How is Cruelty Defined in an Alberta Divorce?

How is Cruelty Defined in an Alberta Divorce?

With over 40,000 divorces in Canada each year, couples end their marriages for various reasons. However, under Canada's Divorce Act, there are only three legal "grounds" on which Canadians may file for divorce. These are separation, adultery, and cruelty. If you are considering divorce and are unsure on which grounds you should file, an Alberta divorce lawyer may be able to help you decide what is best for your situation.


You and your spouse must have been separated and have lived apart for at least one year to be eligible for divorce on the grounds of separation. If you cannot live apart during this time for practical reasons, you will need to prove the separation through other means. Filing on the grounds of separation is typically the most straightforward and inexpensive way to obtain a divorce and is the most common in Canada.


A spouse must provide the court with credible evidence that their partner had sexual relations with someone outside of the relationship to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. You could not file for divorce on the grounds of adultery if you were the adulterer. Filing on these grounds allows you to circumvent the one-year waiting period and initiate divorce proceedings immediately.

Cruelty: Family and Domestic Violence

To file for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, you must provide the court with evidence of at least one act of domestic or family violence and demonstrate that its severity makes living together untenable.

Alberta defines family and domestic violence as an abuse of power within a family or intimate relationship. The abuse can undermine the family's or an individual's physical, emotional, and psychological security and safety, whether they are direct victims, witnesses, or simply know it is happening.

Recent amendments to the Divorce Act describe family violence as any violent, threatening, coercive, or controlling behavior that causes a family member concern for their safety or that of someone else. Family violence can include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Threats or violence against people, animals, or property
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect, or failing to provide the necessities of life
  • Excessive intoxication from drugs or alcohol

Providing Evidence of Cruelty

Proving cruelty in a marriage can be challenging because the abuse often occurs in a private setting. Examples of evidence that a court may find credible include:

  • 911 calls
  • Photographs or recordings of abuse or related injuries
  • Hospital or medical records
  • Written statements or court testimony by those who have experience or knowledge of the abuse or have witnessed its effects

As with adultery, applying for divorce on the grounds of cruelty allows you to circumvent the one-year waiting period. However, typical courtroom waiting times can often delay divorce proceedings for a year or more. Additionally, going to court to prove adultery or cruelty can be expensive and emotionally harrowing.

Applying on the grounds of adultery or cruelty can shift focus away from resolving the practical matters of divorce like support and access to shared children and toward a cycle of he-said-she-said. Filing on these grounds will also have no impact on spousal or child support.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you are considering divorce, our Edmonton divorce lawyers or Edmonton family lawyers may be able to help you understand your options. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

Your First Christmas Divorced: Tips For Making It Seamless For Your Kids

Your First Christmas Divorced: Tips For Making It Seamless For Your Kids

Christmas is a cherished family holiday for those who celebrate. It is a time when families come together in celebrations to share food and gifts, observe traditions, and create memories. However, celebrating Christmas during or shortly after a divorce can present complex challenges for families, particularly those with children.

Hurt feelings and power struggles between divorced parents can make holidays a tense time, and children often get caught in the middle. However, divorced parents can take steps to help their children adapt to the new family arrangements and have an enjoyable celebration despite their current circumstances. Here are some tips for helping your children enjoy what might be a difficult holiday season:

Plan Ahead

Parents should initiate open communication with each other and their children well before the holidays. Give yourself ample time to negotiate a schedule with your ex-spouse, so there are no upsetting surprises or hurt feelings on the big day. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you create a holiday parenting plan that works best for your family.

There are various creative ways to ensure that both parents get to spend time with their children during the holidays. Some families take turns spending every other Christmas with their kids, especially if they are separated by large physical distances. In these cases, the other parent may get Thanksgiving or another holiday with the children that year in exchange.

Others divide the holidays in half each year. For example, one parent might spend time with their children on Christmas Eve and morning, while the other parent has the children for the remainder of the day and Christmas dinner. Occasionally, families come together for major events like holidays, especially when they occur close to the divorce.

Be Flexible

Many impromptu celebrations and family gatherings can occur throughout the season. Therefore, both parents need to be adaptable to changes in their children's schedules and accommodate last-minute changes in plans. This give-and-take approach can take practice, but it could benefit both parents and children in the long run.

Coordinate Gift-Giving

Setting boundaries around the gifts you buy your children can also help the holidays go smoothly. It is natural to want to make your kids happy, and if they have recently experienced a divorce, you may feel compelled to compensate with lavish gifts. Often, this can turn into a competition between parents.

