Glossary


A

Aboriginal Elder

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An Elder is a person chosen by the Aboriginal community, and who is recognized for his or her spiritual and cultural wisdom. Aboriginal communities usually ask for help and advice from Elders. An Aboriginal Elder does not have to be an older person.

Abortion

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The early ending of a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus can survive outside of the mother’s body. The term generally refers to the ending of a pregnancy that is done on purpose. For example, when a doctor ends the pregnancy using medication or surgery.

An abortion that is done by a doctor may be called a “therapeutic abortion” or an “induced abortion.” Sometimes a pregnancy will end early on its own. This can happen for many reasons including when an embryo or fetus does not develop properly, or when the mother has health problems during pregnancy. This is commonly called a “miscarriage,” but may also be called a “spontaneous abortion.”

Abuser

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A person who uses their power in a relationship to control and/or harm a person with whom he or she has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. Abusers can be anyone, whether a friend, parent, romantic partner, adult child, or caregiver.

See also: "Victim"

Access

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The word “access” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe time spent with a child. Access only gives a person the right to spend time with the child, and to ask for and receive information about the child. Access does not give a person the right to to make any decisions about the child. Access can be described specifically (called "specified access"), or be more flexible (called "generous," "liberal," or "reasonable" access).

See also: "Supervised access"

Accused

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A person who has had a criminal charge brought against him or her (but the charge has not yet been proven). In criminal cases, the terms “the accused” and “the respondent” can be used to describe the same person.

Action

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A dispute between 2 or more parties that is taken to court.

To start an action, one of the parties must have a “cause of action.” An action begins when a person files a document with a court, explaining their cause of action and what remedy they are asking for.

Be Aware

An “action” is different from an “application.” Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, where one of the parties asks something of the Court.

Administrative tribunals and boards

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Something similar to a court that only deals with matters about a specific type of law or regulation. The people who make decisions in tribunals or boards are not judges. Instead, they are people who have specialized knowledge about the particular area that the tribunal or board deals with.

The federal government and the provincial/territorial governments create tribunals and boards to deal with certain types of laws that fall within their jurisdiction.

Some examples of administrative tribunals and boards are:

  • the Alberta Labour Relations Board;
  • the Workers Compensation Board - Alberta; and
  • the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Decisions of administrative tribunals and boards can generally be appealed to the courts.

Administrator

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This is the old word for a person who was appointed by a court to manage the estate of a person who has died. In Alberta, the correct legal term for this is now “Personal Representative.” However, you may still see the old word used in some legal materials.

See also: "Grant of administration"

Adoption

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A legal process in which the legal rights and duties of one person or couple toward a child are ended, and are permanently transferred to another person or couple who become the adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities a parent can have toward a child. Legally they are treated no differently than any other kind of parent. After an adoption, the child’s birth certificate is changed so that the adoptive parents are listed as the child’s parents.

See also: "Open adoption"

Adult

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A person who is at least 18 years old. This is also called being “the age of majority.”

Be Aware

The age of majority is different across Canada. In Alberta, the age at which a person is considered an adult is 18.

See also: "Minor"

Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP)

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A person who is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship with another person.

See also: "Common-law partner"

Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIPA)

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A written contract in which 2 adults agree to become Adult Interdependent Partners. That contract must be in the form required by the Alberta Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation.

See also: "Adult Interdependent Relationship"

Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

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The term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” relationship. A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person 

  • for 3 years, or 
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement, or 
  • for less than 3 years if they have or adopt a child together. 

A "relationship of interdependence" is a relationship where the partners are not married but they

  • share one another's lives, 
  • are emotionally committed to one another, and 
  • function as an economic and domestic unit. 

The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”).

Advance Care Planning

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A process to help you think about, talk about, and write down how you feel about your future health care treatment. It includes having ongoing conversations with your family members, friends, and health care providers. This will help them to know the kinds of treatment you would agree to, or refuse. It is done in case one day you become unable to express your wishes, or make your health care decisions for yourself.

Even if you are still able to make decisions for yourself, Advance Care Planning can save you much stress in an emergency situation. You will already have thought about difficult topics and decisions.

See also: "Goals of Care Designation"

Affidavit

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A written statement that is sworn to be true, and used as legal evidence in legal proceedings. If you swear or affirm that something you wrote is true, it may also be called a “sworn” statement.

Affidavit of Service

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A written, sworn statement by the person who served the court paperwork on another party. This statement describes:

  • what they served;
  • who they served; and
  • when and how the service was done.

See also: "Affidavit," "Service," and "Swearing or affirming something"

Age of consent

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The age when a person can make their own decisions about certain things. This can happen at different ages, depending on what the decision is about. For example, when you are 12 years old, you must give your consent to be adopted (unless a court decides otherwise). But you won’t be able to sign most contracts until you are the age of majority, or you may need your guardians’ consent to do so.

See also: "Legal age," "Minor," and "Adult."

Age of majority

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The age when a person becomes an adult under the law. In Alberta, the age of majority is 18. In some provinces in Canada, the age of majority is 19.

When you reach the age of majority, your parents or previous guardians will no longer have the power to make decisions for you. They also will no longer be legally required to provide you with the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. In other words, you will now have to make your own decisions and look after yourself.

See also: "Legal age," "Age of consent," and "Minor."

Agent

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A person who is given the power to make personal decisions for another person through a Personal Directive. For example: if you sign a Personal Directive that gives your brother the power to make your personal decisions for you, your brother is called the “Agent.”

Alberta Child Support Guidelines (ACSG)

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The Alberta Child Support Guidelines are a set of rules for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward his or her children after separation or divorce. The Alberta Guidelines use the Federal Child Support Tables for calculating this amount.

The Alberta Guidelines were created to help children whose parents were not married. This is because the Federal Child Support Guidelines only apply to parents who were married and are solving their separation issues using the Divorce Act. The Alberta Guidelines were created as part of the Family Law Act to be used in all cases where the Divorce Act does not apply. In other words, the Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply to:

  • all non-married parents; and 
  • married parents who choose to resolve their child support issues using the Family Law Act instead of the Divorce Act.

The Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines are very similar but have some significant differences.

Alberta Court of Appeal

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The highest court in Alberta. This court hears appeals from both the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This court is not a trial court. In other words, cases do not start in this court. If someone has grounds to appeal a decision granted in the Alberta Court of Appeal, the case would then go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench

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A higher trial court than Provincial Court of Alberta. This court is also called a “superior court.” For some legal issues, you can only go to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

For example, you must go through the Court of Queen’s Bench for:

  • divorce;
  • division of property;
  • exclusive possession of a home or household goods;
  • declarations of parentage;
  • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders; and
  • restraining orders.

The Court of Queen’s Bench is also a court of appeal for the Provincial Court and some administrative tribunals and boards.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

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The various ways that people can resolve their disputes without “going to court.” Examples include: negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law.

Animal abuse

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Animal abuse occurs when someone mistreats an animal, either through action or inaction, and puts that animal’s safety and well-being at risk as a result. Neglect is one form of animal abuse.

Animal shelter

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A place where homeless and unwanted pets are temporarily housed and cared for. Some animal shelters attempt to find homes for homeless animals and assist in finding the owners of lost pets. In some locations, animal shelters have become involved in providing pet safekeeping programs for people leaving family violence situations.

Appeal

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The act of asking a higher court to review and change a decision from a lower court.

You cannot appeal a decision simply because you do not like it. You must have a valid legal reason to appeal a decision. These reasons are called “grounds to appeal.” To appeal a decision, the person must show that the judge:

  • made a legal error in deciding the case; or
  • made a significant error about the facts of the case.

In rare cases, the parties have an automatic right to appeal.

See also: "Court of appeal"

Applicant

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The person who starts a court application to ask the Court to do something. The applicant is one of the “parties” in a court application. 

See also: "Respondent"

Application

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A court process where:

  • One party (the “Applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives evidence about why they should get it.
  • The other party (the “Respondent”) can give evidence about why the Applicant should not get what they are requesting.
  • The Respondent may even ask for something different. The Applicant could then respond to that request.

Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, but they are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several Applications. Court hearings (when the parties appear before a judge) may be part of the Application process. However, not all Applications result in court hearings. Instead, the parties may come to an agreement before a hearing.

Applications are called “interim applications” when the remedy being asked for is something that is only temporary, and the parties plan to decide the issue more permanently later.

See also: "Order"

Apprehension

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The process of removing a child from the care and control of a guardian, and putting the child into the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS then has temporary guardianship of the child.

Apprehension Order

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A court order that gives Child Protective Services (CPS) the authority to take the child from the custody of their parent or guardian. To get an Apprehension Order, it must be shown that the child is in need of protection. CPS can apply for an Apprehension Order with or without notice to the parents/guardians.

Apprehension Orders can happen under several Alberta laws, including the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Arbitration

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A process in which you use an independent and trained third party (an “arbitrator”) to make a decision for you. The arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. This means that the decision must be followed and only a court can change it.

Artificial insemination

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The process of placing semen inside a woman’s body, in a way other than by having sex. The semen may be put in the vagina, the cervix, the uterus, or the fallopian tube.

Asset

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Property owned by a person. For example: a bank account, a car, or a television.

