Divorce and Separation in Alberta

If you are contemplating a divorce or separation in Alberta, it’s natural to wonder where to begin.

Understandably, you’re motivated to reduce both the cost and emotional strain resulting from the divorce process. A divorce lawyer in Edmonton can help you protect your rights while creating a plan to make your separation as amicable as possible. Here is an outline of the basics of divorce and separation in Alberta.

What Are the Grounds for a Divorce in Alberta?

Under Canada’s Divorce Act, there are three legally accepted grounds for divorce:

  • Separation: You and your spouse have lived apart (the “period of separation”) for at least one year prior to the divorce judgment made by the court.
  • Adultery: One party must be able to prove that the other party has committed adultery using either evidence or an affidavit signed by the adulterous spouse.
  • Cruelty: Under Alberta law, any act of physical or mental cruelty is grounds for divorce. This includes violence, verbal abuse, drunkenness and excessive drug use.

In all cases, proof and verification will need to be presented. If you are the party filing for divorce, it’s important to have a family lawyer assist you with compiling evidence using legal means. While it may feel difficult to have to “prove” allegations that you are making, handling this process correctly can ultimately get you on the path to healing much faster by ensuring that your petitions are accepted.

Contested and Uncontested Divorces in Alberta: Which One Is the Right Choice for You?

If you’re involved in an amicable separation, an uncontested divorce is an option that can typically save you time and money. When initiating an uncontested divorce, both parties must fully agree on all matters pertaining to the division of property, spousal support, child support payments and child custody. This is often referred to as a “desk divorce” because a judge is merely signing off on what you and your spouse have jointly agreed to in your separation agreement.

With a contested divorce, spouses disagree over all or some of the key points in a separation agreement. As a result, both parties will need to file and respond to court documents advocating for their positions. The court will ultimately decide the terms of the divorce. Contested divorces tend to be much costlier and lengthier than uncontested divorces. They can also take a much bigger emotional toll on the parties, especially when children are involved.

However, a contested divorce may simply be in the best interest of one or both parties if an agreement cannot be reached outside the courtroom.

How Do Property Division and Division of Assets Work in Divorce in Alberta?

When divorcing in Alberta, the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) is applied by the court to divide assets fairly. The default is for assets and debts accumulated during the course of the marriage to be divided evenly between both spouses. There is some property that may be exempt from this division. A court will look at reasons why it should consider an unequal division of matrimonial property. While the even split often applies to the marital home, the court does consider exceptions based on specific circumstances related to primary or secondary properties.

How Are Child Custody and Child Support Handled in Alberta?

Joint custody arrangements are common in most Alberta divorce cases.  This is the norm when both parents are capable of making decisions in their children’s best interests. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split of parental time.

A parenting arrangement will be agreed upon and may be filed with the court. If either party requests changes at any time, a new document with independent legal advice or a new filing will have to take place. When creating a child support agreement, the amount of child support that is owed is determined using the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The amount of support to be paid by one party to the other is determined by the court by looking at the number of children, the parenting arrangements, the parties’ annual income before taxes and the province where the paying parent lives.

How Is Spousal Support Handled in Alberta?

The purpose of spousal support is to compensate one party for any financial decisions made during the course of a marriage. An example would be if one partner exited a career to help raise children. The payments can also be implemented to support the needs of a partner after a relationship has ended.

Lastly, spousal support can be ordered to uphold the terms of a prenuptial agreement. While some spousal support agreements are set up to end on a specific date, others are permanent or indefinite. These orders can be reviewed when changes of circumstance like alterations to income, remarriage or a disability arise.

If you have questions or are experiencing spousal support issues, contact our office and speak to one of our experienced divorce lawyers.

How Does Alberta Handle Separation for Common-Law Relationships?

Technically, Alberta does not have common-law relationships. In Alberta, common-law relationships are referred to as adult interdependent relationships and are governed by the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.  The Family Law Act sets out legal provisions for a separation between parties in adult interdependent relationships. While this designation typically only applies to couples who have been together continuously for three years, it can also apply to any couple with a child. The Family Property Act directs adult interdependent partners to handle the division of property and assets the same way that divorcing (married) couples handle them.  As each aspect of the separation of a common-law couple are governed by different legislation, it is best to consult with an Edmonton family-law lawyer to assist with this type of separation.

Get All of Your Divorce Questions Answered by a Divorce Lawyer in Alberta

If you have questions for an experienced divorce lawyer in Edmonton, KBL Law LLP is here to help you get clear answers and sound legal advice. Let us help you decide your next step with sensitivity and compassion. Call us today at (780) 489-5003 to book a consultation or visit our Contact Us page to make an online inquiry.

photo of a couple signing a divorce document, finalizing their divorce with the help of an Edmonton divorce lawyer