Engaging in competition for your children's affection can set an expensive precedent for future holidays and celebrations. Doing so will ultimately fail to fulfill your children's most intimate holiday wish: to feel loved and supported by both of their parents. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your ex about what gifts each of you intends to give your children. Consider setting a budget so that neither of you feels the need to compete with one another.

Set Expectations

Talk to your kids in advance about the ways in which the holiday season will be different this year so that they know what to expect. Setting expectations could spare your children from disappointment when the holidays go differently than they had imagined. Your children may express sadness that this year's holidays will be different than those in the past. Let them share their feelings. Doing so can help them process complex emotions. You can reassure your kids that it is natural to be sad after a divorce and affirm that your family will make it through this challenging time. Children often look to their parents for emotional cues, so appearing calm and confident might help them overcome their sadness.

Be the Adult

Children are sensitive to their parent's emotions. They often worry about hurting their parents' feelings, especially when they see them living through the emotional challenges of a divorce. Asking your children questions about their holiday preferences, including which parent they would like to celebrate with, can be stressful. Let your kids express their wishes , and work with them to find a solution that will appeal to all members of the family.

Embrace New Traditions

Divorces can present families with the opportunity to create new holiday traditions. While you may not be able to reprise every activity you previously enjoyed as a family, you can use the holiday season to develop new, creative, and meaningful traditions that your kids will enjoy for years to come. Even small gestures can help your children feel connected to you if you are apart during the holidays.

Practice Self-Care

Divorces can be emotionally challenging. Sometimes, feelings of loneliness and anxiety can be exacerbated by the holiday season, especially if you are apart from your children. It is important to surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible. Practice self-care in ways that are meaningful to you. Consider seeking out self-help books, psychotherapy, or other forms of counseling to take care of your mental health.

Take the High Road

The Christmas season encourages families to set aside their anger and ill-will. During this busy time of year, consider how your behaviour impacts your children's emotional well-being. Instead of squabbling over petty issues, think about how your actions can help your children feel cherished and safe. If you and your ex can put aside your differences and focus on your children's happiness, in time, the new holiday traditions you create can lead to happy, precious memories – the best gift of all.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you need help creating a parenting schedule this holiday season, Verhaeghe family lawyers may be able to assist you. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

How Can an Edmonton Family Lawyer Help Me With My Divorce?

How Can an Edmonton Family Lawyer Help Me With My Divorce?

One of the most frequently asked questions our clients ask us is “how can a family lawyer help me with my divorce”. Hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce proceedings can be valuable in many ways. Here are some ways that an Edmonton family lawyer from Verhaeghe Law Office can assist with your divorce law and family law proceedings.

  1. Ensure that filing deadlines and procedures are met and followed

Divorce and family law proceedings in Alberta can be complex when multiple interests are involved, high valued assets involved or if there's a high possibility for conflict. Hiring a divorce lawyer to assist with the process not only ensures that filing deadlines are met and procedures are followed according to the law - but can also ensure that required agreements, forms and other administrative tasks are handled in compliance with the laws as they pertain to your unique situation. There is generally no such thing as a straightforward divorce because in most cases there is more than one party with their individual interests at stake. This is one of the reasons we recommend you hire a family lawyer.

  1. Put your best interests as a number one priority

It always helps when you have someone representing your best interests - especially in emotionally surcharged situations. Having a lawyer to represent your best interests in divorce proceedings may help ensure your assets and interests are protected. We have seen numerous situations where clients get bullied by their soon to be ex spouses and opposing counsel. This is another reason why hiring a family lawyer to help represent your best interests can be crucial to getting the resolve you are looking for.

  1. Aim to expeditiously resolve legal disputes

At Verhaeghe Law Office - we make it another priority to resolve high conflict family law situations and divorces as quick as possible. We have two reasons for this. Firstly, it is more cost effective to resolve divorce and family law proceedings as quick as possible, so you're not left with hefty legal bills. Secondly, it reduces any emotional burdens and stress on all parties. The sooner we reach an amicable resolution - the better for everyone including your children (if there are children involved).

  1. Provide multiple legal solutions for you to consider

At Verhaeghe Law Office we also make it a point to provide you with multiple legal solutions for you to consider as it pertains to your unique situation. While we take pride in providing thorough legal advice to our clients - we also make them a part of the decision-making process when it comes to selecting the best legal course of action for them.