See also: "Debt"

Assisted reproduction

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Procedures used to help people make a baby (also called “conceive” a baby). Often this is done in ways other than having sex. Some examples of assisted reproduction are:

  • fertility medication;
  • artificial insemination;
  • in vitro fertilization; and
  • surrogacy.

Attorney

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A person who is given the legal power to make financial decisions for another person through a Power of Attorney. For example: if you sign a Power of Attorney that gives your sister the power to make your financial decisions for you, your sister is called the “Attorney.”

Be Aware

This term can also be used to refer to a lawyer (especially in the United States). However, an “Attorney” that is given decision-making power under a Power of Attorney is not the same thing as a lawyer.

B

Bankruptcy

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A legal process that can be started when a person cannot pay back their debts. This is called being “insolvent.” The purpose of bankruptcy is to:

  1. allow the creditors (such as lenders) to get back as much of what they’re owed as possible; and
  2. give the debtor (the borrower) a fresh financial start.

Either the debtor or a creditor can start the bankruptcy process.

Once a person enters bankruptcy, a “trustee” is appointed to manage the person’s financial business. The trustee will use the person’s assets to pay back as much of the debt as possible.

By the end of the bankruptcy process, the bankrupt person is given a fresh start and most debts that they owe are gone.

Be Aware

Bankruptcy does not clear up all types of debt. For example: child support and student loans will still be owing after a bankruptcy.

Beneficiary

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A person who gets money or property (a “benefit”) because they are named as the recipient of that benefit in a legal document. The benefit can come from different things, such as:

  • a life insurance policy;
  • someone’s Will; or
  • a trust. (A trust occurs where another person legally owns and takes care of the property for the benefit of the beneficiary.)

See also: "Trustee"

Bequest

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A gift of property that is left to a beneficiary in a Will.

Best interests of the child

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The factors that parents, guardians, and/or the Court must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child; 
  • the child's need for stability, taking into consideration the child's age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care; 
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • the child’s opinion (if the child is mature enough to form an opinion).

Bill

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A written proposal for a new law, or for changes to an existing law. Bills are introduced by a representative in a governing body and must be debated before they can become law.

  • In the case of federal laws, a bill needs to be passed by both houses (the House of Commons and the Senate) before it becomes law.
  • In the case of provincial laws, it needs to be passed by the Legislative Assembly.
  • In the case of municipal laws, the proposed bylaw needs to be passed by the local council.

Binding (to bind)

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Creating an obligation or duty that cannot be broken or changed. For example: if people make a “binding” agreement, it means that the parties must follow the terms of the agreement.

Be Aware

Only those who have signed the binding agreement must follow it. The agreement does not bind anyone else.

Biological parent

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A term commonly used to describe the woman who gave the egg, and the man who gave the sperm, to make a child.

However, the question of “who is a biological parent” has become much more complicated in the modern age. It is now possible for eggs and sperm to come from donors, and for eggs that have been fertilized outside of the body to be implanted. Also, couples may use a surrogate mother (a woman who gives birth to a child for someone else). As a result, the words “biological parent” and “birth parent” are often defined within specific laws.

Birth parent

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A term commonly used to describe a biological mother or father.

However, under other laws that apply in Alberta, such as those dealing with assisted reproduction, “birth mother” refers to a woman who gives birth to a child, even if she has no genetic connection to the child. In other words, even if she is not the biological mother. This can happen if the woman is a surrogate (a woman who gives birth to a child for someone else).

Blended family

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When people start relationships with new partners, they might form what is called a “blended family.” A blended family can have children from previous relationships and from the current relationship. Blended families can have complicated financial issues, such as child and partner support responsibilities.

See also: "In loco parentis"

Borrower

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A person who gets money from someone else (a “lender”), intending to pay it back. A borrower may also be called a “debtor.”

Breach

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The act of not following a court order (whether on purpose or by accident). Depending on the order, there are different consequences for breaching a court order.

Bylaws

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Laws specific to a “municipality”—a city, town, village, or county.

C

Canadian citizen

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A person who has the right to live and work anywhere in Canada permanently, without limits. Citizens can vote, hold office, and enter and exit Canada at any time.

Capacity

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The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions.

In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Legally, mental capacity is a clear concept: at any given moment, you either have capacity, or you do not. However, capacity can change from moment to moment. For example:

  • a person who is drunk or high may not have capacity, even if he or she otherwise would; and
  • a person can flip back and forth between having capacity and not having capacity, due to things such as the effect of medications (or forgetting to take them), or changing blood sugar levels.

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor's opinion or a judge's decision).

Capacity Assessment Process (CAP)

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A formal method of determining whether or not a person has lost capacity, as required by Alberta’s Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act. The CAP must be completed by a doctor, psychologist, or other health care professional specifically trained to be a “Capacity Assessor.”

The Capacity Assessment Process:

  • sets very specific and consistent testing standards;
  • focuses on the kinds of decisions that the adult needs to make; and
  • evaluates the level of assistance required.

This process must be used when applying for or reviewing any of the following:

  • Co-Decision-Making Orders;
  • Guardianship Orders; and
  • Trusteeship Orders.

Case law

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The law that is created based on the decisions in previous court cases. This means that cases decided in the past may determine how cases are decided now.

Sometimes, case law may be the only “law” that exists about a certain topic. This occurs when no statutes, regulations, or written laws have been passed by a government on that topic. Then the decisions made in similar cases may be all that judges have to consider when hearing a case about that particular issue. This is also called “common law.”

On the other hand, there may be a law about a particular topic, but the judges hearing individual cases can decide:

  • the exact meaning of the words in the laws (this is called “interpretation”), and
  • how that meaning applies to the people in individual cases (this is called “application”).

See also: "Precedent"

Cause of action

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A set of facts that allows you to ask a court for a decision (a court order or judgment) that will help solve the problem. The decision being asked for is called a “remedy.”

Certificate of Death

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The official government document that confirms the death of a person. This document has details about the identity of the deceased and the date and place of death. It does not have information about the medical cause of death: that information is included in the Medical Certificate of Death.

Certified copy

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A copy of an original document, which has a certificate from an “authorized party” that confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document.

An authorized party is generally someone named by the organization that is asking for the certified copy. For example: if you need to prove your divorce in order to remarry in Alberta, the Alberta government will let you know who must certify the copy. Often, it can be a lawyer or a Notary Public.

Chambers

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A type of court hearing held in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This type of hearing usually only looks at sworn written evidence to reach a decision. There are different kinds of chambers, including Masters’ Chambers, Civil Chambers, and Family Chambers.

Chambers hearings are usually held in a courtroom that is open to the public. Or, more rarely, they may be held in “private chambers.” Private chambers hearings happen in the Justice’s or Master’s office. As a result, the word “chambers” may also refer to a judge’s office. If the hearing is in a courtroom, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. The judge may or may not deal with the cases in the order that they appear on the list.

See also: "Docket court"

Child abuse

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 Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

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A branch of the Alberta government that investigates reports that a parent or guardian is not able or willing to ensure the well-being of their children. CPS will look for signs of child abuse or neglect. If necessary, CPS will get involved with the family through “intervention” measures.

See also: "Child welfare," "Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act," and "Director."

Child support

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Money paid by a parent or someone who “stood in the place of a parent” to help pay for the living expenses of a child after a separation or divorce. Child support is sometimes called “child maintenance.”

See also: "Federal Child Support Guidelines" and "Alberta Child Support Guidelines"

Child welfare

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A term that refers to the government’s responsibility to help children who are being harmed, or at risk of being harmed. This can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.

See also: "Child abuse" and "Child Protective Services"

Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA)

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The main Alberta law that deals with the protection of children (called “child welfare”). This law sets out what happens when the government gets involved in the care of the child (“intervention”).

Civil law

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The law that deals with disputes between individuals, such as family law and personal injury law.

See also: "Criminal law"

Civil proceeding

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A court process that deals with matters in civil law. It does not deal with matters under criminal law, but it may deal with matters that are quasi-criminal.

See also: "Criminal proceeding" and "Quasi-criminal proceeding"

Claimant

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A person who brings a “claim” against another person. A claim is a particular kind of court application. The claimant is one of the “parties” in the court application.

In situations of family violence, the claimant is the person who says that family violence has occurred and asks for some sort of protective order. This person does not have to be the victim of the family violence—he or she may be acting on behalf of the victim.

Clause

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The term “clause” usually means a sentence or phrase in a written agreement or court order that has some particular meaning or function.

For example, a “severability clause” in an agreement is a sentence that says everything in the agreement is separate from one another. This means that if a part of the agreement is not enforceable under the law, it will not affect the rest of the agreement. So every time someone uses the term “severability clause,” it means a sentence that has this particular function (although the wording of the clause may be different in each agreement or order).

Client or "elder in care" (under the Protection for Persons in Care Act)

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A person who is receiving publicly funded services that support their physical or mental health. These services include:

  • nursing homes,
  • approved hospitals,
  • lodge accommodation,
  • mental health facilities,
  • certain shelters or hostels, and
  • day programs.

Co-decision-making

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A process that allows an adult to ask the Court to name one or more other people to help make personal decisions. Co-decision-making is intended for people who need more significant help when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity.

Co-signing

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Putting your name on an official document, such as a loan or contract, together with someone else. When a person co-signs for a loan, they are just as responsible for the loan as the person who borrowed the money. For example: a parent might co-sign a loan with their child. If the child misses a payment, the bank can make the parent pay back the whole loan immediately.

