The Family Law Process: What Is Involved?

What Is Family Law?

The area of law known as “family law” in Calgary is a general term used to describe what is also more specifically called family law statutes (or, the Family Law Act of Alberta), which are statutes that govern the family, marriage, and divorce or dissolution of marriage.

A family law statute would govern issues such as establishing parentage (determining who parents are), guardianship of children (deciding who has custody of minor children), contact between non-parents or guardians and children (such as grandparents’ rights to visitation with grandchildren), child and spousal/adult interdependent partner support obligations for former spouses/parents who were never married (although they may be parents to children together), and divorce or dissolution of marriage (which includes dividing marital property, determining custody of minor children, and determining child support).

What Are The Steps Involved In Family Law?

In lawsuits, depending on the circumstances of the case in question, a broad spectrum of civil procedure issues may arise in a family law matter. At a basic level, these issues revolve around how a proceeding takes place, and the issues presented in the case.

At each level, various strategies may have to be used, however, there are some common themes involved when bringing a case from conception to its culmination in a court of law. These are as follows:

  1. A mandatory information program;
  2. The first court date is set;
  3. A case conference will take place;
  4. Motions will be set in place (requests for interim orders);
  5. A settlement conference(s);
  6. A Trial Management Conference, and
  7. Trial.

The steps involved in family law vary according to the seriousness and complexity of the case and the litigants. Not every matter will require each of these steps, and not all actions are taken in court proceedings through every step. These steps represent a general framework for conducting a family law case in Calgary, but variations or deviations may be required by individual litigants or based on the facts of your case.

Why Is Family Law So Important?

Family law is a critical legal framework that operates to prevent harm to families and promotes a fair and equitable framework of rights and responsibilities within families. The family unit can be defined in many ways, from a simple definition of the nuclear family, which consists of two adults and children, to a complex “blended” or reconstituted family that includes stepparents, half-siblings, cousins, etc..

Family law governs the legal rights, obligations, powers, remedies, and protections of family members. Family laws are often designed to regulate or prohibit activities relative to marriage, cohabitation, divorce, child custody, child-rearing, adoption, paternity, and other familial relations. A family lawyer can walk you through your options and rights when necessary, however – a family or divorce mediator can also be of assistance when you are trying to avoid a high amount of conflict with another family member.

Do You Have To Live Apart When You Separate in Alberta?

A common question once people have begun living separate lives is “Do I have to move out of the house?” Both adult members of a separating couple usually have the right to live in the family home. Unless there are other circumstances that apply, both parties are entitled to continue living in the home unless there are Court orders that say otherwise.

The Family Law Process Takeaway

If you and your spouse decide to separate, communication becomes crucial. Communication is the way you will discover where you stand, what you want and need, and how to avoid disputes that can tear your marriage apart. Below are some tips about communicating with your spouse while separated:

  1. Talk about the less sensitive issues first;
  2. Use email or texting to communicate rather than speaking on the phone (this gives you each a chance to think about your reactions to a topic);
  3. Pay attention to how you feel during the conversation (if your spouse’s tone is becoming disrespectful, try not to take it as a criticism of you as a person but as a product of their emotional state); and
  4. Be willing to apologize and admit you’re wrong – it does not make you look weak – it makes you look like a mature adult capable of making.

The Separation Takeaway

The legal separation of a couple with children is a complex process that requires a lot of time and effort on the part of all parties involved. You have to consider child custody, child support, visitation rights, property division and many other legal issues before you can decide on a resolution for your case.

In Calgary, in the area of family law, there are no exact rules. Each situation is unique and instead of relying on certain processes and procedures from one province to another, Calgary divorce lawyers (and any top family lawyer) have to adapt their legal approach according to the circumstances of a given case.

Ultimately, the protection and guidance of the rights and responsibilities of family members is a key role of family law.