Family Law is a general term that covers many legal issues arising out of family life. Most commonly, a family lawyer deals with separations and divorces. However, there are many ways family law can affect you and assist you.
Family law covers divorces, common law and adult interdependent partners and non-parent guardians to children. This might involve financial and property rights between spouses, financial support for spouses and children, decision making regarding children, residence and time with children, conditions of parenting, grandparent's rights and more.
Understanding your legal rights and obligations is vital. It is very important to get legal advice from an experienced family lawyer before making a decision about your future.
See below or Contact Us for more information on our family law services:
Collaborative family law is a process where separating spouses choose not to go to court and work in a cooperative, non-adversarial manner. Each person has their own lawyer and all four meet to discuss and resolve the issues in dispute. Collaborative family law provides the advice, expertise and support of your own lawyer at your side, all while reducing conflict, giving you agency, and facilitating long term solutions that work for everyone.
At our office, Kimberley is a Registered Collaborative Lawyer in a network of other collaborative professionals that are committed to resolution.
For more information on Collaborative Law and other options, see our page on Alternative Dispute Resolution here.
A mediator is highly trained in facilitating open, honest settlement discussions in a safe space, to help people reach agreements that work for both sides. When facing a dispute with another person, you engage with them and the mediator in person, you have your say on what’s important to you personally, and solve the tough questions surrounding your family dispute. Everything said during mediation is confidential and cannot be used against you in court. The final decision on how to end your separation and move on is made by the people actually involved, not by a stranger or judge.
At our firm, Kimberley is a lawyer and a mediator. Kimberley will act as a neutral and assist you and your spouse through the difficult discussions that need to be had to resolve matters of your separation.
For more information on Mediation and other options, see our page on Alternative Dispute Resolution here.
The legal obligations involved in a separation actually begin with the start of your relationship. Before you move in with a new partner or dependent family member, you should get legal advice about the potential consequences.
It is advisable to have a Cohabitation Agreement, Prenuptial Agreement or Marriage Agreement laying out what you and your spouse or family member expect for your financial relationship, and cementing guidelines for what should happen if that relationship breaks down. Having an Agreement in place is security in case of a separation, protecting your property and confirming mutual intent. In the unfortunate event of a break-up, matters will be resolved far quicker, cheaper and with less conflict because of the agreement already in place.
At Kinetic Law we can draft, revise and provide Independent Legal Advice regarding a Prenup, Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement. We provide comprehensive agreements that will protect you for decades in the future.
Romantic partners and family members that live together in a domestic or ‘marriage-like’ relationship without being legally married are called Adult Interdependent Partners. Adult Interdependent Partners are what many people call "common law", though that is not the legal term in Alberta.
“Adult interdependent partners” are defined in Alberta’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act as two people who live together in a relationship of interdependence, being a relationship of:
- at least 3 years,
- of some permanence and less than 3 years, if the couple has a child, or
- who have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement.
A “relationship of interdependence” is when two people:
- share in one another’s lives,
- are emotionally committed to one another, and
- function as an economic and domestic unit.
Often, people are adult interdependent partners without even realizing, but being an adult interdependent partner gives rise to legal and financial obligations.
If you are in a new living situation with your partner, we recommend a Cohabitation or Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement. If you are an Adult Interdependent Partner facing a separation, you need legal advice about your rights and obligations. Our lawyers can give you guidance and assist you with any legal matters resulting from your relationship, or its breakdown.
Divorce is the act of severing or ending a marriage. Naturally, only married people can (or need to) get divorced.
The rules surrounding ending a marriage are provided for in the Divorce Act of Canada.
Before the court will grant you a divorce, they must first ensure that you qualify.
First, you must have grounds for a divorce. The ground permitting divorce relevant to most people is: living separate and apart for a period of at least one year.
In Canada we have "no fault divorce". Everyone is free to get divorced for any reason. No one has to prove that one person or the other is at fault. Allegations of bad character or adultery do not influence entitlement to corollary relief under the Divorce Act.
Even if separated for the one year, a divorce will not be granted without confirmation that children and and spouses are provided for. Children are the priority.