A person who co-signs a loan is called a “co-signer.”

Be Aware

“Co-signing” a loan and “guaranteeing” a loan are very similar concepts. Both involve becoming legally responsible for someone else’s loan if that other person is not able to pay. The difference is when you can become responsible. If you guarantee a loan, the lender must try to get payment from the borrower before going after you for payment. If you co-sign for a loan, you have agreed to be as responsible for the loan as the borrower. This means that the lender can come after you for repayment at the same time as they go after the borrower. They may even come after you before going after the borrower, but that is not common.

Codicil

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A document that makes a change to your existing Will. A codicil is a separate document that is attached to the original Will. Just like a Will, a codicil can be typewritten (printed) or completely written in the Testator’s handwriting.

Cohabitation

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Living together in the same home.

Cohabitation agreement

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A contract created by 2 or more people who:

  • live together, or are about to live together; and
  • are not married, and do not plan to get married in the near future.

In this agreement, the parties can address many issues, such as:

  • how bills will be divided between the parties,
  • whether one party will pay partner support to the other if they were to separate; and
  • how property will be divided between the parties if they were to separate.

See also: "Pre-nuptial agreement"

Collaborative family law

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An alternative dispute resolution process where each member of the separating couple hires a lawyer, and the couple and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

Collateral

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Property that a borrower promises to give a lender if he or she is not able to pay back a loan.

For example: You want to take out a $100,000 loan from the bank. You use your house as collateral to get the loan. This means that the bank has the right to take (also called “seize”) your house if you aren’t able to pay back the loan.

Collection agency

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A company that collects debts for a lender. Lenders only hire collection agencies after the borrower has missed one or more payments.

Common law

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A body of law that is created by court decisions. Common law develops when no written law (or "statute") about a certain topic has been passed by the government. To help decide an issue related to that topic, judges can consider decisions from previous cases that are similar. In this way, a set of rules is created by these court decisions over time. This is known as the “common law.” For example: much of the law about contracts is common law.

See also: "Case law"

Common-law partner

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In Alberta, the term “common-law” only applies to certain couples and only for certain federal laws (such as the Income Tax Act). Under most federal laws, the term “common-law” refers to a couple who has lived together in a romantic relationship:

  • for at least one year; or
  • for less than one year but they have a child together.

Under Alberta’s provincial laws, there is no such thing as “common-law” partners and “common-law” relationships. In Alberta, similar rights and responsibilities come from being in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship.”

Be Aware

Under the federal Indian Act and the federal Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, the term “common-law” is used only for a couple who has been living together in a romantic relationship for at least one year, whether or not they have had a child together.

Conception (conceiving)

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The process of an embryo attaching to the uterus. Conception is commonly called “becoming pregnant.”

Be Aware

Some resources use this term to mean the process of a sperm joining with an egg (also called “fertilization”). However, under Canadian law, “conception” occurs when an embryo attaches to the uterus.

Conditional permanent resident

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Under an immigration policy from October 25, 2012 to April 17, 2017, some permanent residents had to live with their sponsor for 2 years after being granted permanent residence to keep that legal status. During this 2-year time, they were called a “conditional” permanent resident. This rule only applied to sponsored spouses who:

  • had been in a relationship with their sponsor for less than 2 years; and
  • had no children in common with their sponsor.

As of April 18, 2017, this rule no longer applies to sponsored immigrants to Canada.

  • No new permanent residents have to continue living with their sponsor to keep their status.
  • Anyone who had been considered a “conditional permanent resident” is no longer subject to the conditions.
  • If you were being investigated for not following this rule after separating from your sponsor, the investigation will stop.

Conflict of interest

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When a person cannot perform his or her duties properly because of his or her involvement with another person or organization. Lawyers may have a conflict of interest if they cannot act in the best interests of their clients because of their relationships with other people or organizations. For example, a lawyer acting for both spouses in a divorce can be seen to be a conflict of interest.

Conflict of laws provisions

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Statements included in laws that say when laws, court decisions, or legal documents from foreign jurisdictions can be used or applied. For example: an Ontario law about Powers of Attorney may say when Powers of Attorney from outside of Ontario will be recognized in Ontario.

See also: "Jurisdiction" and "Foreign (used to describe laws, jurisdictions, and courts)"

Conjugal

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A word used to describe a relationship—a “conjugal relationship” means the people involved have sex. This is also called a “romantic relationship.” This is different from a “platonic relationship,” which is a relationship of any kind that does not include having sex.

Conjugal partner

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This is a term used often by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to refer to a person with whom you have been in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. For the purposes of sponsorship, you don’t always have to have been living together during that year (that is, you do not have to meet the definition of “common-law partners”). You can sponsor your conjugal partner if there has been a significant degree of attachment between you. In other words, the relationship cannot be just sexual. You must have been in a genuine relationship for at least 12 months. But in that relationship, marriage or cohabitation has not been possible due to some kind of significant barrier. For example: sexual orientation or religious faith.

Consent

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To give permission for something to happen, or to agree to do something. Only people with capacity can consent.

Consent order

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An agreement between the parties that is turned into a court order. The parties present their agreement to the judge, and the judge will sign it if it meets the legal requirements for that type of action. It is then binding on the parties, just like any other court order.

Contact

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If a person who is not a guardian of a child wishes to spend time with the child, that is called "contact." A contact agreement or contact order only gives that person the right to spend time with the child—not to make any decisions about the child. Only guardians can make decisions about a child.

See also: "Guardianship (of a child)"

Contact Preference form

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A form that can be filed with Alberta’s Post-Adoption Registry to indicate whether or not you are willing to be contacted if someone requests your identifying information from the adoption record. This can be used if the adoption took place after January 1, 2005.

See also: "Disclosure Veto form"

Contempt of court

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Any action that involves:

  • purposely not following a court order,
  • behaving badly in court in a way that disrupts the court’s proceedings, or
  • behaving badly in court by disrespecting the judge or others in the courtroom.

If this happens, a judge may give an order that “finds” or “holds” a person “in contempt of court.” If someone is found in contempt of court, he or she may be fined, imprisoned, or both.

Contested divorce

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A divorce is “contested” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues), and the other spouse disagrees with what the first spouse has asked for. As a result, the spouses will need to resolve their disagreements, and this may require involving the court.

See also: "Uncontested divorce"

Contract

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A formal agreement by two or more people (or groups) to do something, or to not do something. The agreement can be enforced by law if it meets the legal requirements of a contract. 

See also: "Domestic contract" and "To 'set aside' an agreement"

Contract out of

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Agreeing in a contract to not be included in something.

For example: the law often sets “standard” rights and responsibilities. The terms of a contract can sometimes change some of these rights and responsibilities. In other words, you can contract out of those rights and responsibilities.

Be Aware

There are limits to the legal rights and responsibilities you can contract out of.

Corollary relief

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The legal issues associated with the divorce, which are covered by the Divorce Act. “Corollary relief” includes: custody, access, child support, and spousal support.

The division of property is not covered by the Divorce Act, and therefore not part of “corollary relief.” In Alberta, the division of property is covered by the Alberta Matrimonial Property Act.

Court agent

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A person who speaks on your behalf in court. This person may be:

  • a friend;
  • a family member;
  • someone from a legal agency; or
  • a person you hire.

Court agents are not lawyers, so they cannot give you legal advice.

In general, you are only allowed to have an agent represent you in Provincial Court. In most cases, agents are not allowed in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Court of appeal

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A court of law where parties can challenge a decision made in trial court. Challenging a decision is called making an “appeal.”

Courts of appeal are higher level courts than trial courts. They are also different than trial courts because cases do not start in courts of appeal.

Court order

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A written document that describes a judge’s decision about a case. Everyone who is mentioned in the order must follow what it says.

Credit report

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A report that has information about your history with loans. This report is used when you are applying for a loan from a lender. Lenders always want to know what loans you have taken out in the past and how good you were at paying them back. For example: if you took out a loan to pay for a car, but you were late on most of your payments, a lender might not want to loan you money. If you were on time with your car payments, they might be more willing to lend you money. This information will also affect the interest rates you may get.

In Canada, there are only 2 companies that provide official credit reports. They are Equifax and Transunion.

See also: "Credit score"

Credit score

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A number that is used to help lenders figure out how much money they can lend to you, if any. This number is used to predict how likely you would be to repay a debt. A low number means you would have more trouble paying the debt. As a result, if you have a low credit score, you will have more trouble finding a lender to give you a loan.

See also: "Credit report"

Creditor

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A person or company that is owed money by someone. This money could be owed to:

  • pay back a loan; or
  • pay for goods or services that have already been received.

Criminal Code of Canada

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A federal law that lists and describes most crimes and criminal procedures in Canada. Some other crimes are listed in other federal laws (such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), but most crimes are included in the Criminal Code.

See also: "Criminal law"

Criminal law

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The system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets.

See also: "Civil law"

Criminal proceeding

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A court process that deals with matters listed as “crimes” in the Criminal Code of Canada. For example: assault or fraud are both crimes listed in the Criminal Code, so anyone charged with assault or fraud would be involved in “criminal proceedings.”

