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Learn about family law in Alberta


Alberta has specific rules regarding Guardianship; being a biological parent does not necessarily make you a child's guardian.

For family (non-Child Welfare) applications or guardianship and contact (not parenting time), children 16 years and over need to be served.  Any child 12 and over needs to CONSENT to the guardianship.

Grandparent rights

There is no such thing as inherent "grandparent rights".  However, under certain circumstances, grandparents are permitted to ask the courts for permission to contact grandchildren.

Child custody

Child custody decisions are based on what is in the best interest of the children, not the best interests of the parents.  There is no assumption of "shared custody" or "shared parenting" in family law.  Every case depends on what is in the best interest of each child.

Alberta's Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act allows the government to remove children from parents that are deemed to be unwilling or unable to care for their children.

Until recently, Alberta was the only Province in Canada where there was no opportunity for parents to regain custody of their children after they became permanent wards of Canada.

Child support

Child support is determined by the Child Support Guidelines.  Parents can deviate from what the Guidelines recommend for child support, but only in certain circumstances, and the Court has the power to overrule any parental agreement on support.

While Child support is essentially automatic until a child turns 18, there are some scenarios under which it can continue after that age.

Stepparents and other "parental figures" may be found responsible in certain situations to pay child support following the breakdown of a relationship, even though they are not the biological parent.  This is what the law calls being in loco parentis.   Conversely, stepparents can apply for access or parenting time for their stepchildren.

Legal representation of children

Children in family proceedings can, and often, have their own lawyer, particularly in high-conflict custody battles.  Once children reach the age of 12 or older, the Court is usually quite interested in the views of the child, but that is just one of many considerations in a child custody judgement.

Divorce and separation

The Divorce Act and the Matrimonial Property Act only apply to couples that are married.

The Family Law Act applies to couples that are married and couples that were never married.

Some property may be exempt from division, including property owned prior to the marriage.  It is wise to consult a lawyer to discuss the division of your property.

Common law

Unmarried or common-law couples do not have the same property rights as married couples.  There is no specific law in Alberta to deal with property for couples that were never married, but the common law principle of constructive trust may apply.

Spousal support

There is no inherent "right" to spousal support when a marriage or relationship ends.  Instead, there are many determining factors, such as the length of the marriage/relationship, whether or not there are any children and the earning abilities of each spouse.

The law considers spousal support and the division of matrimonial property to be connected and intertwined, and a property settlement may affect the amount or the duration of spousal support.  Fairness is the overriding factor.

Domestic violence

Anyone suffering from family violence should seek safety and make an immediate application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) by contacting a Justice of the Peace (available 24/7) or the local police.   You can also apply for an EPO at the courthouse (during business hours).

Need the help of a family lawyer?   Call 780.428.0777 and ask to speak with Crystal Lawrence or Dustin Tkachuk.

"There is no assumption of 'shared custody' or 'shared parenting' in family law. Every case depends on what is in the best interest of each child."

- Dustin Tkachuk


Meet the lawyers of Lawrence & Tkachuk

photo of Edmonton lawyer Crystal Lawrence

Get to know Edmonton family law lawyer Crystal Lawrence

* Registered Collaborative Lawyer

Crystal A. Lawrence Professional Corporation

photo of Edmonton lawyer Dustin Tkachuk

Get to know Edmonton family law lawyer Dustin Tkachuk

Dustin J. Tkachuk Professional Corporation

Rod Tkachuk of Tkachuk & Patterson is sharing space with us. He can be reached at 780.428.1593 or and this office is an appropriate location to send any mailed or couriered items.