, there is a process for citizens to make complaints, which can then be investigated by a bylaw officer. They can enforce the rules in different ways, such as issuing tickets. This can happen even though the dog is on your property when it barks.

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Last Reviewed: September 2016
Once a law is in effect, there is no way to know what the lawmakers had in mind about its meaning or use.

False.

When making a law, the members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta or the Parliament of Canada debate whether or not it should become a law and why. Records are kept of these debates and the process for any given bill under discussion. Researching these records (also called “Hansard” debates) can help to determine what the “intention” of the law is. The “intention” can be important when making arguments about how a law, or a portion of law, should be “interpreted” by a court.

Last Reviewed: March 2016
I earned my pension from my work. It is mine and does not have to be shared with my former spouse.

False. 

Under the Matrimonial Property Act, a pension is considered property that is subject to division if you separate from your spouse. The right to the pension grew larger during the marriage, and the pension was intended to become part of the marriage. Just as you would bring your income into the marriage and family for things such as rent, mortgage, car payments, furniture, and groceries, so too was the pension intended to be for the family (just as an RRSP would be).

This does not mean that all of your pension is necessarily divisible—like any other piece of matrimonial property, it relates to the period of your marriage. Most work pension division laws describe the part of the pension that may be divided as “the pension benefit earned during the marriage” (also called the “period of joint accrual”).

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Partner abuse only happens to married couples.

False.

Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to a person who they are in a romantic relationship with. This type of abuse can happen between people who are currently dating, married, or living together, or between people who used to date, were married, or were living together.

Partner abuse can happen to anyone, whether you are young or old, a man or woman, rich or poor, dating or living together or married, heterosexual, or LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My best friend and I have been living together for more than 10 years. During that time, we have meshed our lives together for the sake of convenience. But we are still just friends, so we won’t have responsibilities toward each other later on if we no longer live together.

It depends.

If you and your best friend have a “relationship of interdependence,” you may qualify as Adult Interdependent Partners (AIPs). This is a status that gives you rights and responsibilities under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA). These include partner support, exclusive possession of the home upon separation, and pension claims. In some situations, AIPs have similar rights and responsibilities as married couples.

In order to be AIPs, you have to have been living with and in a relationship of interdependence with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if you have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if you 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.

As you can see from the definition of “relationship of interdependence,” the relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”).

Becoming AIPs means that the partners each have certain legal rights and responsibilities. Once you are an AIP, you have these rights and responsibilities, whether or not you wanted to. If you wish to “contract out” of these rights and responsibilities, you might be able to do so by signing a valid cohabitation agreement.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I have a lawyer, I don’t need to bother doing any legal research for myself.

Not necessarily.

Traditionally, when you hire a lawyer, the lawyer handles every aspect of your case, including all of the research. However, 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. This type of service is usually more affordable than full service representation. It also allows you to be more involved in your own case. In this situation, you may want to or be asked to do some of the research yourself.

Even if your lawyer is doing the research for your case, you may still want to learn a bit about the law regarding your situation. This may help you when working with your lawyer. For example, it may make it easier to:

  • ask relevant questions;
  • stay focused on the legal issues;
  • understand your lawyer’s advice; and
  • make decisions based on that advice.

 

Last Reviewed: March 2016
I live on-reserve and am separating from my partner. I can do whatever I want with our family home because only my name is on the Certificate of Possession.

False. 

That is what the law used to say. It is no longer true.

Under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, a married or common-law partner who is living on-reserve has various property rights, including:

  • the right to the use of the on-reserve family property during the relationship;
  • the right to not have the on-reserve family home sold without your consent;
  • the right to apply for an Emergency Protection Order in order to be able to stay in the on-reserve family home, if there is family violence and a need for immediate protection;
  • the right to stay in the on-reserve family home for 180 days after the death of your partner/spouse;
  • the right to apply for an Exclusive Occupation Order for the on-reserve family home upon relationship breakdown or the death of your partner/spouse; and
  • the right to a share of the value of on-reserve family property upon relationship breakdown or the death of your partner/spouse.

A partner living on-reserve has all of these rights, even if he or she isn’t Aboriginal, does not have registered Indian status with the Government of Canada, or does not have status for that particular reserve. Similarly, the partner does not have to be listed on the Certificate of Title, Certificate of Possession, or other similar “ownership” document issued by the First Nation. As long as one of the partners is a member of the First Nation, or has Indian status, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act rights apply.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I am granted exclusive possession of the family home, then I alone will own the home.

False. 

An order for exclusive possession does not mean that you keep the home or the assets in the house forever. You are also not permitted to sell, give way, or otherwise dispose of the house and its contents. An order for exclusive possession is a temporary order that gives you the use of the house (and likely its contents) for a specified period of time only.

Last Reviewed: October 2015

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