See also: "Civil proceeding" and "Quasi-criminal proceeding"

Crown prosecutor (also called "Crown counsel" or "the Crown")

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In Canadian criminal law, this term is used to describe lawyers who represent the government in the legal action against a person who is accused of a crime.

You may have heard the term “district attorney” used to describe such lawyers—this is an American term and does not apply in Canada.

Custody

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The word “custody” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually parents) have about a child. It refers to the ability to make major decisions about the child.

See also: "Joint custody," "Sole custody," "Split custody," and "Guardianship (of a child)"

Custody Agreement with a guardian

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A formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). In this agreement:

  • the parents/guardians continue to have guardianship and custody of the child;
  • however, the parents/guardians agree to have the child placed in government custody; and
  • the child is removed from the home and is placed with someone else. This can be with a family member or friend (kinship care), in foster care, or in group care.

Because the parents/guardians have agreed, there is no need to go to court and there is no court order.

In many cases, the parents/guardians can still spend time with the child. This is sometimes called “access” or “contact.”

See also: "Custody Agreement with a youth"

Custody Agreement with a youth

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A formal written agreement between Child Protective Services (CPS) and a youth in need of protection who is at least 16 years old. This kind of agreement is used if the survival, security, and development of the youth can be protected enough through the agreement (instead of by some other intervention).

In this agreement:

  • the parents/guardians continue to have guardianship and custody of the child;
  • however, the youth lives independently from their guardian; and
  • the youth is eligible for all services available to any youth in care.

See also: "Custody Agreement with a guardian"

D

Debt

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Money that is owed to another person, bank, or company. For example:

  • a loan;
  • the amount owed on your credit cards; or
  • something you are still making payments on (such as the living room furniture that you have another 18 months to pay off).

The state of owing money is called being “in debt.”

See also: "Property"

Debtor

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A person or company that owes money to someone else. This money could be owed for:

  • a loan; or
  • goods or services that have already been received.

Deceased

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"The deceased" refers to a person who has died.

Declaration of Parentage

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An official document from a court saying that someone is either:

  • a parent of a child; or
  • not a parent of a child.

See also: "Parentage"

Default on a loan

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Failure to pay back a loan. Defaulting on a loan means that a person has not followed the repayment schedule. For example, when someone misses a monthly payment, they have “defaulted” on that loan.

Defendant

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In a civil action, the person who the Plaintiff is suing. In a divorce, it is the spouse of the person who files a "Statement of Claim for Divorce" or a "Statement of Claim for Divorce for Division of Matrimonial Property."

Deponent

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The person who completes an affidavit.

Deportation (also called “removal”)

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The process of being forced to leave Canada. If you have been the subject of a “removal order,” you will probably need an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC) if you want to return. Whether you need an ARC depends on the type of removal order that was issued. 

Designation of Beneficiary form

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A special form where you state who will receive a particular asset if you die. Then, when you die, the asset goes directly to that person: it does not pass through your Will and does not form part of your estate. If you want the asset to pass through your Will, you can name your “estate” as the beneficiary.

Only some kinds of assets are legally allowed to have Designation of Beneficiary forms. Examples include: pension plans, life insurance, RRSPs, RRIFs, and TFSAs.

Desk divorce

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To get a “desk divorce,” the spouses do not have to appear in front of a judge; instead, the paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk. This can occur in an uncontested divorce or a joint divorce.

Digital asset

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A person’s electronic or virtual property such as:

  • emails,
  • digital photos,
  • videos,
  • tweets,
  • texts,
  • music,
  • e-books, and
  • online account information for websites or programs such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, bank accounts, store accounts, PayPal, and any others.

Digital assets can have a financial value. For example, an online tool or website may make money or cost the owner something. Or, digital assets may only have sentimental value. For example, the photos of a family member.

Someone’s combined digital assets are sometimes also called their “digital estate.”

Director

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A person responsible for investigating reports made to Child Protective Services (CPS) about the safety and security of a child. The Director also decides whether a child is in need of intervention and, if necessary, applies to the Court for intervention.

The term “Director” describes a role, not a single person. It refers to a number of people who work with Child Protective Services. Under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA), the Minister of Children’s Services names several directors. These directors appoint child protection social workers to deliver child protection services. The term “Director” can refer to any of these people.

At different times, the terms “Child Protective Services” or “the Director” may be used to name those acting under the CYFEA. On legal documents, you will most often see the term “the Director.”

Disclosure

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See "Financial disclosure"

Disclosure Veto form

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A form that can be filed with Alberta’s Post-Adoption Registry to prevent your identifying information from being released from the adoption record. This can only be used if the adoption took place before January 1, 2005.

See also: "Contact Preference form"

Divorce

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When a court officially ends a marriage. Only legally married couples can divorce.

Divorce proceedings

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A court action where either or both spouses ask for a divorce. This divorce could be asked for on its own, or together with related requests that the court also deals with (such as custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support).

Docket court

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A type of court hearing held in the Provincial Court. This type of hearing may consider oral evidence, but usually looks at sworn written evidence to reach a decision.

Docket court hearings are held in a courtroom that is open to the public. In this court, Judges will hear many cases on the same day. When you go to docket court, there will be a list of all the matters that will be heard in court that day. This list is called a “docket.” The Judge may or may not deal with the cases in the order that they appear on the list.

See also: "Chambers"

Domestic animals

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Animals kept by people, and dependent on those people for their basic needs. This includes both farm animals (livestock) and companion animals (pets).

Domestic contract

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A legal agreement between 2 or more people who are either:

  • living together (whether married or not); 
  • will soon be living together (whether married or not); or 
  • were living together (whether married or not) and are now ending their relationship. 

A domestic contract allows the parties (romantic or non-romantic) to create their own terms for their relationship. This may include rights and responsibilities they have toward one another during the relationship, as well as after the relationship ends. Or, if they are ending the relationship, it allows them to decide for themselves how to resolve the issues between them. Some examples of domestic contracts are: cohabitation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, marriage agreements, and separation agreements.

Donated embryo

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An embryo that someone else created and gave to another person or couple. The donor may have used his or her own reproductive materials to create the donated embryo. Or, the donor may have used donated reproductive materials to create that embryo.

Be Aware

An embryo that you make and use yourself with donated reproductive materials is not a donated embryo. This is an embryo that you created and it is your embryo.

Donation agreement

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A written contract signed by both:

  • the person or people who donate eggs, sperm, or embryos; and
  • the person or people who receive the donated eggs, sperm, or embryos (called the “recipients”).

This agreement describes the rights and responsibilities of both the recipients and the donors.

Donor (assisted reproduction)

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A person or couple who give their sperm, egg, or embryo to another person or couple to use to have a baby. The donor may be known or unknown to the person or couple receiving the egg, sperm, or embryo. A donor may donate to a clinic or to the person or couple directly.

Be Aware

A person who helps someone else have a baby by having sex is not a “donor” under Canadian law. For either person involved to be considered a donor, the woman must have become pregnant by being artificially inseminated or by having an embryo placed in her uterus. If a person is not a donor under the law, that person will be a legal parent to the child.

Donor (Power of Attorney)

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A person who signs a Power of Attorney. For example: if you sign a Power of Attorney that gives your sister the power to make your financial decisions for you, you are called the “Donor.”

Duration (of support)

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The length of time the partner support or spousal support is to be paid—the “how long” part of the calculation. The duration (“how long”) and the quantum (“how much”) are closely linked: a larger monthly quantum may mean a shorter duration.

Duress

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When one person directly or indirectly threatens another person in order to make that person act in a certain way. If a judge finds that a party was under duress when a domestic contract was made, the contract can be set aside.

See also: "To 'set aside' an agreement"

Duty of confidentiality

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The ethical duty of every lawyer to keep all of the information he or she learns while working for a client "confidential." This means the lawyer cannot share the information with anyone else, unless he or she has permission from the client. This is true regardless of the source of the information.

For example, a lawyer is helping a client who owns a restaurant with his divorce, and the lawyer somehow learns about the client’s secret recipe. The lawyer must not share the recipe with anyone else, regardless of whether the lawyer learned it from the client, a business valuator, or through his or her own research.

See also: "Solicitor-client privilege"

Duty to accommodate

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The responsibility of employers and service providers to make changes to rules or physical environments as needed to prevent discrimination. This is an important part of human rights law. It recognizes that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to be fair. For example, changing an office space to make room for a wheelchair, or changing a woman’s work schedule to allow breaks for breastfeeding.

E

Early Intervention Services

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A program of Child Protective Services that supports safe and healthy children and families. Early Intervention Services looks at the family’s situation to identify the most effective ways of helping the family through their challenges. This may mean providing some short-term services to a child and family, or referring them to get help from a community program.

With Early Intervention Services, Child Protective Services does not have custody of your child.

Elder

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An older person.

See also: "Aboriginal Elder"

Elder abuse

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An action or lack of action which causes harm to the safety, health, or well-being of an older adult.

Embryo

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A term used to describe an organism in its early stages of growth. An embryo is created after a sperm joins with an egg. The law usually uses the term “embryos” when discussing organisms in the early stages of growth. But there are many early stages of growth. You may see other resources refer to a “zygote” or a “blastocyst.”

