Do you have a family legal issue? SLA may be able to help you with the following matters:
Student Legal Assistance is unable to assist in the following family matters:
- Parenting matters involving Child and Family Services
- Divorce matters
- Matters filed with the Court of the Queen’s Bench
How do you want to resolve your Family Matter?
There may be a few different ways to resolve your family legal matter. You may choose to go to Court or to seek an Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Alternatives to a Court Trial:
A third party mediator assists the parties to negotiate a settlement. Mediation services are offered by private mediators and through Family Justice Services (Calgary). Visit Alberta Courts Mediations Services for details about the program.
Parties may negotiate the terms of their matter, with or without the help of legal counsel, in an attempt to reach an agreement.
If an agreement is reached through either of these two alternative methods, the agreement may be filed with the court as a Consent Order:
Here are the basics to resolving a matter in court whether you are the Applicant (the person who makes the claim) or the Respondent (the person who the claim is made against):
1. The Applicant files a claim at Court to bring the matter to the attention of the Court.
The Applicant must complete a claim form and include any accompanying information that the form requires (For example: income statements, childcare expenses, etc.). Visit the Alberta Courts website for claim forms and other family matter resources.
2. The Applicant serves the Claim.
Once a claim is filed, it must be served to the opposing party. See Alberta Justice Claim Instructions for details.
3. The Applicant files an Affidavit of Services (a form to prove that the other party has been made aware of the claim against them).
The Affidavit of Service must be sworn by the person who served the Respondent with the claim (this might be a friend or process server). Next, it must be filed at Family Filing at the Calgary Courts Centre (6th floor) before the scheduled court date. See Claim Instructions for further details.
4. Respondent files Response Statement.
The Respondent may (but isn’t required to) file a Response Statement. See Response Instructions for details.
5. The Respondent Serves the Applicant with Response Statement.
Just like for the claim filed by the Applicant, once a Respondent Statement is filed it must be served to the opposing party. See Alberta Justice Claim Instructions for details.
6. Caseflow Meeting or Docket Court Appearance.
A caseflow or docket court appearance date will be set by the court. Both parties must attend that court date.
7. The Court may require that parties attend a dispute resolution meeting, mediation or settlement discussion.
The court may require both parties to attend mediation or to attempt to reach a resolution by consent.
8. Judicial Dispute Resolution Meeting.
If the parties are unable to reach a resolution by consent, the court may require parties to attend a judicial dispute resolution meeting (JDR). JDR is a mediation-like meeting facilitated by a Provincial Court Judge. Any comments made by the judge in this meeting are not binding on the parties.
9. Oral Hearing or Trial
A trial is often the final step to resolve a dispute. The court will issue a judgement that is binding on both parties. Note that at any time during proceedings, a legal matter can be resolved through consent between the parties. In this case, a Final Consent Order is submitted to the court for review and endorsement.
Family Terminology to Get Familiar With
Below are some common terms you may hear when you are dealing with a family matter. Familiarizing yourself with them may be helpful as you navigate your legal issue.
Adjournment: An adjournment is a request to set court proceedings for a later date.
Caseflow Conference Program: The Caseflow Conference process is a program in the Provincial Court in Alberta. It is an alternative to a docket appearance in court before a judge. An applicant files a claim for a parenting order, guardianship order, contact order or an order to enforce time with a child under the Family Law Act.
Contact: Time between the child and an adult who is not the child’s guardian.
Consent Order: A Court Order that both Parties sign indicating that they agree with everything in the Order. A consent order can be drawn up at any time in the trial process, if the two parties decide to reach an agreement.
Dispute Resolution Officer Project : The Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) Project is a project operating in Calgary only. The project encourages those who wish to apply for child support, or to vary child support, to meet with a senior family lawyer before going to court. The lawyers who act as DRO’s hope to help parties reach agreement on issues without having to appear in front of a judge.
Docket Court: This is a lower complexity court, where a large volume of matters are typically managed and presided over by a judge. The Docket Court will be the first court you appear in.
Emergency Protection Order: An EPO is a way to address the immediate safety of victims of family violence. An EPO provides legal protection for the victims of family violence – it is not a criminal charge. An EPO can place orders on a suspected abuser such as not visiting places the victim regularly goes and not communicating with the victim. The EPO can allow the victim to stay in their home and order the suspected abuser to leave. It can also address any other conditions necessary to provide immediate protection of the victim and other family members.
There is no cost to obtain an EPO. Children and Youth Services caseworkers and police have the ability to apply for an EPO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Victims can apply for an EPO directly at a Provincial Court during court hours. An EPO must be scheduled for review in the Court of Queen’s Bench no later than nine working days after it is granted in order to review the information related to it. At the review, the judge will determine what, if any, further order should be granted.
Guardianship: A legal relationship to a child, which includes entitlements and responsibilities, as determined by section 20 of the Alberta Family Law Act.
Interim and Final Orders: Interim Orders are temporary orders granted by the court until a final order is granted. Final orders are usually not accompanied by a return court date.
Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR): A method of dispute resolution where a judge meets with opposing parties and their counsel to attempt to facilitate a resolution between the parties.
Maintenance Enforcement Program: The Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) is authorized by the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Act to ensure that individuals meet their obligations to pay spousal and child support under the terms of their court orders and certain agreements. Once an order or agreement has been registered with MEP, maintenance payments that the debtor (payor) would normally pay directly to the creditor (recipient) are sent to MEP. MEP then forwards the payment to the creditor once the funds have cleared through a trust account. Click here to learn more about the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Key Terms to Note: What is the difference between “custody,” “contact,” “guardianship” and “parenting”?
Custody: “Custody” and “Access” are older terms and are still found in the Divorce Act. A parent with custody has rights and responsibilities for the child. A parent with access only has “visiting rights”. Many parents will share the custodial rights in a joint custody arrangement, or by an order giving the access parent extra rights.
Contact: Contact is the term used when a parent who is not a guardian, or a third party, wants to see the child. A person with a Contact Order would have no decision making powers or responsibilities with respect to the child.
Guardianship: A person who has guardianship of the child shall exercise the powers, responsibilities and entitlements to pursue the best interests of the child.
Parenting: Parenting is a more recent term in the Family Law Act, which applies to arrangements between guardians. A Parenting Order or agreement will set out all the decisions that need to be made for a child and will state whether the decisions are made by one guardian or both. It will also set out how the child’s time will be divided between the guardians.