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Plain English Common Family Law Legal Definitions

Access - Contact

Generally means the time children spend with the parent they don't usually live with.


Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband; will now apply to same sex couples. Note. A grounds for divorce cannot be claiming your own adultery.

Child Custody / Parenting

Generally means the parent that has care and control of the child.

Child Support

Financial support for which the child is entitled from his/her parents.

Child Welfare or Children's Services Matters

Matters dealing with the protection of children.

Common Law Relationship

A relationship which is regulated in Alberta by the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, and other areas of law which describe any two unrelated people living together in a mutually dependent relationship for at least three years (or less if they have children together).


Final termination of the marriage under the Federal Divorce Act. Note, you need to apply for a Certificate of Divorce, also there is a 30 day appeal period before you can apply for the Divorce Certificate which is required to apply for a marriage certificate for a subsequent marriage.
Further Note: Matrimonial Property is decided at the date of divorce NOT separation.

Extracurricular Activities

Activities for a child outside the regular school program for which the parents are expected to contribute in proportion to their incomes.

Financial Disclosure

Statement of income, expenses, assets and liabilities of the parties in addition to tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements.

Four Way Negotiations/Meetings/ Settlement Discussions

Negotiations by the parties and their lawyers to reach an out of court binding agreement. (We have a high rate of success with 4 way settlement meetings, even if just to narrow down the issues, saving the parties time, stress and money).

Grounds For Divorce

Reasons for divorce: typically the three available under the Divorce Act - 12-month separation, adultery, or cruelty. Cruelty is subjectively and not objectively defined.


Bundle of rights and responsibilities by an adult regarding a child.

In Loco Parentis

Person standing in place of the parent and for which they have assumed expressly or by implication the responsibilities (including child support and access) of a non-biological child.

Joint Custody

Where both parents share the decision making powers with respect to a child although if one parent has “primary care” of the child, he/she typically has the final say in decisions. However, either parent can apply to the court for a judicial determination as to what is in the best interest of the child.

Matrimonial Property Division

Division of assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage under the Matrimonial Property Act of Albert, does not apply to common-law relationships.

Mobility Rights/ Mobility Application

Desire of 1 parent to move with the children to another jurisdiction (province or country) usually to the detriment of the other parent. There is always a winner and a loser. At the end of the day the Court will make a decision based on the best interest of the child. It is important to note that the Courts do not consider a parents reason for moving unless there are exceptional circumstances. Further Note: we have successfully advanced and defended such Court Applications.

Parental Alienation

A negative behaviour expressed by the child of separated or divorced parents, caused by the negative comments one parent makes about the other.


Cross-examination under oath of the opposing party prior to trial used to challenge information regarding relevant issues. A transcript of the proceeding is made and may be used in Court as evidence.

Section 7 Expense

An extracurricular activity or medical/dental/educational expense for which the Court or the parties determine is one that should be proportionately shared between the parties.

Section 3 Support

Basic child support under the Federal or Provincial Child Support Guidelines.

Separation Agreement or Minutes of Settlement

An agreement in writing by separating spouses setting out rights and obligations to each other and a division of property, debts, child custody, access and all other rights that flow from the relationship.

Shared Custody

Care of the child is split between parents where each parent has the child at least 40% of the time.

Sole Custody or Custody

Where one parent or guardian has the sole decision making powers with respect to a child.

Spousal Support

Legal obligation of financial support for the ex common law or married spouse.

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