Family Law

I am about to move in with someone and we want to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement in case things don’t work out. Can we do that before we move in together?

The answer is“yes”, as long as you do it before December 31,2019. Under new legislation, the Family Property Act which takes effect January 1, 2020, you will have to be married to each other or partners as defined under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. Under that Act, you either have to have lived with the […]

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What’s the difference between a Prenuptial Agreement and a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Prenuptial Agreement is an agreement made before marriage usually to resolve issues of support and property division if the marriage ends in divorce or death. It can be entered into in contemplation of marriage but it is unenforceable until after the marriage. A Cohabitation Agreement is an agreement outlining the property and financial arrangements […]

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Do spousal support obligations continue after the recipient dies?

If the Divorce Judgment or separation agreement provides for the termination of spousal support after the death of the recipient, then the spousal support may end. But where the spousal support agreement provides that payments are to a specified date, are unreviewable and enure to the benefit of one’s estate, then the payor may be […]

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How is property divided in a divorce?

There is a presumption that all property accumulated during a marriage, whether in sole or joint names, is divisible on divorce.  However, as is so often the case, there are exceptions, including for property owned before marriage or received by gift or inheritance during the relationship. When property that is otherwise exempt from division is […]

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What is the difference between polyamory and polygamy?

As perceptions of the traditional family change and our definition of family broadens, new legal considerations arise, as these social changes often happen more quickly than legislative changes. The term polyamory, for example, generally describes a relationship structure where people engage in multiple relationships with multiple people at the same time, with full knowledge and […]

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My partner and I are not married and each of us had assets before we moved in together. How do I protect them?

With a new year dawning, thoughts often turn to organization. One of the things that should be on your to do list is entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. The law in Alberta right now treats married and unmarried couples differently. This document allows you and your partner to set out your understanding about what should […]

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We are taking our children to see their grandparents. I must return home to St. Albert before my wife and kids return. Do I need to sign a Travel Consent Letter?

For international travel, Canada Border Services Agency recommends that the non-travelling individual with guardianship rights, whether married or not, sign the letter in front of a notary public.  So, yes, it is recommended that you sign a Travel Consent Letter to permit your wife to re-enter Canada with your children. She may or may not […]

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How does independent legal advice (“ILA”) work and what does it cost?

ILA is more than a lawyer witnessing your signature; it’s necessary to meet the legal requirements for a valid agreement when couples are separating, divorcing, or starting out. Your lawyer will review your agreement and your situation with you, ask how the agreement was negotiated, and review what financial information was exchanged. Your lawyer will […]

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What can I expect at an initial consultation with a lawyer?

This first meeting with a lawyer is an opportunity to do several things.  It allows you to: assess whether you and the lawyer are compatible to work together; learn about the different options and resources available to you to address your legal matter; obtain general legal advice; and create a plan for moving forward. A […]

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My divorce is simple. Can I do it by myself?

If you and your spouse have equal incomes, no children and no property to divide, with some time and patience you can do it yourself. If otherwise, there are most likely issues that are legally and financially complicated. There will be issues that you didn’t even know you have to resolve. As the saying goes […]

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My spouse and I have separated and are in agreement on how we will deal with our assets and cash flow. Should I go ahead and put an offer on a new home?

We often receive calls from people in a time crunch: they have separated, agreed on a resolution, and placed an offer on a new home – only to learn from their bank that a new mortgage is not possible until a formal separation agreement is in place. Even if you and your ex-spouse agree on […]

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My spouse and I have made a Separation Agreement. Do we need to file the written agreement with the Court for it to be binding?

No. An agreement is binding provided that it was entered into voluntarily, with a full exchange of financial information and with independent legal advice. Having said that, agreements often contain clauses dealing with matters that must be put before the Court in order to finalize a divorce, such as matters dealing with the support and […]

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My child’s other parent lives in another province. Which table do I use when calculating child support?

The Federal Child Support Guidelines (pursuant to the Divorce Act, Canada) set out tables for each province and territory. These tables show monthly amounts to be paid for a child’s basic and everyday needs, including things like food and clothes and often (though not always) things like school supplies.  When parents live in different provinces, […]

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While going to court may resolve the outcome of a legal issue, it is often not the way to resolve family conflict.

While sometimes necessary and unavoidable, going to court often creates fear around possible outcomes and polarizes family members, particularly when a relationship with children will be affected. In the lead up to going to court, negative feelings and perceptions can escalate and children witness that animosity and fear. Rather than heading down that road, choose […]

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What’s the difference between a Prenuptial Agreement and a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Prenuptial Agreement is an agreement made before marriage usually to resolve issues of support and property division if the marriage ends in divorce or death. It can be entered into in contemplation of marriage but it is unenforceable until after the marriage. A Cohabitation Agreement is an agreement outlining the property and financial arrangements […]

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How is calculating spousal support different than calculating child support?

Unlike the tables for child support, which are law pursuant to the Divorce Act, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines have never been enacted and are an informational tool only. The danger in relying on just these tables is that only some crucial considerations are addressed. The first question – what factors affect entitlement to support […]

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Do I need a travel consent letter to travel with my children?

If you plan to travel outside of Canada with your children and without the other parent, then we strongly recommend having the other parent sign a travel consent letter well in advance of your travel date. This recommendation applies whether you are divorced or married and anytime when your children are travelling with one one […]

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Divorced? Have you changed your will?

