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Obscure Latin terms and what they may mean in Alberta family law

It can be intimidating for anyone to plow through texts sprinkled with terms and phrases in a foreign language, whether on a restaurant menu or in a legal document. Botany, medicine and the law all feature Latin--a language once considered universal, now known as a dead language. For an Alberta client considering divorce, a family law lawyer conversant with such archaic but crucial terminology can dispel bewilderment.

Examples abound, such as ex parte and voir dire. In family law cases involving children, the concept of a legal advocate may be easier to grasp than amicus curiae or guardian ad litem. Each of these have different purposes -- time-saving information that could only be clarified by a family law lawyer.

Negotiating separation agreements is easier with preparation

Breaking up is challenging for anyone, but for those whose lives are intertwined with children, a home or major assets, it can be a major undertaking. Alberta individuals who are working towards separation agreements can do certain things to make the process smoother. While conflict can be inevitable in these circumstances, there are things that can make the process less of a hassle.

The first thing people in Alberta should do when ending a union is get finances in order. Simply put, it is much more difficult to work out separation agreements if it is unclear what assets are being separated. Knowing how much each party can afford to pay in a divorce settlement can also help prevent one or both parties from a result that they cannot afford.

Smart children not immune to stresses of Alberta child custody

It's become common to read that today's children are  more intelligent than those of previous generations. Play-time now includes interacting with computer devices that, according to some studies, accelerate learning even for toddlers. Whether true or not, Alberta children who undergo displacement when their parents divorce are not less immune to the stresses associated with child custody issues.

Courts regard the global well-being of minor children very seriously. Indeed, their welfare is considered over and above parental preferences, which may seek to significantly alter a child's relationship with a parent. The obvious and most dramatic decision would concern guardianship, or physical custody, of a child. However, once residence is settled, other unforeseen issues might emerge.

Preparation can help those facing a divorce

While couples split up every day, certain times of year are more common for marriage dissolutions. Statistics show that there are fewer divorce filings leading up to the holidays followed by a bump around the new year and peaks in March and August. Those facing a divorce in Alberta can do some preparations before meeting with a lawyer to ease the stress of proceedings.

The first thing people should do when facing a divorce is to gather financial information. The start of a new year is a great time to collect pay stubs, bank statements and credit card bills. A free credit report is also good to have on hand if particular financial difficulties existed in the marriage.

Guardianship legally embeds Alberta parenting and child custody

Prominent linguists have long held that words matter, a belief inherent in law and embedded in the painstaking way in which legal definitions, standards and applications are framed. Alberta family law demonstrates a progressive view of child guardianship in divorce cases by referring to a "parenting order" to cover both child custody and access, among other things. This conveys a more global understanding that equalizes the roles of both parents, without reference to who has physical custody and who has access.

By definition, parenting encompasses the rights, responsibilities and decision-making powers concerning children. In a divorce, the law recognizes this as child guardianship and, in doing so, prioritizes the child's interests above the rights of the parents. Guardianship, as the law perceives it, favours the involvement of both parents in all facets of a child's life, such as allocating sufficient time to parent and sharing parental responsibilities.

Consider credit scores when navigating divorce proceedings

Many of the concerns when a marriage ends relate to financial matters. While many Alberta divorcees are focused on issues like child custody and spousal support following a separation, personal finance considerations such as credit scores and retirement savings should also be considered. There are a few ways that people can take a credit hit during a divorce.

An Alberta divorce that results in the need to take on more debt is the most direct way that someone's credit can suffer from such a life change. For example, some people take on more of the debt during a divorce often due to having a higher income or a higher percentage of assets. While courts try to make these arrangements as fair as possible, there can be major challenges if a spouse hides assets or refuses to pay an agreed-upon share of the debt.

Breach of promise, property division and Alberta family law

The tradition of publicly declaring a commitment to formally marry by giving an engagement ring began some time in the 1400s. Evolving from rings made of posies or carved out of wood, the diamond eventually became the signature of this classic emblem of betrothal. Since the original meaning of "betrothed" is to give one's pledge, Alberta still considers a broken engagement as a breach of promise, a common law concept underpinning family law and which may be adjudicated under the laws governing property or damages.

Given modern times, the concept of "engagement to marry" is often viewed as quaint a tradition as the publication of marriage banns. Still, jewellery constitutes property. Retaining or returning an engagement ring with the intention to renege on the marriage pledge can be, without legal counsel, a legal landmine. The contrast in how courts in other provinces have perceived the engagement ring exemplifies the difficulties.

Financial conversations can help prevent divorce conflict

Finances are one of the most contentious issues couples face. However, there are many things couples can do to make financial decisions easier at every step in the relationship. While no marriage in Alberta begins with the intention of ending in divorce, key conversations early in a relationship can help ease the financial stress if a break up does take place.

Clarifying a partner's financial situation and sharing one's own before co-habiting or getting engaged is a good idea for any couple. Marital issues can arise if there is a lack of information, while a misunderstanding about a spouse's assets can cause much more stress in a divorce. Once the details of debt, credit scores and assets have been shared, couples should set up a plan for how they will share financial obligations.

Divorce through mediation may help diminish conflict

By the time some couples have firmly decided to dissolve their marriages, they are often already emotionally exhausted. Still, they recognize that divorce, like marriage, involves a legal process which must be formalized in and by the family courts. In Alberta, mediation is an option that encourages a spirit of collaboration towards re-configuring a new and affirming path forward for each party.

As an alternative to the extensive court time associated with traditional divorce proceedings, mediation occurs largely outside the court room under the neutral guidance of a mediator. The mediator, who ideally is also an experienced family law lawyer, helps identify the issues and concerns on each side and facilitates discussion in a discreet and secure exchange. Even when concluded, matters of concern remain confidential, which can be so important to one or both partners intent on safeguarding their privacy.

How to handle the first holiday season after a divorce

The holidays are often considered a joyful time for Canadian families, but for newly divorced parents, it can be a challenging time of year. Children and parents in Alberta can have trouble adjusting to the new holiday routine after a divorce. While this might lead to stress and sadness, parents should set a good example for children and remain positive in light of the changes.

Those who have children around for some or all of the holidays should be aware of their attitude and be as compassionate as possible to everyone involved. Alberta parents should try to be patient and kind, even if they are hurt or lonely. One great strategy is to establish new traditions with the children. This can give everyone something new to look forward to in years to come and help them move past any nostalgia and loss.