See also: "Fetus"

Embryo disposition agreement

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A written contract signed by:

  • people who plan to create an embryo together;
  • people who receive donated embryos together (the “recipients”);
  • the people or person who plan to create an embryo and a clinic; or
  • the recipients and a clinic.

This agreement usually includes decisions about what will happen to the embryos if:

  • the intended parents disagree about how to use the embryos;
  • one of the intended parents dies;
  • the intended parents end their relationship; and
  • there are any extra or unused embryos.

Embryo donation

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The act of a person or couple giving their embryo to another person or couple to have a baby. To do this, the embryo must be created outside of the woman’s body.

Embryo donation usually occurs after a person or a couple create an embryo for themselves. If they do not use all of the embryos themselves, they may donate the remaining embryos so that another person or couple can use them to try to have a baby. The person or couple who receive the embryo will use it for in vitro fertilization.

It is rare for people to donate their embryos. There is usually a long wait list to receive a donated embryo.

See also: "Donor (assisted reproduction)"

Embryo transfer

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The process of placing an embryo inside a woman’s uterus. An embryo transfer occurs after you have done in vitro fertilization, or when the embryo has been donated by someone else.

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

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A civil court order, given under the Alberta Protection Against Family Violence Act, that gives a victim of family violence immediate protection for up to 9 working days. An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) can order the abuser to:

  • leave the family home;
  • not communicate in any way with the victim or the victim’s family; and
  • stay away from other specific places (such as the victim’s workplace).

An EPO can also give the police the authority to take any weapons used by the abuser to threaten or commit family violence. After 9 working days, there will be a review hearing to determine next steps.

See also: "Queen's Bench Protection Order"

Emotional abuse

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Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt you. Emotional/verbal abuse is intended to scare you, make you feel bad about yourself, and/or control you. Different types of emotional abuse include: stalking, digital abuse, spiritual or religious abuse, and emotional neglect.

Enforcement

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Forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order.

Estate

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The property that you own at the time of your death and that will be passed to others through your Will. This process is called “passing through” your Will, or being “distributed through” your Will.

There are several kinds of property that are not included in your estate:

  • property that you held in “joint tenancy” with one or more other people;
  • insurance policies where you have named a beneficiary; and
  • retirement savings plans (such as pension plans, RRSPs, TFSAs, and RRIFs) that have a named beneficiary.

Evidence

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Information that is given in court to help prove or disprove a case.

Evidence may be given through:

  • written statements (called “affidavits”);
  • spoken statements (called “oral evidence” or “viva voce evidence”); or
  • documents or other objects.

A person who gives written or spoken evidence must “swear” or “affirm” that what he or she is saying is true.

Ex parte

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A Latin legal term used to describe situations where someone applies for something in court that involves another party, but does not tell the other party about the application in advance. This is usually only done in specific circumstances, such as when the person applying fears for his or her safety. Sometimes, this is also called “without notice.”

Exclusive occupation

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The term used under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (FHRMIRA) to describe the right of one spouse or common-law partner to have sole possession of the home the couple once shared (which means that the other spouse or partner cannot continue living there). This can also include household goods. This is similar to “exclusive possession.” However, the term “exclusive occupation” is specifically used in FHRMIRA to distinguish the particular issues that may arise with property on-reserve.

Under FHRMIRA, exclusive occupation can be asked for as part of an Emergency Protection Order (for more urgent situations), or an Exclusive Occupation Order (for less urgent situations).

Exclusive Occupation Order

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Under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (FHRMIRA), an Exclusive Occupation Order will allow the applicant to stay in the on-reserve home by himself or herself, and the other partner will have to leave the home.

The applicant does not have to:

  • be Aboriginal;
  • have registered Indian Status with the Government of Canada; or
  • have status for that particular reserve.

As long as one of the partners is a member of the First Nation, or has Indian Status, the FHRMIRA EOO can apply.

Similarly, the applicant does not have to be listed on the Certificate of Title, Certificate of Possession, or other similar “ownership” document issued by the First Nation.

Exclusive possession

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The right of one spouse or partner to have sole possession of the home the couple once shared. This means that the other spouse or partner cannot continue living there. This can also include household goods.

Executor

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This is the old word for a person who was named in a Will to manage the estate of a person who has died. In Alberta, the correct legal term for this is now “Personal Representative.” However, you may still see the old word used in some legal materials. Also, the term “executor” is still used for a person who administers the estate of a deceased Status Indian.

F

Family Enhancement Agreement

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A formal written agreement between the parents/guardians and Child Protective Services (CPS). It is meant to encourage families to work directly with CPS workers and community programs to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services.

With a Family Enhancement Agreement, the child stays in the custody of the parents/guardians. However, the parents/guardians agree to take certain steps to help the family situation.

See also: "Youth Enhancement Agreement"

Family violence (also called “domestic violence” or "domestic abuse")

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Abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. It is a pattern of behaviours within a relationship of intimacy, dependency, and/or trust.

It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

Federal Child Support Guidelines (FCSG)

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The Federal Child Support Guidelines, along with the Federal Child Support Tables, are a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward his or her children after separation or divorce. The Federal Child Support Guidelines are part of the Divorce Act. As a result, they only apply to parents who were married and are solving their child support issues using the Divorce Act.

However, many provinces have adopted some parts of the Federal Guidelines into their own child support laws, including Alberta. Alberta has its own Alberta Child Support Guidelines (also called the “Alberta Guidelines” or “ACSG”), which are based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

The Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines are very similar but have some significant differences.

Federal law

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Laws that are made by the Government of Canada and that apply to all Canadians, no matter which province they live in. Examples include: the Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, and the Immigration Act.

See also: "Provincial law"

Fertility

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A person’s ability to make a baby. Fertility can refer to:

  • the ability of a man or a woman to make a baby; or
  • the ability of a particular woman and a particular man to make a baby together.

See also: "Infertility"

Fertility drugs (also called "fertility medication")

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Medical treatments that help women or men increase fertility by changing the level of hormones in the body. Fertility drugs can be injected or taken by mouth. These drugs may be taken:

  • to help people have a baby through sex, without any other assisted reproduction treatment; or
  • at the same time as other assisted reproduction methods.

See also: "Infertility"

Fetus

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A stage in the development of a baby. First, a sperm joins with an egg and develops into an “embryo.” After about 8-12 weeks of growth, an embryo turns into a fetus. This is the period of development that continues until birth.

Filing

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Providing documents and forms to a court that are necessary for a court to hear a dispute. When you “file” a document with the court, you will provide multiple copies. The court clerk will keep at least one copy and stamp the other copies to show that the document has been received by the court.

Financial abuse

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Financial abuse happens when someone tries to use or control your money. This type of abuse can include: 

  • controlling what you buy; 
  • using your bank accounts without your knowledge or consent (including credit cards, debit cards, or cheques); 
  • taking your money for themselves;
  • not letting you work, or limiting how many hours you work;
  • forcing you to sign legal documents that deal with money; or
  • abusing a Power of Attorney.

Financial decisions

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Decisions related to anything you can own (including money). This can include:

  • obtaining it;
  • getting rid of it;
  • handling it; or
  • keeping it safe.

See also: "Personal decisions"

Financial disclosure

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The process of giving your financial information to someone else. This information usually includes such things as:

  • tax returns
  • income information (such as pay stubs)
  • a list of property you own (including the current value)
  • statements about investments you have (including the current value)

Depending on the situation, it may include much more information.

When separating or divorcing, parties give each other this information so that fair solutions can be reached. If you are going to court about child support, spousal/partner support, or division of property, this information will be required by the court.

Foreign (used to describe laws, jurisdictions, and courts)

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Something that is from outside of a certain geographic area. For an Albertan, this generally means something that is from outside of Alberta. For example, a “foreign” law may be from another Canadian province or territory, or it may be from another country. For someone in Ontario, on the other hand, an Alberta law would be a “foreign” law.

See also: "Jurisdiction"

Foreign national

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 A person who is not a citizen of the country in which he or she is living or temporarily staying.

See also: "Canadian citizen" and "Permanent resident"

Formal Offer to Settle

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A court process under the Alberta Rules of Court that is meant to encourage the parties to settle the action without going to court. It must be in a very specific form, and served on the other party on a specific timeline. A party who rejects a Formal Offer to Settle and then loses in court later will have to pay some amount of costs to the other party.

Be Aware

This “Formal Offer to Settle” process is different from informal offers between the parties. On their own, the parties may come to an agreement and settle their issues themselves at any time. That can be done in various ways and does not require a court process.

Foster care

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When it is not safe for a child to stay in the care of a parent/guardian, Child Protective Services may place the child with temporary caregivers who are not known to the child. Sometimes a child is placed in a group home setting with other children. This is called “foster care.”

Foster families:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.

See also: "Kinship care"

G

Garnishment

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A legal process where a lender asks a court to take money from you to repay your loan. Usually, this doesn’t happen unless you have missed several payments. However, depending on the terms of your loan, it could happen after only one missed payment.

The Court can order that the money be taken:

  • from your wages; or
  • from your bank account.

This money would then be used to pay back your debt. There are limits to the amounts that can be taken. For example, the Court cannot order that your entire paycheque go to pay the debt, or that all of the money in your bank account be taken.

When the Court orders that money be taken in this way, the Court is “garnisheeing.”