The Divorce Act provides for Custody, Access and Child Support for children, and Spousal Support for spouses.
Unmarried couples have similar issues at separation, but do not need a formal divorce and are governed by different legislation under the Family Law Act.
Our lawyers at Kinetic Law have extensive experience in divorce matters. They can guide you through the divorce process with knowledge, patience and understanding. Going through a divorce can be an extremely emotional and stressful time. We provide support, options and guidance to get you through to the other side.
Child support is the right of children. Children are entitled to financial stability and consistency between households after separation.
With income information and the Child Support Guidelines, child support can be relatively simple.
Married parents are governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Unmarried parents in Alberta are governed by the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. They essentially cover the same rules.
The objectives of the child support guidelines are to:
- Establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures they benefit from the financial means of both parents;
- Reduce conflict and tension between parents by employing an objective calculation for child support;
- Improve efficiency of the legal process by giving courts and parents guidance in setting levels of child support and encouraging settlement; and
- Ensure consistent treatment of parents and children who are in similar circumstances.
Whether you need child support or are obligated to pay, there are a number of rules around entitlement to support and how it is calculated. Our lawyers will inform you of your rights and obligations and assist in finding the fair amount of support.
Spousal support, or partner support, is meant to relieve economic disadvantages resulting from the breakdown of a relationship. Each family's specific circumstances are considered to determine if spousal support is payable by one spouse or partner to another.
The objectives of spousal support are to:
- recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
- apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
- promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.
Factors to consider include:
- the length of time the spouses cohabited;
- the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and
- any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.
Whether you need support or are asked to pay, there are a number of rules around entitlement to support and how it is calculated. Our lawyers will inform you of your rights and obligations and assist in resolving spousal support.
A divorce can be an incredibly stressful time for families. While parents are going through their own emotional and financial turmoil, the effect on children is even more powerful. The stress and negativity surrounding a divorce can impact brain development in children and affect their lives into adulthood.
Parents need to make their best efforts to protect children from adult stressors. Even in high conflict situations, parents should work on being civil to one another and try co-parenting.
The Court's priority is children. The Court looks to the best interests of the child in making decisions on custody and parenting.
In an effort to assist parents with the many changes after separation, the government created the Parenting After Separation Course. The course is mandatory; it must be completed before making a parenting application and before a divorce judgment will be issued. We recommend taking the course soon after separation to gain insight on parenting after separation right away.
The course is available online here: http://pas.albertacourts.ab.ca/
When parents separate, they need to think about how to make decisions involving the raising of their children moving forward. Who will be responsible for which decisions? Healthcare, education and religion are just a few of the decisions covered by custody and guardianship.
Married parents seeking divorce must determine the issue of decision making for children by determining "custody."
Unmarried parents need to answer the question of "guardianship."
Grandparents, step-parents and other family members can also become guardians, to be involved in the decision making for children close to them.
Custody or Guardianship matters can be stressful and confusing. Our lawyers at Kinetic Law will guide you through the process, provide advice, help negotiate without animosity and can make any necessary court applications for you.
For divorcing parents and guardians, "Access" or "parenting" is the term used to cover scheduling and time with children. How often will each parent see the children? There is no one schedule required by law, no one-size-fits-all for families. Parenting is determined by figuring out how to have "maximum contact" for both parents "in the best interests of the child." There are many possibilities in creating a schedule between households after a separation. The most important thing is what is best for the children's physical and emotional well-being.
Contact also means time with children, but refers to non-guardians. Sometimes, particularly for unmarried parents with a short relationship, a parent is the biological parent, but is not a guardian to the child. They cannot make decisions on how the child is raised, but they can still have a relationship with the child. When non-guardians exercise visitation with a child, it's called "contact".
Parenting or Contact matters can be stressful and confusing. Our lawyers at Kinetic Law will guide you through the process, provide advice, help negotiate without animosity and can make any necessary court applications for you.
Property rights in family law can be complicated.
The Family Property Act is part of new legislation passed in Alberta in December 2018 which tries to simplify the previous differences between married couples and unmarried or "common law" couples when it comes to property rights. The Family Property Act will replace the Matrimonial Property Act.
