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Answers to commonly asked questions about Family Law in Alberta

  • Does Family Law apply to couples who were never married?
    Yes, if you had a relationship of any length that created a family issue, Family Law applies.
  • Does Family Law apply to same-sex relationships?
    Yes, sexual orientation does not matter. Family Law is the same for heterosexual couples and same-sex couples.
  • Is divorce law different for married and unmarried couples?
    Married couples are legally married and require a divorce to end their legal relationship. If you are living together, but are not married, you do not need a divorce to separate. However, you can still have Family Law issues, such as property division, child custody, child support (if they had a child together) and interdependent partner support, which is similar to spousal support.
  • What is the definition of a parent?
    Parents are anyone who has had a child together. They could be married spouses or unmarried spouses. The length of a relationship does not matter. You are a parent if you had a child while in a dating relationship or in no relationship at all. You are also considered a parent if you:

    • had a child by adoption or assisted reproduction
    • helped a couple to have a child by donating eggs or sperm or by being a surrogate mother
  • What is the definition of child caregivers?
    People who have a significant role in a child’s life, but aren’t the child’s parents.
  • What law applies to family issues and disputes?
    The Divorce Act, which is a federal law, and The Family Law Act, which is provincial law.

    • The Divorce Act applies to people who are married to each other or who used to be married to each other and want to get divorced.
    • The Family Law Act applies to married spouses, who may not yet be seeking a divorce; unmarried spouses; parents and a child’s caregivers.

There are some exceptions. For example, the law on child support applies to everyone, while the law on spousal support only applies to married couples. Adult interdependent partner support is the same as spousal support, but it applies to non-married couples or anyone seeking relief under the Family Law Act, Alberta.

  • What does “Children of the marriage” mean?
    A child of the marriage can include biological children, adopted children, children where both parents stand in the place of a parent to a child, children where one party is a biological parent and the other stands in the place of a parent to that child. This means, for example, that a 28-year-old adult child could still be deemed a child of the marriage, and that means you or your spouse may have to continue paying child support for that adult child.
  • What does “Standing in the place of a parent” mean?
    A person is standing in the place of a parent if the person:

    • is the spouse of a parent of the child or is or was in a relationship of interdependence of some permanence with a parent of the child, and
    • has demonstrated a settled intention to treat the child as the person’s own child.In determining whether a person has demonstrated a settled intention to treat the child as the person’s own child, the court considers multiple factors, ranging from the child’s age to the nature of the child’s relationship with the person.
  • Can you explain why the terms Custody, Parenting, Access, and Guardianship appear in the Divorce Act, Canada and the Family Law Act, Alberta?
    A word that appears in The Divorce Act, Canada may also appear in the Family Law Act, Alberta, but have a different meaning. For example, the Family Law Act, Alberta, uses the terms ‘parenting’, ‘contact’, and ‘guardianship’. Parenting refers to the guardian’s physical time spent with a child. Contact refers to the physical time a non-guardian has with a child. Guardianship refers to powers, responsibilities, and entitlements that the guardian would have over a child. Think of guardianship as the ability to make decisions for or on behalf of a child.Under the Divorce Act, Canada, ‘custody’ has traditionally been viewed as being a term relating to physical time with a child. However, Custody is similar to guardianship in that it refers to the overall decision-making responsibilities of a parent over a child. The terms ‘parenting’ and ‘access’ refer to physical time spent with a child. While one parent may be the primary caregiver of a child, the other parent would have access to that child.Typically, a parent has primary care of a child if they have the child in their care for over 60% of the time, while the other parent (access parent) has less than 40% of the time. When both parties have a child in their physical care between 40-60% of the time, they are deemed to have shared parenting of a child.
illustration of a family made up of words
Get answers to your questions about Family Law in Alberta by reading our FAQS page or contact the Edmonton Law Office today to request your free introductory consultation.

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