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If we want to change our court order for support, we can just agree and don’t have to involve the Court.

False. 

Support that has been ordered must be paid. This is especially important if the order has been registered with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). If you and your former partner agree that you want to change a support order, you will have to apply to make the change in the same court that made the original order.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
There's no law against animal cruelty in Canada.

False. 

The Criminal Code of Canada includes a section on animal cruelty. This means that causing unnecessary suffering of animals is a crime in Canada.

Also, the Alberta’s Animal Protection Act protects animal from unnecessary distress, which includes abuse and neglect.

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Last Reviewed: January 2016
I have sole guardianship, so I can name whomever I want in my will to get guardianship of my child if I die.

That is not entirely true. In a Will, you (the “Testator”) can name someone who you would like to have become a guardian of your child when you die. However, the naming of a guardian in a Will is not binding on the Court. This is because of something called the parens patriae jurisdiction. 

Parens patriae is a Latin phrase meaning "parent of the nation." It refers to the power of the court to intervene against a parent or guardian, and to act as the parent of any child in need of aid or protection. It is this concept that allows child welfare authorities to take a child from his or her home and put that child into the protection of the government (in foster care). 

As a result, someone else can still apply to be the guardian of your child, and only the court has the final say. Naming a guardian in a Will, however, does ensure that the court will hear your opinion.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I don’t have a lawyer but the other party does, then his or her lawyer can make sure that I do everything right.

False.

The other party’s lawyer is not there to teach you the rules, help you figure out what to do, or give you legal information or advice. Their focus must be on the other party’s concerns.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
If the parent receiving child support remarries, I can stop paying child support.

False. Your obligation to pay child support does not stop if the parent receiving child support remarries. 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I have a family law issue, I can go to either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Not necessarily.

Sometimes the Provincial Court will not have the jurisdiction to deal with your legal matter. If this is the case, you will have to go through the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example, the Provincial Court does not have jurisdiction to grant a divorce. If you want a divorce, you will have to go through the Court of Queen’s Bench. Also, if you are planning to divide your property in court, you will need to go to the Court of Queen's Bench to deal with that.

Or, sometimes both courts will have jurisdiction and you will have to choose which court you want to go to. For example, you can choose to deal with parenting time, child support, and spousal support in Provincial Court.

However, the Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. So, if there is already a court action started, you will be strongly encouraged to make any later applications in the same level of court as the other matters. Using the same level of court is also usually less complicated, keeps costs down, and makes it easier for all parties involved to schedule hearings.

Last Reviewed: October 2016
We don’t need any legal help to divide our matrimonial property out of court.

False. Although it is possible to agree on how your matrimonial property will be divided, in order for any agreement to be valid, you must involve a lawyer. Specifically, in order for your agreement to be valid:
- the agreement must be in writing;
- the agreement must have been entered into freely (in order words, you cannot have been forced by your spouse or some other person);
- before signing the agreement, each spouse must have received independent legal advice about the effects of signing the agreement (this ensures that you understand your Matrimonial Property Act rights before signing the agreement); and
- properly signed Certificates of Independent Legal Advice must be attached to the agreement (each of your lawyers will provide you with these).
 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
I signed a domestic contract, so I have to follow everything in it.

Probably—but not necessarily.

In general, when a couple separates and they have a domestic contract (such as a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement), the terms of that contract will govern the legal issues that come up during the separation. However, that is not always the case. For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • One or both ex-partners provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if special circumstances existed when the agreement was signed that prove that one of the parties did not understand the contract, or if one of the parties did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, the parents could not agree that no child support would be paid (because child support is the right of the child).

In addition, if there was a legal issue that was not dealt with in the agreement, it can still be disputed when the relationship breaks down.  

Last Reviewed: October 2015
The asset is in my name, so it belongs to me, not my spouse, and I can do whatever I want with it.

False. 

Married people have many ways of setting up their financial lives. For example: some assets or debts may be in both spouses’ names. Or, an asset or debt may be in only one of the spouse’s names. There are many reasons for these differences, such as tax issues, differences in credit ratings, and sometimes just convenience.

When couples separate, some people believe that if an asset is in their name, that asset “belongs” to them. Similarly, a person may believe that a debt that is in his or her spouse’s name is that spouse’s problem. This is not the case. When property is divided, all assets and debts are looked at together, regardless of the “name” on it. 

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Being “common-law” and being in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship” is the same thing.

False. 

For many people, the term “common-law” is used to describe a couple that have been living together in a romantic relationship but are not married. In many provinces, and for income tax purposes, people are “common-law” after living together for one year. In some provinces, the required time is two years.

Alberta has stopped using the term “common-law” and instead uses the term “Adult Interdependent Relationship” (AIR). The concept of an AIR can also refer to certain relationships that are not romantic.

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:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.
Last Reviewed: October 2015
If we live together long enough, we’re considered “married” under the law.

False. 

Unless you go through a formal marriage ceremony, you are never married.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Only lawyers and judges are allowed to use the Alberta Law Libraries.

False.

Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) are open to the public. Although only lawyers and judges can borrow books from ALL locations, anyone can use the materials and online databases inside the library. Also, anyone can get help (by themselves or in a small group) from the law librarians to learn about how to do legal research and access the materials they need.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
In my Personal Directive, I must name a family member as my Agent.

False. You can choose anyone who meets the legal requirements—it does not have to be a family member.

Personal Directives are not about love or family obligations. They are about practicality and keeping yourself safe and well cared for. Your Agent will have access to all of your personal information and will be making all of your personal decisions for you. He or she can use the position to control you, to treat you poorly, and to shut out other people that you might have wanted included. In general, it is best to choose someone you trust and someone that you know will have your best interests at heart.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
My rental agreement doesn’t mention anything about pets, so my landlord cannot object if I get a cat.

Not necessarily.

If there are no terms about pets in your rental agreement, then you will need to ask your landlord about having a pet. A landlord is allowed to set rules about specific situations outside of the rental agreement. Usually, the agreement will say that you must obey these rules. In any case, making an arrangement about pets with your landlord ahead of time can prevent getting evicted or having to get rid of your pet.

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Last Reviewed: September 2016
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

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