  1. Provide representation in court if necessary

In some cases, it is impossible to settle out of court or through alternative dispute resolution methods. In a situation like this - we provide representation at all levels in court for our clients and handle all correspondence, agreements, administrative tasks and proceedings required for court representation. If your divorce proceedings are unable to settle out of court - we recommend you hire a family lawyer sooner than later.

Contact Verhaeghe Law Office's Edmonton Family Lawyers Now For Legal Assistance With Your Divorce Law Matters

You can contact our law firm by either dialing 587-410-2500, emailing us at or booking a consultation request online. We have three offices conveniently located in Edmonton, Athabasca and Whitecourt - making it a priority of ours to ensure easier access to justice for Albertans living in the area. We are proud to assist clients across Alberta with their family law matters so get in touch with us today to book a consultation.

Disclaimer: Please note this article is intended to act as a general overview on a family law topic and does not represent legal advice in any way. For specific legal advice please contact a family lawyer for guidance on your specific situation.

What You Need to Do to File for Divorce in Canada

What You Need to Do to File for Divorce in Canada
Filing for a divorce in Canada can be a lengthy and confusing process. Click here to learn the steps you need to take in order to file for divorce.

Divorce in Canada is a fact of life, as there have been more than 5 million divorces over the course of the last couple of decades.

This is a position that a lot of people find themselves because try as they might, they just can't get their marriages to work. It's important that you do all you can to make your marriage work so that if it doesn't you can leave knowing you gave it your all.

When you know that divorce is the next logical step, you've got a long road in front of you. There are a number of things you should know about getting divorced, both from a legal and personal standpoint.

Utilize these tips so that you're fully in the know on the subject.

Learn the Law and Process For Divorce in Canada

Since about 40% of all first marriages end in divorce you need to do everything you can to inform yourself of the law.

When you at least know the law, you'll have a leg to stand on once it's time to file those papers. This can be a scary thing to go through, so learning a bit more about divorce in Canada from a legal perspective will at least show you the next steps.

As you start mulling over divorce, make sure that these factors remain at the forefront of your thought process:

1. Canadian Grounds for Divorce

Before you file a divorce petition, you'll need to know which grounds for divorce to consider.

When getting a divorce in Canada, the grounds for divorce that you can claim include irreconcilable differences, adultery, and abuse. Irreconcilable differences is the most common one since divorces in Canada are no-fault.

However, you'll need to go through the process of filing all of the proper paperwork and other steps before the courts will hear your divorce case.

2. Uncontested and Contested Divorces

Since you only need to show irreconcilable differences in Canada, you can get a divorce even if your spouse doesn't want one. You filing a divorce satisfies this burden and allows you to move forward with the proceedings.

However, your spouse has a right to contest your claim if there is something in the filing that they reject. From here, they'll be able to file their own petition with the courts, at which point the judge will hear the case.

If both of you want a divorce, then this is considered uncontested. With uncontested divorce in Canada, you can fill out a joint petition with all of the terms and agreements laid out in plain language.

3. Separation and Waiting Period

After filing for divorce in Canada, the judge will look over the petition. Once they see that the two of you have proved irreconcilable differences, you will be able to move forward with the rest of the process.

In Canada, you both have to wait a year before any divorce decree will be final. This year is considered your separation period.

During the separation period, you have to live apart, or otherwise establish yourselves as separated. There are a lot of ways to do this, which is why having a good lawyer who can help document everything will be crucial.

If you are unable to immediately separate or want to give it one more shot, the courts allow you to live together for 3 months out of that 1-year separation period. After the 3 months is up, you can go your separate ways if you choose to move forward without losing any time from your separation period.

However, after that initial 3-month stretch, your separation period will be null and void if you change your mind and move back in together. If you go back and forth, you'll reset your separation clock every time thereafter.

Make sure that you're truly ready to go forward with the divorce to make sure this doesn't happen.

4. Be Sure That You Fulfill All Requirements

Before you can get a divorce in Canada, make sure you know which paperwork to file and where to file it.

You'll also need to be certain that you fulfill the residency requirements. You'll need to have lived in the place you are filing the petition for at least a year. Check into any residency or citizenship issues before filing your divorce petition.

Since you have important matters to decide in a divorce, such as splitting your assets and figuring out child custody, each and every one of these steps requires your full attention and consideration.

It would behoove you to think it over and ensure that you're aware of the laws of divorce in Canada, so you avoid mistakes and problems.

As you're contemplating getting a divorce, you need to also consider the personal aspects.

Take Inventory of Your Life, Decide if You Want to Divorce and Get Your Ducks in a Row

Getting a divorce will test your mental and emotional fortitude.

