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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 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
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
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 cannot lift heavy packages at work because I am pregnant. My coworkers constantly complain about this and call me a slacker, but I guess I just have to put up with it.

Not necessarily.

Human rights laws in Canada protect against discrimination on the basis of gender and family status. As a result, your employer must ensure that you do not feel unwelcome in your workplace and are not harassed because you are pregnant.

You have a right to speak to your employer about your concerns, and your employer is required to take appropriate action. Sometimes it can be difficult for an employer to figure out how to make a difference in these situations. The Alberta Human Rights Commission has education programs and consultation services to help with workplace discrimination. Either you or your employer can ask the Alberta Human Rights Commission for this help.

If your employer still will not take any action, you can make a formal complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Personal Representatives must wrap up the estate matters in one year (the “executor’s year”).

False.

The concept of the “executor’s year” is not law. It is only a commonly used “rule of thumb.” It is meant as an indication that a Personal Representative must act efficiently, and should not delay. For very simple estates, it may be possible to wrap up all issues in one year. Many estates take 1-2 years. More complicated estates can take many years to complete.

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Last Reviewed: May 2016
I created an embryo with my spouse or common-law partner. I don’t need their consent to use the embryo.

It depends.

If you created the embryo together and you are still in the relationship, you will always need your spouse or common-law partner’s consent to use your embryo.

You will also need their consent if you are no longer in a relationship and you created the embryo together using either:

  • reproductive materials from both of you; or
  • only donated reproductive materials.

However, if:

  • you are no longer in a relationship; and
  • only one of you contributed reproductive materials

only the person who provided the reproductive materials needs to provide consent. This means that if only you contributed reproductive materials, you will not need your former partner’s consent to use the embryo. On the other hand, if only your former partner contributed reproductive materials, you must have his or her consent before you can use the embryo.

Last Reviewed: March 2017
If dogs are allowed in my apartment building, my landlord has no right to say that my dog is too big.

False.

Landlords are free to make detailed rules about pets, such as the size of animals that are allowed. The landlord must let you know about the rules and it is your responsibility to follow them.

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Last Reviewed: August 2016
If I don’t qualify for legal aid, I have no other options for finding legal help.

False.

Many communities across Alberta have options for providing legal information and legal help. Some organizations serve the immigrant community, some offer support for people in situations of domestic violence, some give free legal advice, if you meet the qualifications.

If you are 19 years old or younger, you can get legal information and possibly free legal advice and representation from the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre.

Last Reviewed: June 2016
If I contact any law society, they can recommend a good lawyer for me.

False.

Law Society referral services only list lawyers who are “in good standing.” This means that they have paid their fees and are allowed to practice law in that jurisdiction. They do not tell you anything about the lawyer’s skill or work style. Also, some private referral services are really just advertisements that the lawyer paid for.

Before hiring any lawyer, you should do your research about them and make sure you can work well together.

Last Reviewed: August 2016
I can’t afford to leave my abusive relationship.

Leaving an abusive relationship is very difficult, and this includes financially difficult. There are different supports and services available for people suffering from family violence. Every person’s situation is different. Therefore, each person might need different kinds of help. For example, someone who needs financial help might not need to find a shelter if they have another safe place where they can go. 

A shelter is a safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis. There are many different shelters throughout the province available to people who need protection because of family violence. Certain shelters may only be for women, for women and children, or for men. There are even shelters for seniors who are being abused.

If you need financial help, Alberta Works may be able to help. Alberta Works is a service that provides help to people in different areas, including employment services, income support, and health benefits services. For example, Alberta Works might be able to help unemployed people find jobs, or help low-income people pay for certain costs, such as food and shelter.

Alberta Works even has a specific program that provides financial help to people who are leaving an abusive relationship and cannot afford basic necessities like shelter and clothing. However, there are certain eligibility criteria that you must meet in order to get financial help from Alberta Works. To determine whether you are eligible for financial help from Alberta Works, contact a centre near you.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
My former spouse and I don’t need any legal help to divide our 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
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
I’ve been watching American divorce shows online. That should give me a pretty good idea of how family law matters are handled in the U.S.

False.

Many television and online shows involve legal situations. However, in many cases, the legal details are incorrect. This is because a true discussion of the law is not exciting enough, or cannot be fit into the time limits of the show.

There is a lot of legal information online, but not all of it is good information. See “How to identify quality legal information online” for tips about finding reliable and accurate legal information.

Also, it is always best to check with a community legal organization or a lawyer in that other jurisdiction to make sure you have accurate information.

Last Reviewed: August 2016
I gave up my rights as a parent, so now I don’t have to pay child support.

False. 

A parent has to pay child support, regardless whether he or she is present in the child’s life. Child support is the right of the child. The parents cannot bargain that right away. Therefore, the parents cannot agree that one parent will not pay child support if he or she stays out of the child’s life.

Last Reviewed: October 2015

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