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If I marry a Canadian, I will automatically become a Canadian citizen.

False. There are certain rules and procedures that everyone must follow if they want to become a Canadian citizen. Marrying a Canadian is not an exception to these rules and procedures.

Last Reviewed: August 2016
My great grandmother just turned 85 and still drives her car: surely that is against the law.

False.

Whether or not your great grandmother can drive a car will depend on her health.

Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right. As a result, Alberta Transportation must balance individuals’ transportation needs and the public’s right to road safety. One of the ways that road safety is ensured is by monitoring drivers’ skills, safety records, and medical conditions.

As people age and/or become ill, they may no longer be able to drive, or allowed to drive. But it is not an issue of age. Just because a person is old does not mean he or she cannot drive.

At her age, your great grandmother should be tested for driver fitness every 2 years. That is the law. If she has any illnesses, she should have reported them to Alberta Transportation. If those illnesses do not make her unqualified to drive, and if the driver fitness tests show that she is able to drive, then she is allowed to drive.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
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
I can’t get a divorce unless my spouse agrees to it.

False.

If you want a divorce, that in itself is proof of the breakdown in your marriage. However, you will need to wait for a one-year separation period, or meet one of the other two “grounds for divorce” in Canada (they are: adultery or physical or mental cruelty).

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My spouse and I got back together for a few weeks during our separation, so now we have to wait an extra year before we can get divorced.

False.

You and your spouse can get back together for up to 90 days without having to start counting the one-year separation period again.

On the other hand, if you get back together for longer than 90 days, you would have to start counting the one-year separation period over again, and you would have to wait another 12 months from the start date of the last separation before being granted a divorce.

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
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
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is always better than going to court.

False.

In cases of very high conflict or when there is an imbalance of emotional power or financial power, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may not be a good option. Also, in cases of domestic violence, ADR can do more harm to the victim than good.

It is important to remember that a person’s reasons for not wanting to participate in ADR are just as valid as those of the person who wants to participate, and that ADR processes don’t work if people feel forced or pressured to participate.

Going to court is a good idea if:

  • you and the other party really can't agree about how to resolve your issues;
  • the other party is abusive;
  • you feel you don't have much power in the relationship;
  • the other party refuses to communicate with you; or
  • the other party is refusing to give you details about their finances.
Last Reviewed: October 2015
My partner gave me a cohabitation agreement to sign. I don’t like the agreement, but I feel like I should sign it because otherwise I won’t have any protection if we separate.

This is not necessarily true.

Depending on your circumstances, you may have protection under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA). If you have only recently started living with your partner, or you and your partner are moving in together soon, you may not have any protection under this law.

So before you sign anything, consider finding out your legal status, and see what rights and responsibilities are associated with that legal status.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Lawyers will charge whatever they want and I won’t be able to do anything about it.

False.

Although a lawyer can never tell you exactly how much your case will cost at the beginning, he or she should at least tell you what his or her hourly rate is. Typically, this is written into your retainer agreement. Your lawyer may also tell you how many hours he or she thinks your case may require, but this estimate could change depending on the progress of your case.

However, if you feel like your legal bill is too high, you can contact the Review/Assessment Office at the Court. A review officer will look into your legal bill to see whether it should be lowered.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
My partner and I separated because of family violence: the court will not give custody (also called "guardianship") or much access (also called "parenting time") to a violent person.

False. Under the Divorce Act, the law assumes at first that both parents have an equal right to custody of their children and that both parents have rights to see those children. Similarly, under the Family Law Act, the law assumes at first that both parents have guardianship of their children and that both parents have rights to see those children. Also, the Alberta court system places a high value on contact with both parents. 

As a result, it is actually quite rare for a parent not to have contact with the children (even if the parent is in jail). Judges will only make "no contact" orders in extreme cases. These are generally cases where the judge believes that a child or parent is in danger, or that a parent may try to abduct a child. In most cases, if a judge is worried about potential harm to a child, he or she will order supervised parenting time rather than no parenting time at all. 

The behaviour of your former partner will not be considered by the judge unless the behaviour relates to his or her ability to parent.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My partner/spouse lives outside of Canada, so I cannot use Canadian law to deal with our separation and divorce issues.

False.

Canada has several laws that deal with separation and divorce-related issues. Some of these laws specifically help with situations when one of the former spouses/partners lives outside of Canada.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
I have no experience taking care of children, so I would not be eligible to be a foster parent or kinship caregiver.

False.

You do not need to have experience taking care of children to provide care through Alberta’s Kinship Care program or Foster Care program. To be eligible for either of these programs, you must:

  • live in Alberta;
  • be at least 18 years old;
  • be capable of meeting the child’s needs;
  • have had no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months;
  • have your own home (renting or owning); and
  • have been in a stable relationship for the past 12 months (if you live with your partner).

For more information about the requirements and application process, see the Alberta government’s Foster & Kinship Care webpage.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
I am supposed to provide disclosure to my partner as part of our agreement, but he doesn’t know I own two vacation homes in Sylvan Lake. Since I paid for them way before we even started dating, I don’t have to tell him.

False.

For an agreement to be enforceable in court, both parties must have received “complete disclosure” from the other party. “Complete disclosure” means that all parties involved in the agreement must give each other full and accurate information, including financial information. If it is later shown that someone lied, or one party misled the other about relevant information, the agreement (or parts of the agreement) can be “set aside.”

If one party doesn’t know what assets the other party owns, then he or she cannot consent to not dividing it. Even when the other party has a general idea about your financial situation, you still have the duty to actively provide disclosure: this means you need to do more than “not hiding assets.”

Last Reviewed: October 2015
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

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