In order to come out of it with your interests and sanity intact, you need a solid battle plan and the will to go through with it.

Losing your marriage closes a chapter in your life that you thought was never going to come to an end. In order to make it through this issue in a way that allows for growth and closing the door on this previous chapter, it's important to handle it diligently and compassionately.

Consider the tips below your marching orders moving forward.

1. Talk to Some Counselors

Don't let your year separation go by without getting some serious counseling.

Whether you choose to get solo counseling or go to counseling as a couple, it is a necessary step in the healing process.

Get some recommendations from your friends and family members to be sure you are hiring a counselor that is skilled at helping you work out the problems. During the divorce and separation, be sure that you are seeing your counselor at least once per week.

Stay on top of these appointments so you can start to wrap your mind around what your life will be like following the divorce and will know that you are mentally fortified to handle it.

Since therapy can cost a bit of money, do what you can to find a counselor whose services you can afford. This may take some shopping around, but it will definitely be worth it once you find someone you can talk to that can help you process this stage in your life.

2. Seek Agreements and Closure

The most important thing you can do during your divorce is to find some agreements and cooperation when at all possible. By filing your divorce jointly, it'll be easier for you to get a quick and effective process.

Since marriage can be difficult, so too can coming up with an agreement once you are trying to end it.

Sitting down together and having some tough conversations will help you to figure out the key parts of the divorce, such as how you will handle your debt and who keeps the property. The sooner you run toward these hard conversations and determine these splits, the sooner you can get through this process.

Aside from divorce agreements, try your best to have a heart to heart that brings you closure in your relationship. You will be able to keep your sanity as you exit the marriage and will be emotionally prepared for the next stage of your life.

3. Set a Goal For the Divorce

What do you want to get out of your divorce?

Once you figure out what life after marriage looks like, you'll be able to pattern your divorce to find it. Whether this means a new one-bedroom apartment in a ritzy part of town, or holding on to property and assets you feel you're entitled to, it all starts with setting goals on the front end.

If you and your spouse are on speaking terms, come together and express the things that are most important to each of you. Put your emotions and pride to the side with each other to make it a win-win situation.

When you hold on to what's important, while conceding the other person's important wishes through compromise, the divorce process will be more seamless. If you don't feel like this is possible, definitely find legal meditation services.

By getting access to mediators, you'll have a third-party that will help you with each point until you find agreements that work.

4. Figure Out Your Child Situation ASAP

Without a doubt, taking care of your kids are the most important thing to consider if you are getting a divorce in Canada.

Your child needs both of you, so never come between that relationship despite the way your marriage ended. Getting joint custody means the two of you get plenty of time raising your kid and are cooperative as parents.

This should be the biggest priority with a divorce, since your child is the most innocent person in the whole equation. Set up agreements for school pickup and drop-off schedules, taking them to their activities and be sure that you're taking an active role in their personal life and education.

5. Watch How You Handle Money and Start Closing Accounts

You'll have some tough decisions to make with your finances.

The first thing you'll need to do is to close credit accounts that have both your names on it. A lot of spouses make spite purchases when emotions are high, so never get stuck with debt that you don't agree with.

Be sure that you open a new account that will help you to manage your spending and keep your personal finances separate.

6. Hire the Help of a Great Divorce Lawyer

The best ally you will have during your divorce in Canada is a lawyer that is licensed to practice.

Your lawyer will guide you through the toughest parts of the process and will stay with you during the entire separation agreement. A quality lawyer can help you to come up with a joint divorce filing whenever necessary.

This is best for you and your spouse, because it can cost you between about $1,000 and $2,500 if it's not contested, and $7,000 and more if your divorce is contested by your spouse.

7. Clear Your Mind and Stay Busy

Divorce can take its toll on your mind, body, and energy, so do what you can to find balance during this tough time.

Staying active and finding a support group will help you sort things out. Make sure that the activities that you choose help you move your body and clear your mind. You can practice yoga or meditate frequently to make sure your head is clear and that you are able to adapt to life's stresses.

It's also important that you stay organized so that you can find work-life balance. This includes keeping a schedule so that you don't miss or forget about your court hearings.

Take all the time to get back on your feet once your divorce goes through. This is an incredibly difficult time, so there's no right or wrong way to feel right now.

Following these tips will help you handle it in a way that counts.

Work Diligently For the Best Divorce in Canada

Divorce in Canada is especially difficult when you don't have a solid game plan. Thankfully, the tips above will get you started.

If you need any legal help during your divorce, contact our firm to speak to one of our lawyers.