If you want to end the relationship, whether you are married or living common-law, talk to a lawyer. If you can't afford a lawyer, apply for legal aid. The following sections are about some of the things to discuss with a lawyer.
Maintenance and Support
It‘s the Maintenance Enforcement Program's (MEP) responsibility to enforce child and spousal maintenance orders by collecting payments and forwarding them to the right individuals. MEP relies on the voluntary cooperation of those involved and can only enforce maintenance when the debtor (your partner), creditor (you), or the Crown has registered with the program.
- Maintain the confidentiality of their clients' personal information.
- Attempt to collect on all maintenance orders.
- Conduct child status reviews at the request of debtors who believe their children may no longer be eligible for support under their court order.
- Initiate the removal of collection actions within 14 days when debtors pay their arrears and make arrangements for future payments. Wage support deductions notices issued due to a debtor's failure to pay will normally not be ended until the file is closed.
MEP can't get court orders for you, change the amount of support ordered by a court or otherwise vary a court order. MEP also doesn't provide legal advice or legal representation or deal with custody, access or parenting time issues. You can contact MEP at 780-422-5555 or toll free at 1-800-642-3803.
The Family Law Act
THE FAMILY LAW ACT replaces the Domestic Relations Act, the Maintenance Order Act, the Parentage and Maintenance Act, and parts of the Provincial Court Act and the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. The Family Law Act can be viewed and printed from the Alberta Queen's Printer website at: http://www.qp.gov.ab.ca
The Family Law Act:
- Gives clear guidelines to family members, lawyers and judges about the rights and responsibilities of family members.
- Encourages settlement of family law disputes and focuses on the best interests of children.
- Outlines responsibilities and powers of parents, guardians and others, as well as how to share responsibilities, powers and time with children when parents don't live together.
- Gives guidance on how to decide on amounts of support and how to apply to the court when people can't agree.
The Family Law Act does not deal with:
- Matters involving family property
- Child protection matters
The old terminology - custody and access orders-often created the perception of "winners and losers" in the family law process. Because one of the main goals is to reduce conflict and help eliminate some of the emotional costs of family breakdown, these concepts have been removed.
The courts may make a parenting order when a child has more than one guardian (usually parents) who live apart and are unable to agree on how to distribute the powers, responsibilities and entitlements of guardianship.
A parenting order allocates parenting time and parenting responsibilities between the parents in an effort to be balanced and focused on the best interests of the child. There is no reference to custody and access.
A contact order involves contact between the child and people other than the guardian-such as grandparents and other people who might be important to the child. An application for in-person visitation or other contact, such as by telephone or e-mail, can be made if a guardian has denied contact with a child.
Guardianship gives a parent the right to make decision about how their children are raised (including education, religious training, etc.). It's important to talk to your lawyer about this when making custody arrangements.
Whether you're married or living common-law, you have a right to a fair share of the family assets such as a car, house, furniture and other things the family used together.
What is Mediation? In mediation, parents or others involved in raising children work with a trained mediator to decide on parenting arrangements and resolve other issues that result when parents live apart. If you have a child under 18 years of age and either you or your partner earns less than $40,000 per year, mediation services are available to you at no cost.
If you prefer to hire a private mediator, please visit the Alberta Family Mediation Society's website at: http://www.afms.ca.
What happens in mediation?
- The mediator may first meet with each of you separately. This will help determine whether mediation is the best route for you. It also allows each parent to tell the mediator what issues he/she would like to try to resolve during the mediation.
- If both parties agree, they'll meet together with the mediator to discuss and try to settle issues that may include:
How will the children share their time with each parent ?
Who will make the day-to-day decisions about the children's lives?
How much money will each parent pay to support his/her child(ren)?
- The mediator has no decision-making authority and does not take sides.
- Mediation sessions are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any court action.
- The number of sessions usually depends on the number of issues to be resolved.
Child Protection Mediation
- Mediation Services will mediate contested Child Protection cases.
- Mediation services are available through Court Services in Edmonton, Calgary and rural Alberta.
- The process is empowering for all parties: it improves communication and allows all parties to help determine the best interests of the child and family in conjunction with Child and Family Services.
Benefits of Mediation:
- Children don't have to take sides, so can avoid getting "caught in the middle."
- Parents may learn how to improve communication and negotiation skills, making it easier to settle future disputes.
- A mediated agreement takes into account the family's special needs.
- Parents are often better able to accept and respect a mediated agreement that they have worked out together.
- Mediation is confidential and can save time and money.