Goals of Care Designation

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A specific medical form used to describe the general aim or focus of medical care. It gives instructions that guide your health care team. This form is often completed as part of Advance Care Planning. Also, it can be completed as you are admitted for treatment.

Grant of administration

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A court process that appoints someone to be the Personal Representative of a deceased person’s estate. This usually happens when the deceased person has died without leaving a Will.

This term is also used to describe a process under the Indian Act, where the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada appoints a person (such as a relative) to administer the estate of a deceased Status Indian.

See also: "Intestacy"

Grounds for divorce

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There are 3 “reasons” that a divorce can be granted in Canada:

  1. the spouses have lived "separate and apart" for at least one year;
  2. the defendant in the divorce has committed adultery since the date of the marriage; or
  3. the defendant has treated his or her spouse with physical or mental cruelty.

If none of these reasons apply to you, you cannot get a divorce.

Guarantee

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An agreement you sign that makes you responsible for repaying someone else’s loan. You will not be responsible unless that person has missed payments or is otherwise unable to pay back the loan.

If you agree to be responsible for another person’s debt in this way, you are called a “guarantor.”

Be Aware

Co-signing” a loan and “guaranteeing” a loan are very similar concepts. Both involve becoming legally responsible for someone else’s loan if that other person is not able to pay. The difference is when you can become responsible. If you guarantee a loan, the lender must try to get payment from the borrower before going after you for payment. If you co-sign for a loan, you have agreed to be as responsible for the loan as the borrower. This means that the lender can come after you for repayment at the same time as they go after the borrower. They may even come after you before going after the borrower, but that is not common.

Guardian (of a child)

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A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians.

Not all parents are guardians (although most are). And, a person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian. A person who is not a parent may be appointed as a guardian by the court.

See also: "Joint guardianship," "Sole guardianship," and "Custody"

Guardian (under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act)

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A person who is legally responsible for making decisions about the daily personal needs of an adult who is not able to do so themselves. This includes being responsible for medical decisions. This does not include the power to make financial decisions: those are made by the Trustee. The same person can be both the Guardian and the Trustee, but they can also be different people. A person only becomes a Guardian when a court gives an order naming that person as a Guardian.

A Guardian is similar to an Agent named in a Personal Directive, but they are different:

  • A Guardian is appointed by a court, as a result of a court application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.
  • An Agent is appointed by someone who signs a Personal Directive (a court is not involved).

See also: "Personal decisions"

H

Habitual residence (also called “ordinary residence”)

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The place where a person lives his or her daily life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

When deciding if a person is a “habitual” or “ordinary” resident, a court will consider different factors. These may include:

  • where a person was born;
  • where a person has spent, and continues to spend, most of his or her life; and
  • where a person has ties to family and the community.

Hearing

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A court proceeding, other than a trial, where the parties appear before a decision-maker (usually a judge). That person will then decide about something that the parties disagree about.

Hearings often take place in a courtroom, but can also happen in other places. They are generally shorter and less formal than trials. Usually, only written evidence is used (not oral evidence).

To have a hearing, usually one of the parties must make an “application.” However, making an application may or may not result in a hearing.

Holograph Will

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A Will that is completely written in the Testator’s handwriting.

Home study

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Part of the adoption process that helps to determine how suitable an adoptive family will be for the care of a child. The adoptive family members are interviewed, and the study looks at many details, such as:

  • health of the family members;
  • family dynamics (which includes things like family structure, communication, beliefs about discipline, and traditions);
  • home and community environment;
  • reasons for adopting; and
  • what supports the adoptive family may need to properly care for a child.

House of Commons

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A part (also called a “body” or “house”) of the Parliament of Canada. The people who make up the House of Commons are called Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs are elected by Canadians in federal elections. MPs are responsible for:

  • passing new laws; and
  • making changes to existing laws.

This is done through debates, committee work, and speaking with the public. Any new laws or changes to existing laws must be approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate before taking effect.

I

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

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The department of the Government of Canada that:

  • governs the arrival of immigrants (including granting permanent residence and citizenship);
  • provides protection to refugees;
  • issues travel documents (such as work permits, study permits, and visas); and
  • offers programs to help newcomers settle in Canada.

Until 2016, this department was called Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Because the change in name is still quite new, some resources and even the IRCC website may still show the old name.

In good faith

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With good and honest intent. If something is done in good ​faith, it is done ​sincerely and ​honestly. If you act in good faith, you believe that what you are doing is right and legal, and you have no reason to question your motives.

In loco parentis / "in the place of a parent”

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In loco parentis is a Latin term meaning “in the place of a parent.” This phrase describes a situation where someone who was not the parent of a child nevertheless acted as a parent to that child. As a result, this person may wish to (or be required to) take on legal rights and responsibilities as if he or she were a parent. In both the federal Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act, this concept is called “in the place of a parent.” However, you may still hear it called in loco parentis, as that is a term commonly used by the courts.

See also: "Blended family"

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

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The process of creating an embryo outside of a woman’s body. This means that a sperm has fertilized an egg outside of the body to create an embryo. This is done in a lab or a clinic. IVF may be done using your own eggs and sperm. Or, IVF may be done using donated eggs and sperm.

Independent legal advice

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Guidance from a lawyer about a contract a person wants to sign before they sign the contract. The lawyer makes sure that the person understands the law and legal consequences of the contract, including the person’s rights and responsibilities. In order for the advice to be “independent,” both you and the other party must have your own lawyer. You cannot both go to the same law firm. 

See also: "Legal advice"

Indian

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A person who has “Indian status” under Canada’s Indian Act. This term was originally used by Europeans to identify indigenous people of South America, Central America, and North America. Although it is no longer commonly used to refer to Aboriginal people, it is still the “legal” term required by the Indian Act.

Indian Act

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The main law through which the federal government administers Aboriginal issues, including:

  • Indian” Status;
  • Status Indians’ Wills and estates;
  • First Nations’ governments;
  • band administration; and
  • the management of reserve lands and communal funds.

Indian band (also called “First Nation”)

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A group of Aboriginal people who:

  • have been declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act (the Act defines certain Aboriginal people as “Indians”);
  • live on reserve lands that have been set apart for their collective use and benefit; and
  • have money held for them by the Government of Canada (also called “the Crown”).

Most bands hold reserve lands, but bands and band members do not legally own the land because the legal title belongs to the Crown and is “held in trust” for the band by the Crown.

A more modern term used for a band is “First Nation.” The terms “band” and “First Nation” are also used to describe the government of the group and its reserve. Many band governments also represent members who live off-reserve. Bands can also govern non-band members who live on the band reserve and/or work for the band.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)

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The federal government department that supports Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) in Canada. From 2011 to November 2015, this department was called “Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada” (AANDC). Because the change in name is still quite new, some resources and even the department’s own website may still show the old name. Before 2011, the department was called Indian Affairs and Northern Development (IAND).

Infertility

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A person’s inability to make a baby. Infertility can be:

  • when a man cannot provide sperm to make a baby;
  • when a woman cannot provide the egg to make a baby or when she cannot carry the baby for the entire pregnancy; or
  • when a particular woman and a particular man are unable to make a baby together. For example, a man may have poor sperm quality and a woman may be producing eggs irregularly. Although they may be able to make a baby under certain circumstances, their chances of making a baby together are lower.

See also: "Fertility drugs"

Informal trusteeship

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This is a less formal way of putting someone else in charge of handling some financial decisions. It is “less” formal because there is no requirement to keep track of and report the decisions that are made, and there is no need to involve the court system. Often it is less time-consuming and less expensive than other legal options (such as applying to the Court for Trusteeship). In general, informal trusteeships are offered at government departments and government-related agencies.

Although they are similar to Powers of Attorney, informal trusteeships do not work in exactly the same way. They do not use a “global” approach, where all types of financial decisions can be covered in one document. Instead, a separate informal trusteeship would need to be set up at every agency or government department that allows for these arrangements.

Information Requirement (assisted reproduction)

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The information needed before a person can consent to the use of his or her reproductive materials or embryos. This information makes sure that the person understands how his or her reproductive materials or embryos will be used.

Initial Custody (application and order)

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After a child has been apprehended, Child Protective Services may want to apply for a Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO) or Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO). In this case, they must also apply for an “Initial Custody” Order. Initial custody refers to who should have care and control of the child until the decision about the TGO or PGO is made.

Insolvent

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A person is “insolvent” if they:

  • don’t have enough money to make payments on their bills and debts as they become due; or
  • don’t have enough assets and property to pay off all of their debts.

See also: "Bankruptcy"

Intended parent

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A person who uses assisted reproduction to try to make a baby, with the understanding that he or she will act as a parent to the child.

Intended parents may arrange to:

  • use donated reproductive materials or a donated embryo to have a baby; or
  • have a surrogate carry a child.

Interjurisdictional

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This term describes how court orders that are granted in one province, territory, or country may apply in another province, territory, or country.

See also: "Jurisdiction"

Interjurisdictional support orders

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Support orders (child support and partner/spousal support) that allow the courts in one province or country to recognize and enforce the court orders (and sometimes out-of-court agreements) from another province or country. 

Alberta and several other provinces and countries (also called “jurisdictions”) have agreed to recognize the family support orders (and sometimes agreements) made in other places. In other words, a court order made in one jurisdiction applies and can be enforced in the other jurisdictions. When provinces and countries have such agreements with Alberta, they are called “reciprocating jurisdictions.”

