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Calgary Family Law Blog

Surprise! Dividing property in divorce isn’t always straightforward

Alberta couples are often surprised when they start to divide their property during a divorce. Many people don’t know that the law considers many things besides houses and land to be ‘property’. This can make the property division decisions very complex. Each person must have their own legal advisor to help them reach an agreement that the court will recognize and enforce.

Women may have unique financial concerns in divorce

The divorce rate among those 50-plus has skyrocketed in recent years, leaving many with questions they had not previously considered. Divorce can lead to some major financial changes and surprises, especially for those whose spouses handled the finances during their marriage. Alberta women facing these breakups should take care to learn as much as possible about their marital finances before going through with a separation or divorce.

Disputes related to child custody in Alberta

It's a disparaging reputation no divorced parent should have. Frequent flyers refer to parents who, with alarming regularity, petition family law courts to resolve disagreements which, under other circumstances, would not be worth mentioning, much less come before a judge. In Alberta, as elsewhere, family law adjudicates substantive matters related to child custody, guardianship and parenting.

The key word is "substantive," which encompasses the continuing welfare and appropriate enrichment of the child as he or she matures. However, some parents may become engaged in an interminable battle with each other. They will refer back to the courts for simple decisions, like enforcing the return of a child's ballet slippers. Such applications might delay or displace more critical cases involving, for example, alleged child abuse or parental alienation.

Divorce can sometimes be avoided with behaviour changes

Divorce lawyers often see couples after their relationships have fallen apart, but this also gives them some insights into what causes breakups in the first place. Alberta couples on the verge of divorce, or even those readying for marriage, may find some of their advice helpful to avoid a contentious separation down the line. While relationship tips may not always be able to save a doomed relationship, it could make the difference between a volatile breakup and a mutually respectful separation.

Nurturing a friendship and a supportive relationship is important for Alberta spouses looking to get along better. There are many negative people and messages each individual faces each day, so it is important that a spouse be a source of positivity and comfort in contrast to this negativity. Expecting one another to be perfect will only end in disappointment and criticism.

Solomon's choice: Pet custody in Alberta divorce

Sometimes the laws of the land don't quite get it right. At least, in the eyes of pet owners, who are often astonished to learn that family law views pets as property. This is still the case in Alberta for spouses undergoing divorce and who may battle for guardianship of a beloved pet or pets.

In what may become a landmark case in the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, the court adjudicated according to this traditional view of companion animals as chattel. As such, "purchase" and "title" were applied to the pet. However, one of the three judges dissented, writing that the "burden of care and comfort for the animal" should be taken into account. It's true that one doesn't take the couch out for walks, and that a couch is not protected under other laws, both provincial and federal, against cruelty and abuse.

Self-executed separation agreements may not hold up in court

When people split up, there can be some confusion over who gets what. Sometimes, people will attempt to privately resolve financial matters, then look to change initial separation agreements once they are educated by an Alberta family lawyer. Separation agreements with no legal oversight can be overturned by the courts as an invalid document, so it is important that any agreement is properly reviewed and executed by both parties.

The first requirement for separation agreements in Alberta is financial transparency. If one or both parties attempt to hide assets, the agreement can be considered invalid by courts. The other thing that is needed is independent legal advice for both parties. Financial advisors are also recommended. This tells the courts that you have both reviewed the agreement to the fullest possible extent with counsel.

How Alberta family law views common-law unions

One of the benefits of living in a federation is the freedom accorded to each province and territory, even so far as adjudication. Family law falls under federal jurisdiction and distinguishes between the dissolution of a formal marriage and that of a common-law relationship. Alberta is among those provinces which abides by this distinction, particularly when it comes to property division.

By contrast, British Columbia accords the same property rights division to common-law unions as it does to legal marriages. A relatively new change in B.C. legislation, certain conditions do apply, such as the duration of the union. On the other hand, Alberta and most other provinces continue to view all property accumulated up to the point of legal separation as divisible. The defining word here is "legal," which determines how issues such as property sharing and division will be treated.

Divorce in Canada: Living with a spouse during a separation

There may be a time when a couple realizes that their marriage is no longer working, yet for current financial reasons they decide that it might be wise to continue to share living arrangements. Divorce is what it says it is -- divorcing oneself from one's spouse, so separating and still living under the same roof may have its challenges. Couples in Canada who choose to share resources during a separation are essentially in limbo, and if children are involved, it may help to focus on them instead of the circumstances of a difficult transition.

Couples who separate, but who continue to live together should know that to move forward with a formal divorce, they must have been living apart for at least one year. So, even though still sharing one home, there are other things the people can do to begin to separate from each other. Scheduling time individually with the kids is one good way to start. By doing this the children will be begin to realize, too, that not everything they do will be with mom and dad together. 

Retirement in Alberta may leave spousal support unaltered

Retiring from the workplace can feel like a precarious leap into the unknown. Part of the cycle of life, it offers the opportunity for great changes, some of which may be less welcome than others. If a new retiree is also divorced and had been paying spousal support while working, he or she should be aware of how Alberta law views the change in financial circumstances which retirement brings.

It's important because a new retiree will likely experience a significant dip in income and make assumptions based on that. When an application to alter a court-ordered support agreement is made, the court will not automatically refer to retirement as its primary deciding factor. Family law lawyers are familiar with what the law describes as a "material change in the means, needs, conditions or other circumstances of either party."

Man owing child support arrested for violation of family law

There are many ways people may attempt to evade child support or spousal support obligations. These family law violations can have serious consequences for both the violating payer and the dependants involved. Recently, one man made news in Calgary, Alberta when he was arrested after fleeing from a $560,000 child support bill.

Changing location or even fleeing the country is one way people can try to evade orders from family law proceedings. In this case, the man in question fled from his United States home to Calgary, Alberta in order to leave his obligation behind. A warrant was made for his arrest after two years of not paying, and was later placed on the top of the list of most wanted parents not paying child support by the Office of the Inspector General.

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