What you need to know is that living with a spouse, romantic partner or financially intertwined family member will likely give rise to rights and obligations from that cohabitation and relationship. Generally, we see that what is built during the relationship or partnership can be split equally between the spouses after separation. However, there are many rules, exemptions and factors to be considered in the law. It is always important to get legal advice before starting a court action or signing an agreement about property.
Our lawyers are experienced in negotiating property matters and advocating them in court. We understand the complicated nuances in the law and can apply the law to your unique circumstances to find a fair resolution.
If you are the victim of violence or are otherwise fearful for your safety or the safety of your family members, you can get immediate help from the Court. If you are at risk, you can get an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) to restrain the dangerous person from getting close to you.
EPOs give an immediate court order, without hearing from the person who is accused of being dangerous. Therefore, they are reviewed in court shortly after they are issued to allow the respondent to give their side of the story. The protection order happens without notice, but must be followed up in court shortly.
A Restraining Order is not on an emergency basis, and therefore requires that the respondent be given notice of the application and court date to be able to respond.
It can be helpful to get legal advice before you take action and we can help with EPOs and Restraining Orders.
If you are worried about your safety or the safety of your family, you can proceed with an EPO, call the police, call the Family Violence Intervention Hotline at 310-1818 or visit https://www.alberta.ca/family-violence-find-supports.aspx.
Unfortunately, sometimes family disputes cannot be resolved by agreement. When disputing parties go to the court for relief in a dispute, that process is called a litigation.
Our lawyers are very experienced in court matters. They can claim or defend your position in court with skill and dedication. Our lawyers will put your best foot forward, presenting your case as zealous advocates specializing in family law.
Litigation involves a number of steps, from drafting court documents, to completing questioning, to attending a hearing in front of a judge. How family matters get through the court process is regulated by a series of rules in the Alberta Rules of Court. The paperwork, court room decorum, rules of court and rules of evidence involved in a litigation can be very overwhelming. Our lawyers have the knowledge and experience to manage your litigation properly.
We remind you that there are many ways to solve legal disputes that do not need to involve the stress, uncertainty and animosity of court. The court process is slow, expensive, rigid and draining. It can takes years to take your family or divorce matter to a hearing or trial. Once you get there, a judge does their best to decide the very important matters in your life based on competing versions of the story and competing evidence. We strongly recommend you consider alternative dispute resolution options such as negotiation, mediation or collaborative family law before jumping to court. We offer these alternative dispute resolution services at Kinetic Law. For more information, see our ADR page here.
If matters cannot be resolved outside of court, we have the experience and drive to take your matter all the way to the end of a litigation, while still seeking out the best solutions for you.
We can also represent you at a private Arbitration if you are seeking a binding decision without the publicity and delay of the court process.
The law has evolved in Alberta to include relationships not previously recognized.
In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada found that it was unconstitutional to limit same sex couples from the benefits of marriage and required the provinces to correct their laws. In 2003, Alberta enacted the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, providing not only for same-sex couples, but for other non-marriage relationships. However, it was still only opposite-sex couples that could get legally married in Alberta at the time.
The Civil Marriage Act became the law in Canada July 20, 2005, "legalizing" same sex marriage across the country. This Act made marriage in Alberta the "lawful union of two persons", any two persons, regardless of sex or gender.
In Alberta, the Family Law Act also came into force in 2005, consolidating a number of laws to provide rules and relief for unmarried couples, or married couples separated but not yet divorced.
In December 2018, the Family Statutes Amendment Act was passed in Alberta. As a result, the Family Property Act will replace the Matrimonial Property Act of Alberta in January 2020, giving non-married partners the same property rights as married spouses.
The result of these individual laws and the progress made over the years is that all partners have the same legal rights regardless of marriage, sex, gender or orientation. The only differences lay in applying the law to the unique people involved.
At Kinetic Law, we assist all people, from any background or relationship. We strive to create a safe, supportive environment for our clients. We consider ourselves allies to the LGBTQ+ community.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
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