Recent changes to estate legislation in Alberta now cause a gift in a will to a former spouse to be revoked, unless a contrary intention can be shown. However, this new rule only applies to situations where the divorce was granted after the changes were proclaimed, which happened in February 2012. If you were divorced […]

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Ask an Expert: My wife and I are separating and we have come to an agreement dividing all of our property. Why do we need to provide so much financial information to our lawyers to get a legal Separation Agreement drawn and signed?

Your lawyer and your wife’s lawyer must certify that they have given their clients, separate and apart from the other, independent legal advice. To do that properly, the lawyers must assess your financial situation thoroughly, much like a surgeon will not operate at your request without a complete examination prior to surgery. Like a surgeon, a lawyer can then […]

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Ask an Expert: What really are the differences between using the collaborative process rather than going to court?

There are a lot of reasons why so many people are choosing to resolve matters arising on separation outside of the court system. Some of the big ones include: 1. Confidentiality. Many personal and financial details can otherwise become part of the filed documents. 2. Creativity. Working together offers many more options regarding how to […]

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Ask an Expert: I’m getting divorced. Can I move to another province?

There are no restrictions on moving to another province. However, if you have not finalized matters and if you expect that you will need to resolve matters in court rather than through negotiation, you need to consider the residency requirements in the Divorce Act. To start a divorce action, you or your ex-spouse need to […]

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Ask an Expert: I think my marriage is over. I’m worried about all the debt we have together. What can I do?

Identify joint debts such as mortgages, personal loans, lines of credit, and credit cards. Joint debts will remain your responsibility even though your spouse may be willing to take them over. Your lender does not care about an agreement between you and your spouse when it comes to joint debt. The only way to get […]

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Ask an Expert: My ex-spouse and I do not communicate very well right now and use email to talk about our kids, but the emails seem so nasty. What can I do?

First, take a breath! Resist the temptation to respond immediately. Take the time to consider whether you need to respond at all, and if you do, consider trying a BIFF Response. This approach, developed by the High Conflict Institute, recommends being brief, informative, friendly, and firm. Keep it short and resist getting personal. Stick to […]

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Ask an Expert: My spouse and I have separated, and I have placed an offer on a new home. Do I need a separation agreement to get financing to make the purchase?

Yes. Your banker/lender will want to see a legally enforceable separation agreement so as to determine your financial obligations to your spouse or your spouse’s financial obligations to you. This may include child and spousal support payments. You will need to be patient as it may take some time for you and your spouse to […]

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Ask an Expert: When divorcing, do you really want a pit bull/barracuda lawyer?

Depending on the circumstances, a strongly aggressive approach in family matters can bring results—though you will not control the nature of those results—and there is a huge cost to families. Sometimes a perceived need to win or to see justice be done can overcome the ability to appreciate the long term effects of a court […]

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Ask an Expert: I am separating from my wife, and we have one 12-year-old child. I have heard that he can decide with which parent to live. Is this true?

There is no magic age before 18. The wishes of children should be heard, but one must be extremely careful of creating a popularity contest between two parents. However, if there is no evidence of one parent trying to exclude the other, the older the child, the more likely the court will follow the wishes […]

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Ask an Expert: How long do I have to wait after my divorce before I can remarry?

This is a common question we often hear from people who wish to finalize matters so arrangements can be made to marry again. Once your divorce judgment is granted, it becomes effective 31 days later. However, even though divorces by agreement can be relatively straightforward and can be submitted to the Court by way of desk […]

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Ask an Expert: I am separating from my children’s other parent and was told to attend the P.A.S. seminar. What is it?

The Parenting After Separation seminar is an excellent resource available to parents who are going through a separation and have children under the age of 16. This free, six-hour seminar is required to be completed before a court will grant an order dealing with parenting or supporting children. Even if you are not litigating and […]

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Ask an Expert: What is my lawyer’s role when helping me finalize an agreement that has been prepared by my ex-spouse and myself?

Once an agreement has been drafted and is in the appropriate legal format, each of you need to see a lawyer to review your rights, your obligations, and the terms of your agreement. Before signing the certificate of independent legal advice attached to the agreement, which helps protect the agreement from later challenges, your lawyer […]

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Ask an Expert: Why can’t a lawyer help both my ex-spouse and me with our separation agreement?

Helping both parties places a lawyer in a conflict of interest. Each party has competing interests, even if the two are working together amicably. Lawyers are obligated to ensure that thorough advice is given independently of the other party, to discuss the alternatives and the risks associated with your agreement, and to assess whether one […]

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Ask an Expert: I am separating from my common-law spouse after living together for 10 years. Do I get half of the house that we bought in his name?

In Alberta, the Matrimonial Property Act applies only to married people. There is a presumption of an equal division of all property acquired during the marriage (with certain exemptions). Some provinces and territories have legislation that governs unmarried people who live together in a conjugal relationship. Alberta has chosen against that so far. There is […]

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Ask an Expert: Why take the Parenting After Separation course?

There are three very good reasons to attend this seminar. First, it is free and a great opportunity to obtain some helpful legal and practical advice early in the separation process. Second, it is typically taught by a lawyer and a psychologist or social worker, and its focus will be on how best to meet […]

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Ask an Expert: I am moving in with a new partner. Why should we consider a cohabitation agreement?

Traditionally, “prenups” (for married or engaged spouses) and cohabitation agreements (for unmarried partners) have had a stigma associated with them; this perception is slowly changing, and for good reason. These agreements are an excellent tool which can prevent much turmoil and conflict should the relationship break down or one spouse dies or becomes incapacitated. With […]

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