Family Law – The Basics

October 27, 2023

Family Law - The Basics

When it comes to navigating family law in Canada, it’s important to note that rules and regulations vary by province. In Alberta, family law covers a wide range of legal issues related to family matters. This includes divorce, child decision-making rights, child support, spousal support, property division, adoption, and many more.

However, these laws and regulations can be complex and challenging to grasp without proper guidance. Many expert family lawyers in Edmonton can help you understand the intricacies of family law matters. In this blog, we will discuss the multiple family laws in Edmonton, Alberta to provide you with valuable insights and information.

Divorce Law

Divorce is a legal process that formally ends a marriage. In Edmonton, divorce law falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and is governed by the Divorce Act. This act outlines the legal requirements for obtaining a divorce and the grounds for divorce. The grounds for divorce in Canada are based on the principle of marriage breakdown. In Edmonton, you can file for divorce based on three grounds according to The Divorce Act: (1) Living separate and apart for one year; (2) Adultery; and (3) Cruelty.


In the context of a divorce, separation refers to the period of time during which a married couple lives apart with the intention of ending their marriage. In Canada, the Divorce Act requires a couple to live separately for at least one year before they can apply for a divorce unless they can prove other grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruelty, or abuse. It is important to note that living separately does not necessarily mean living in separate households.


Adultery is defined as a married person engaging in sexual activity with someone other than their spouse. In most jurisdictions, including Canada, adultery is considered grounds for divorce, which means that it can be cited as a legal reason for the dissolution of a marriage.

In Canada, the Divorce Act allows for a divorce to be granted on the ground of adultery if the spouse seeking the divorce can prove that their partner has committed adultery and that continuing to live with their spouse is intolerable. However, it is important to note that adultery does not entitle the innocent spouse to a greater share of property or support.


Cruelty refers to the behaviour of one spouse towards the other that is so intolerable that it makes it impossible for the parties to continue living together as a married couple. Cruelty can be emotional, physical, or a combination of both, and can include verbal abuse, threats, physical violence, intimidation, and controlling behaviour.

To obtain a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, the person seeking the divorce must provide evidence that the other spouse has subjected them to physical or mental cruelty to such an extent that continued cohabitation is unreasonable and impossible. It is important to note that the threshold for divorce on the ground of cruelty is very high.

In any of the aforementioned situations, a skilled divorce lawyer can provide valuable assistance.

Child Decision-Making Rights and Support Laws in Edmonton

Child decision-making rights and support are critical aspects of family law in Edmonton, Alberta. Decision-making rights refer to the authority to make important decisions on behalf of a child, including decisions related to their health, education, religion, and general welfare. As per the Family Law Act in Alberta, decision-making responsibilities can be allocated to one or both parents or to another party such as a grandparent or guardian. The Court considers the child’s best interests, taking into account factors like age, needs, and relationships with each parent. While parents are encouraged to work out mutually agreed-upon parenting plans, if an agreement cannot be reached, the Court may make a decision based on what a justice deems to be in the child’s best interests.

Child support is another vital aspect of family law. It involves the financial obligation of a parent to provide for the financial needs of their child, including expenses related to basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and education. Child support is determined based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which provide a formula for calculating the amount based on factors like the parents’ income, the number of children, and the parenting arrangement. Child support is payable by one parent to the other until the child is no longer a “child of the marriage” as that term is defined in our legislation. A child is a “child of the marriage” so long as they are under the age of 18 and have not withdrawn from their parents’ charge; or over the age of 18 but unable to withdraw from their parents’ charge for a justifiable reason (i.e. post-secondary education). Failure to pay child support can result in legal consequences.

It is advisable for anyone dealing with child decision-making or support issues to seek guidance from an experienced family lawyer in Edmonton to ensure that their rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

Property Division

In Canada, when a marriage or common-law relationship ends, the property acquired during the relationship is subject to division between the parties. In most provinces, including Alberta, property division is governed by family law legislation. Under the legislation, property that is acquired during the marriage is presumptively equally divisible, though there are specific exceptions to this rule. One of our experienced family lawyers would be happy to sit down with you to discuss these exceptions.


Adoption is the legal process of becoming the parent of a child who is not biologically related to you. In Alberta, adoption can be done through a private adoption agency or through the provincial government’s adoption program, overseen by the Ministry of Children’s Services. The process involves a thorough assessment of the prospective adoptive parents and the child’s best interests.

Prospective adoptive parents must attend an information session to learn about the adoption process and requirements. Following the information session, they must submit an application to the Ministry of Children’s Services, including personal and financial information, as well as details about the type of child the prospective parents are hoping to adopt.

Legal Process for Divorce

There are different routes through which partners in Alberta may settle their family matters. Most people are familiar with the more traditional, court-based approach to family law. There is another route, however, that does not involve courts or court hearings. Collaborative Family Law is a process through which the parties work with collaboratively trained lawyers to craft their own settlement. An important component of this process is a signed agreement by the parties that they will not take each other to court. At Nexus Legal, we are registered to practice Collaborative Family Law and would be happy to discuss this process in further detail with you.

About Us

Nexus Legal is a trusted law firm in Edmonton, Alberta, specializing in family law, wills and estates, and real estate matters. With years of experience in the legal industry, our team of lawyers is committed to helping clients navigate the complexities of various legal issues. At Nexus Legal, we are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout every stage of their legal matters. To learn more about us, please visit our website.

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