Intervention

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Action taken by the government to protect a child at risk of harm. There are different kinds intervention. The kind of intervention used at a given time depends on:

  • the child’s situation; and
  • the law being used to allow intervention.

See also: "Child Protective Services"

Intestacy

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The state of having died without leaving a Will. When someone dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate.”

J

Joint custody

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When more than one person shares all of the decision-making powers about a child. For example, both a mother and father may each have the power to make any and all decisions about their child.

See also: "Sole custody" and "Split custody"

Joint divorce

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A divorce is considered a “joint divorce” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues) and the other spouse agrees with what the first spouse has asked for. As a result, there are no disagreements to be resolved through the court system.

See also: "Desk divorce" and "Uncontested divorce"

Joint guardianship

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When more than one parent or guardian have decision-making power about a child. For example, both a mother and father may share decision-making power (they may both share all powers, or they may each have different kinds of powers). Having more than one guardian is the most common situation in Alberta, as courts place a high value on both parents having a say about their children.

See also: "Sole guardianship" and "Joint custody"

Joint tenancy

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When 2 or more people own all of an asset together, that property is held in “joint tenancy.” Each person involved is called a “joint tenant.” For example: a joint bank account. Under joint tenancy, all of the joint tenants own all of the money in the bank account (not just their “share”). If one of the joint tenants dies, the entire account goes to the surviving joint tenant(s): the property is not part of the deceased’s estate.

See also: "Tenancy in common"

Judge

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A person appointed by the government to hear and decide cases in a court of law.

A judge may be called different things depending on which court you are in.

  • In the Provincial Court of Alberta, this person is still called a “Judge.”
  • In the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, this person is either a “Master” or a “Justice.”

Judgment

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The final decision of a judge in a legal action. Not every decision a judge makes is a “judgment.” A judge may also issue a “court order” in a legal action, which is different:

  • “Orders” are decisions made by judges in “applications.” These are usually smaller parts of a larger court action. Orders are not intended to be permanent solutions, but some parties may choose to follow orders and never get a final “judgment.”
  • “Judgments” are final decisions made by judges in the legal action itself. These are intended to be permanent.

However, a judgment can still be changed in certain situations. For example, a judgment that includes a decision about child support may have to be changed if the income of the payor changes. Also, it may be possible to appeal a judgment.

Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)

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A voluntary process where a judge meets with the parties and their lawyers (outside of court) to discuss any matters in dispute. The decision can be binding or non-binding.

Jurisdiction

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The right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things. This term describes either:

  • a particular government’s right, power, or authority to make laws; or
  • a particular court’s authority to deal with an issue.

See also: "Federal law," "Provincial law," and "Interjurisdictional"

Justice

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A judge in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Unlike a Master, a Justice is able to hear any type of legal issue.

Justice of the peace

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Citizens appointed by the Cabinet of the Alberta government to be “judicial officers” in the Provincial Court of Alberta. Justices of the peace can hear only certain kinds of matters (including granting Emergency Protection Orders), but they cannot hear and do all of the things that a judge of the Provincial Court can do.

K

Kinship care

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When it is not safe for a child to stay in the care of a parent/guardian, Child Protective Services may place the child with relatives or close family friends. This is called “kinship care.”

Kinship caregivers:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.

See also: "Foster care"

L

Landlord

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A person or company who owns or manages a rental property.

See also: "Tenant"

Lawyer

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A person who has received extensive professional training and is certified by at least one provincial “law society” to practice law. A law society is an organization that has power over all the lawyers in a province. The legal training lawyers receive in Canada allows them to “go to court” or do legal work outside of court, although most lawyers tend to do one kind of work more than the other. 

See also: "Limited scope retainer" and "Legal advice"

Legal advice

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Guidance that is provided by lawyers (or law students supervised by lawyers) after learning about an individual’s legal issues. The lawyer or law student uses their legal knowledge and expertise to come up with the “best options” for a particular client, based on what the client hopes to achieve.

Legal advice tells people:

  • how the law applies to their specific situations; and
  • what they should do about their legal problem. This includes what exactly to write on court forms and what to say in court.

Legal advice is different from legal information. Legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.” 

Legal age

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The age when a person is legally allowed to do something. This happens at different ages, depending on the activity. For example, you can be of legal age to drive without being the age of majority.

See also: "Age of consent," "Minor," and "Adult"

Legal fees and disbursements

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The typical items you will see on a lawyer’s bill. Legal fees are what lawyers charge for their legal services, while disbursements are costs the lawyers pay on behalf of their clients.

Disbursements may include things like:

  • the cost of ordering a necessary document for a case,
  • photocopying legal documents,
  • hiring a courier to deliver documents, and
  • hiring an investigator or medical expert.

See also: "Retainer"

Legal information

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General statements about the law that do not apply to any specific person’s situation. Legal information is available to the public on websites, in print, and in person. It helps people understand:

  • the law;
  • the nature of their legal issues; and
  • how to solve legal problems (both in court and out of court).

Legal information is different from legal advice. Legal information tells you “the options that are available,” while legal advice generally tells you “this is the best option for you.”

Legal status (also called “immigration status”)

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The formal term that describes the kind of legal permission you have to stay in Canada. For example: you may have a work, student, or visitor visa/permit. These mean that you are only allowed to stay in Canada for the purposes described (to work, to study, or to visit) and only for the length of time specified. If you want to live in Canada permanently, you may be able to apply for other kinds of statuses, including: refugee, permanent residence, and citizenship.

Legislation

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A term that includes both statutes and regulations.

Legislative Assembly of Alberta

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The governing body of Alberta. The Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are elected by the people of Alberta in provincial elections. MLAs are responsible for:

  • passing new laws; and
  • making changes to existing laws.

This is done through debates, committee work, and speaking with the public. Unlike in the Parliament of Canada, there is only one “house” in Alberta that needs to approve the laws before they come into effect.

Lender

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A person, financial institution, or company that gives money to someone, intending for them to pay it back. For example: banks or credit unions. A lender may also be called a “creditor.”

LGBTQ

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The initials of the words: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (or Questioning). LGBTQ is often used as a general term to refer to people with various sexual orientations and gender identities.

Limited scope retainer (also called “unbundled legal services”)

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In this type of arrangement, a lawyer is hired by a client to only perform certain agreed-upon legal duties, rather than providing full representation for the entire case. For example, your lawyer might draft a document for you, but instead of your lawyer filing that document at the courthouse for you, you will file it yourself. Or your lawyer might prepare legal arguments and do legal research for you, but you will represent yourself in court. 

This arrangement makes legal advice more accessible for people who cannot afford a lawyer for their whole case, or prefer not to hire a lawyer to act for them on all legal matters.

See also: "Retainer," "Retainer agreement," and "Self-represented litigant"

Lump sum payment

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A single, larger payment of money, rather than a series of smaller payments made over time (such as a monthly payment).

M

Maintenance and support

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Money that one person is required by law to pay for the care and support of another person. If someone dies and they have dependent family members, this money may be taken from their estate.

Maker

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A person who signs a Personal Directive. For example: if you sign a Personal Directive that gives your sister the power to make your personal decisions for you, you are called the “Maker.”

Marriage agreement

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A domestic contract created by 2 people who are already married. This agreement can include rights and responsibilities they have toward one another during the marriage, as well as after the marriage ends. The spouses can address many issues regarding their marriage, such as:

  • how bills will be divided;
  • whether one party will pay spousal support to the other if they were to separate; and
  • how property will be divided between the spouses if they were to separate.

See also: "Pre-nuptial agreement"

Master

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A type of judge in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Masters only have the power to make decisions for certain types of civil law matters, such as:

  • procedural matters; or
  • temporary decisions before the parties go to trial.

If you have an order that was granted by a Master, you can ask a Master to change the order. However, if you have an order that was granted by a Judge in Provincial Court or a Justice in the Court of Queen's Bench, then you cannot request a change from a Master.

Matrimonial home

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The home where the spouses normally live together, or used to live together. It must be owned or leased by at least one of the spouses. Although there may be more than one matrimonial home during a marriage, there can only be one matrimonial home at a time. This term does not apply to non-married partners.

Mediation

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A process in which you use an independent and trained third party (a “mediator”) to help you reach an agreement. The mediator does not make the decisions: the parties do that. Instead, the mediator helps guide the discussions in order to help the parties reach an agreement.

Medical Certificate of Death

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The medical form completed at the time of death by either the attending doctor or the medical examiner. This document has information about the medical cause of death. For each death in Alberta, the Medical Certificate of Death must be signed and completed by a doctor within 48 hours of the death. The Medical Certificate of Death is not the same thing as the Certificate of Death.

Medical examiner (also called the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)

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A department (also called an “office”) of the government of Alberta that investigates deaths and provides death certification services.

Minor

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A person who is not yet an adult (has not reached the “age of majority”).

Be Aware

The age of majority is different across Canada. In Alberta, the age at which a person is considered an adult is 18.

Misrepresentation

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Not answering questions truthfully. This includes:

  • providing false information or false documents; or
  • not sharing important facts.

There are very serious consequences for misrepresentation, which include loss of immigration status, permanent separation from family members, fines, and even jail time.

