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A

Access

The term formerly used when referring to parenting time.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Any process used to settle a legal dispute outside of court. Common forms of alternative dispute resolution in family law are negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.

Arbitration

A quasi-judicial form of alternative dispute resolution where an impartial decision-maker chosen by the parties (the arbitrator) weighs each spouse/parent’s position and reaches a legally binding decision. This can be less formal and more private than having issues decided by the court.

B

Best Interests of the Child

The legal principle that any decision made affecting a child should protect their emotional, physical, and psychological safety and well-being to the greatest extent possible.

C

Child Support

Money that a parent must pay to financially support and provide for their child(ren) after separating from the other parent.

Child Support Guidelines

Legislation that sets the amount of child support a parent owes to contribute to their child’s care after separating from the other parent. The Federal Child Support Guidelines govern child support obligations for married couples, while the Alberta Child Support Guidelines are used for common-law partners.

Cohabitation Agreement

A contract between an unmarried couple setting out the terms to be followed if their relationship breaks down (commonly referred to as a “prenuptial agreement”).

Common-Law Relationship/Partnership

A relationship, other than a legal marriage, giving rise to support and property rights between a couple. Also known as an “adult interdependent partnership” in Alberta.

Contact

The right of a person or persons who are not a guardian of a child (most often, grandparents) to have physical visitation with the child. Contact is different from parenting time in that it does not entail any decision-making responsibility.  

Custody

The term formerly used when referring to decision-making responsibility.

D

Decision-Making Responsibility (Custody)

A parent’s legal authority to make decisions about their child’s care and upbringing, including education, health care, discipline, and religious or traditional teachings. Division of decision-making responsibility can be sole, shared, or split.

Divorce

The formal termination of a marriage, granted by court order or judgment.

E

Extraordinary Expenses

Another term for child support special expenses.

F

Family Property/Assets

Property or assets acquired by either spouse in a common-law relationship during the couple’s cohabitation. Family Property is divided between the couple after their separation.

Family Violence

Any conduct by a family member towards another family member that is violent or threatening or that constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour or that causes that other family member to fear for their own safety or for that of another person.

G

Gestational Surrogacy

A surrogacy process where the surrogate has no biological relation to the baby they will carry. Instead, the eggs are retrieved from the intended parent or a donor and implanted into the surrogate.

Guardianship

The right to make decisions affecting, or on behalf of, a child and the responsibility to nurture the child and provide them with the necessities of life. Guardianship can be sole or shared, and a child can have more than two guardians who do not need to be the child’s biological parents.

H

Hague Application

An application to the court seeking the return of a child taken outside of the jurisdiction where the child habitually resides by one parent without the other parent’s consent. Governed by an international treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Generally speaking, the Hague Convention requires that disputes about children be decided in the jurisdiction where the child is habitually resident.

I

Imputed Income

The amount of income a court decides to attribute to a spouse for child or spousal support purposes. Often found in cases where a spouse has underrepresented their financial means by being deliberately underemployed or by failing to provide full financial disclosure.

J

Joint Decision-Making Responsibility (Joint Custody)

Where both parents have the legal authority to make decisions about their child’s care and upbringing.

LGBTQIA2S+

An acronym used to represent different types of gender identities and sexual orientations: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, 2 (Two)-Spirit. The + represents all other sexual and gender orientations not included in the acronym.

Lying-In Expenses

Court-ordered expenses that contribute to the reasonable costs of pregnancy and preparing for birth, including prenatal vitamins and baby-related equipment or clothing.

M

Marriage Agreement

A contract that sets out a couple’s agreed-upon terms in the event of their separation. It is similar to a cohabitation agreement but is created after a couple is already married.

Matrimonial Home

A residential property, owned or leased by one or both spouses, that they occupied as their family home during their marriage.

Matrimonial Property/Assets

Property or assets acquired by either spouse during the couple’s marriage. Matrimonial property is divided between the couple after their separation.

Mediation

A form of alternative dispute resolution involving negotiations between spouses/parents, with an impartial third party (the mediator) acting as a referee. The mediator attempts to help the parties resolve a disagreement but cannot make a binding decision for them.

Mobility

A legal issue regarding a parent’s authority to move away (relocate) with their child(ren), usually impacting the other parent’s parenting time (access).

N

Negotiation

Informal discussions between parties and/or their legal counsel to resolve a dispute.

P

Parenting Time (Access)

The amount of time a child spends in the care of each of their parents after a separation and/or divorce. May be shared or split between parents. Parenting time often includes the ability to make day-to-day decisions concerning the child.

Partner Support

Money that one spouse must pay to financially support the other spouse after their separation. This term usually only applied to unmarried couples.

R

Reproductive Materials

Sperm, ovum (eggs), or other human cells or genes. Human reproductive materials are used in assisted reproductive processes such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Retroactive Support

Child or spousal support amounts ordered by a court to make up for a spouse’s failure to pay the proper amount in the past (i.e. “backdated” support).

S

Section 7 Expenses

Another term for child support special expenses.

Separation

The first step in ending a marriage (divorce) or common-law relationship. Occurs when a couple lives “separate and apart” with no chance of reconciliation.

Separation Agreement

A contract setting out a separated couple’s agreements about various matters arising from their separation and/or divorce.

Shared Parenting Time

A parenting arrangement where one parent has their child in their care at least 40% of the time. This may impact the way child support is calculated

Sole Decision-Making Responsibility (Sole Custody)

When one parent has the authority to make all decisions relating to their child’s care and upbringing. May be split between parents; for example, one parent has sole decision-making with respect to education while the other has sole decision-making with respect to everything else.

Special Expenses

Costs of raising a child that are not covered by the Federal Child Support Guidelines tables. Because it is unreasonable for one parent to incur these expenses alone, these costs may result in extra child support being payable in order to ensure the parents share them. Examples include childcare expenses, medical insurance premiums, and extracurricular activity fees. Also referred to as “extraordinary” or “section 7” expenses.

Split Parenting Time (Split Custody)

A parenting arrangement where each parent has at least one child in their care for 60% of the time or more. For example, where one child lives primarily with one parent, and the other child lives primarily with the other parent.

Spousal Support

Money that one spouse must pay to financially support the other spouse after their separation or divorce.

Surrogacy

A form of assisted reproduction in which a person carries and gives birth to a child, with the intention of relinquishing the child to the intended parent(s). There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational.

T

Traditional Surrogacy

A surrogacy process where the surrogate donates their eggs in addition to carrying the child.

Trial

A formal court hearing in which oral testimony and documentary evidence are assessed by a judge, who renders a legally binding decision. A trial can result in a decision on divorce, parenting, support, and property matters.

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