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I’ve been taking care of my niece for years. That makes me her guardian.

False.

“Guardianship” describes the legal decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that adults have about a child. In other words, a “guardian” of a child is an adult who is legally responsible for taking care of the child.  

Caregivers often have to make day-to-day decisions for the child. Despite this fact, the caregivers are not the guardians of the child. They are not legally responsible for taking care of the child.

This is an important difference, as not being a guardian means that the caregiver has no right to continue taking care of the child. At any time, the child’s legal guardian can refuse to continue letting the caregiver care for the child. Depending on the situation, this can be harmful to both the child and the caregiver.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
All parents are automatically guardians of their child.

False.

Under Alberta law, the starting point is that parents (biological or adoptive) have a legal right to guardianship of their children.

However, being a biological parent is not always enough to be considered a guardian. The Family Law Act says that a parent of a child is a guardian of the child if the parent:

  • has acknowledged that he or she is a parent of the child; and
  • has shown an intention to be a guardian within one year of becoming aware of the pregnancy, or becoming aware of the birth of the child (whichever is earlier).

In other words, in addition to being a biological parent, you have to have shown that you want to be a guardian. For example, let’s say you are the biological parent of a six-year-old. However, you have had nothing to do with the child since before birth. Your claim to guardianship is not very strong.

Also, if a child is born as a result of a sexual assault, the biological father is not a guardian.

Last Reviewed: December 2016
I just moved in with my girlfriend who has a child with her ex-partner. In our domestic agreement, we agreed that I won’t have to pay any child support if we break up. Now I never have to worry about child support.

False.

Child support is the right of the child, not the parents. Therefore, this term in the agreement will not be binding.

Whether a non-biological parent has to pay child support depends on if he or she has “stood in the place of a parent” (also called “in loco parentis”). If a court finds that he or she has “stood in the place of a parent,” then the non-biological parent will have all the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. In this case, child support would be one of these responsibilities.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Once we are married, we have to own everything in joint names.

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 spouse’s name. There are many reasons for these differences, such as tax issues, differences in credit ratings, and sometimes just convenience.

As you and your spouse decide whether to conduct your affairs jointly or separately, it can be helpful to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of both options. The decisions you make can have serious legal consequences.
 

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
We found a “template” for an agreement online. As long as we follow the template exactly, our agreement will be legally sound.

False.

You must be careful using these templates. The law changes all the time and such templates are not always up-to-date. In addition, no template is specific to your circumstances. Although you may wish to use these templates as a guide, remember that they are not a substitute for learning about your legal rights and responsibilities and getting legal advice. Also, some of these templates can be quite expensive, and you may be able to get some legal advice for a similar cost.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
A child can decide who he or she wants to live with at age 12.

False. 

There is no magic age when a child is old enough to decide which parent they want to live with. Many courts begin considering children’s opinions by 12 years of age, but the weight given to the wishes of the child depends on various things, including the child’s age and maturity, and the specifics of the case.

If you are trying to come to an agreement on your own, you are free to incorporate the views of the child into your agreement. If you are in court, the judge may listen to the wishes of a child, if the judge feels that the child is mature enough to give his or her opinion. In general, the older the child is, the more weight the judge will put on the child's wishes. However, even if a child does provide an opinion, judges must make their decisions based on what is in the “best interests of the child.”

If you think your child needs their own lawyer to represent them and to advocate for their best interests, the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre may be able to help for free, if your child is under 19 years old.

Last Reviewed: September 2016
If I declare bankruptcy, I will no longer have to pay child support and spousal support, and my arrears will disappear.

False.

Child support and spousal support payments are not affected by bankruptcy. These payments must be kept up-to-date. Arrears will still be owed.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
The abuse was my fault.

False.

If you are being abused, it is important to remember that abuse is wrong, and it is not your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser. No one ever deserves to be abused. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about being abused.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Only students and faculty are allowed to use university law libraries.

False.

University libraries are open to the public, and you may be able to sign up for a library card to borrow materials. You can also ask at any library service desk for a temporary computer ID that will let you use the online databases on campus for a day. Check with the university closest to you about their resources and policies for members of the public.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
A non-Aboriginal person cannot live on-reserve if he or she separates from his or her Aboriginal partner/spouse.

False.

Under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, a married spouse or common-law partner who was 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.

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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
I live in Alberta, so the only laws that apply to me are Alberta laws.

False.

Laws passed by the Government of Canada apply to everyone in Canada. For example: the Criminal Code of Canada and the Income Tax Act. Also, the laws of your town or city apply to you as well. For example, a person who lives in Camrose, Alberta will be governed by Canadian federal laws, Alberta provincial laws, and the city laws passed by the City of Camrose.

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Last Reviewed: January 2016
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
I can stop paying child support when my child turns 18.

Not necessarily. 

Under both the Alberta Child Support Guidelines and the Federal Child Support Guidelines, the child will have a right to continued support if he or she is still under the care of a parent and is enrolled in school full-time. 

Under the Alberta Guidelines this eligibility for child support does not go past age 22. Under the Federal Guidelines, there is no age limit. 

Also, under the Federal Guidelines, child support can continue for a child who cannot leave the care and control of her or her parents because of illness or disability (and again there is no upper age limit).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I disagree with a decision Child Protective Services made, I have to go to court to deal with it.

False.

Often, the best solutions are the ones worked out between the parties themselves. As a result, CPS tries to resolve issues cooperatively, respectfully, fairly, and efficiently.

At all stages of child intervention, informal dispute resolution is available. The first step is to talk to the caseworker.

There are also other informal processes in place that may include:

  • a discussion with a supervisor, manager, or higher official;
  • family group conferencing; and
  • mediation.

After attempting any informal dispute resolution, you will be told about the decision, both verbally and in writing (for example, in a letter or e-mail).

If you still want to deal with the matter in a more formal way, you can always do so. For example, you can apply for an internal “Administrative Review” of a CPS decision, or apply to court to appeal a decision.

Last Reviewed: April 2017

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