Monitored exchange (also called “safe transfer”)

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Monitored exchange programs provide a neutral location for supervised exchange of children from one parent to another. This may be necessary in situations of family violence, where one parent is not comfortable meeting the other parent to exchange the children for parenting time or visitation.

Municipal government

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The government of a city, town, county, or district. Members of the community are elected to sit on a municipal council. They make decisions about new laws or changes to existing laws that would apply in their city, town, county, or district. This is done through debates, committee work, and speaking with the public. The laws made by municipal governments are called “bylaws.”

Some of the areas that the municipal governments are responsible for include:

  • local parks;
  • community garbage disposal; and
  • libraries.

Like the provincial government, there is only one “house,” so when the council approves the bylaws, they come into effect.

N

Necessaries of life (sometimes called "necessities of life")

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Things that a person needs to maintain their condition of life, including food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention when needed. Necessaries of life can also go beyond these basic needs. What is considered to be “necessaries of life” depends on the circumstances of the people involved.

Negotiation

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Any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict, and the people involved try to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you.

Next of kin

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A person who is related to an individual by blood or adoption. It does not include a relative by marriage.

No contact order

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An order that results from a criminal proceeding, which states that one person cannot have any communication or contact with another named person. This order may be brought against:

  • someone who has only been accused of a crime (but not yet convicted); or
  • someone who has been convicted of a crime (also called an “offender”).

O

Open adoption

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An adoption process in which birth parents and adoptive parents share information about each other before the adoption takes place. An open adoption may also include a plan for ongoing contact between the birth family and the adoptive family.

Oral evidence

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Spoken statements from a witness or one of the parties in a case that give a court information about a dispute. Before you give oral evidence, you must “swear” or “affirm” that what you are saying is true.

Order

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See "Court order"

Ordinary residence (also called “habitual residence”)

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The place where a person lives his or her daily life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

When deciding if a person is an “ordinary” or “habitual” resident, a court will consider different factors. These may include:

  • where a person was born;
  • where a person has spent, and continues to spend, most of his or her life; and
  • where a person has ties to family and the community.

P

Paramountcy

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Canada has a “federalist” system of government. This means that some law-making power lies with the federal government, and other law-making power lies with the provincial governments. Sometimes areas of law-making power can overlap, resulting in both the federal and provincial governments trying to make laws about the same things. In some cases, this has led to laws that conflict with one another. When that occurs, the federal law is considered the “higher” law, so the provincial law doesn’t apply. This concept is called “paramountcy.”

This concept is especially important for legal issues on-reserve, as reserve lands fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, even though the reserve is located within a province. Therefore, some of the laws that apply to the rest of the province may not apply to people who live on-reserve—the federal laws may apply instead.

Parentage

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The act of being a legal parent to a child. This person can be:

  • a biological parent of a child;
  • someone who has adopted a child; or
  • someone who has a Declaration of Parentage.

Parental alienation

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“Parental alienation” occurs when one parent does everything he or she can to turn a child against the other parent. Parental alienation involves ongoing and very targeted behaviours by one parent. These damage a child’s emotional well-being, and greatly interfere with that child’s relationship with the other parent.

Parenting coordination

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A new form of ongoing child-centred dispute resolution, where a professional (for example, a psychologist or social worker) helps parents reach agreements on day-to-day parenting issues.

Parenting time

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This term describes the time a child spends with each guardian. For example: one guardian may have parenting time every second weekend, and the other guardian has parenting time at all other times.

Parliament of Canada

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The part of the Canadian government that makes federal laws. It has 3 parts:

  • the Monarch (the Queen), who is represented by the Governor General;
  • the House of Commons; and
  • the Senate.

Partner

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A person who is in a domestic relationship with another person. This term refers to people in romantic relationships (both heterosexual and homosexual), as well as non-romantic domestic relationships.

See also: "Adult Interdependent Partner" and "Common-law partner"

Partner abuse

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Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to the person who they are in a romantic relationship with. This type of abuse can happen between people who:

  • are currently dating, married, or living together; or
  • used to date, were previously married, or were previously living together.

Partner support

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Money paid by one former partner to the other former partner, to help with living expenses. Partner support is sometimes called “partner maintenance.” The term “partner support” may apply to either married spouses or unmarried partners.

You may have heard this called “alimony”: that is not the term that is used in Canada.

See also: "Spousal support"

Party

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Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

See also: "Third party"

Party-to-party resolution

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When the parties involved in a dispute come to an agreement on their own, without the help of any third parties (such as lawyers or mediators). This kind of problem-solving is also called “coming to an agreement on your own” or the “kitchen table” option.

Payor

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The person paying financial support to another person.

See also: "Recipient"

Peace bond

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A criminal court order that requires the abuser to “keep the peace.” In other words, the person named on the peace bond must not get into any trouble or be charged with any crimes for a specific time period. The Court may add many terms to a peace bond to protect a victim of abuse, such as:

  • ordering that the abuser stay away from specific places (such as the victim’s workplace);
  • ordering that the abuser have no contact with the victim in any way; and
  • taking any firearms away from the abuser.

Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO)

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A court order that makes Child Protective Services the sole guardian of the child. This means that Child Protective Services will make all decisions about the child without the involvement of the parents or former guardians.

See also: "Temporary Guardianship Order"

Permanent resident

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A “permanent resident” of Canada has the right to live and work anywhere in Canada. A permanent resident was born in another country, and he or she is still a citizen of another country. A permanent resident cannot vote or hold office in Canada, or remain outside of Canada for more than 3 years out of 5. When a permanent resident has been “physically present” in Canada for at least 4 years, then he or she can apply for Canadian citizenship.

See also: "Conditional permanent resident"

Personal decisions

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All decisions that are not related to money or finances. Examples include:

  • health care and medical treatment;
  • living arrangements (whether permanent or temporary);
  • who you can have contact with;
  • social activities;
  • educational, vocational, or other training;
  • employment; and
  • any legal proceedings not related primarily to money.

See also: "Financial decisions"

Personal Directive

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A document that gives someone else the legal power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. In other provinces and countries, this document might have a different name (such as “living will” or “Power of Attorney for Health”).

Personal Representative

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A person named to manage the estate of a person who has died. There are 2 ways to become a Personal Representative:

  • the person can be named as a Personal Representative in the Will of a deceased person; or
  • a court appoints the person as a Personal Representative in a “grant of administration.”

See also: "Executor"

Physical abuse

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Physical abuse involves your body. This could be any unwanted contact with any part of your body, such as punching, biting, pulling hair, slapping, pinching, pushing, or even caressing. Physical abuse includes sexual abuse, medication abuse, and neglect.

Plaintiff

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In a civil action, the person who starts the action by filing the Statement of Claim. In a divorce, the Plaintiff can file a "Statement of Claim for Divorce" or a "Statement of Claim for Divorce for Division of Matrimonial Property."

See also: "Defendant"

Platonic

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A word used to describe a relationship—a “platonic relationship” is a relationship of love or friendship, which may be intimate and affectionate, but is not sexual (conjugal).

Pleadings

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The information contained in:

  • the documents filed by the party starting a court action; and
  • the documents filed in response by the other party.

For example, the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim and the Defendant’s Statement of Defence are the “pleadings” in a court action. They describe what both parties are asking for from the court.

Polyamorous relationship

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A kind of romantic relationship that involves more than two consenting adults, and all of the people involved know about each other, and agree to the relationships.

Port of entry

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A place where a person can legally enter a country. For example, international airports and border crossings are ports of entry.

Posthumously conceived child

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A child conceived after the death of a person who provided sperm, eggs, or an embryo. This means that the mother or surrogate was not pregnant when the person died.

Power of Attorney

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A document that gives someone else the right to make financial decisions for you, and to act on your behalf for your financial affairs. This can include paying bills, dealing with your money, and selling your property. There are different kinds of Powers of Attorney:

  • An Immediate Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and ends at a specific date or after a certain decision has been made.
  • An Immediate and Enduring Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and continues if you become unable to make your own financial decisions.
  • An Enduring Power of Attorney (also called a “Springing Power of Attorney”) takes effect only when you become unable to make your own financial decisions.

Pre-nuptial agreement

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A domestic contract created by 2 people who are planning to get married in the near future. This agreement can include rights and responsibilities they have toward one another during the marriage, as well as after the marriage ends. The parties can address many issues regarding their marriage, such as:

  • how bills will be divided;
  • whether one party will pay spousal support to the other if they were to separate; and
  • how property will be divided between the parties if they were to separate.

See also: "Marriage agreement"

Precedent

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A decision from one legal case that may either be “binding” or “persuasive” on other courts.

  • If a decision is binding on other courts, the other courts have to follow the same method of deciding similar cases.
  • If a decision is persuasive for other courts, other courts will strongly consider applying the result of that case when they later decide cases with similar issues or facts.

This “law of precedence” is meant to increase fairness in the justice system. If the facts of the cases within a jurisdiction are the same, then the outcome should usually be the same.

In general, cases are binding on all lower courts within the same jurisdiction. For example, the highest court in Alberta is the Alberta Court of Appeal. So any decisions made in the Alberta Court of Appeal must be followed in the future by all the courts in Alberta (including the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court of Alberta). Similarly, decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada would be binding on all courts in Canada. This is because the Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the country and applies to all Canadian courts.

Cases from another jurisdiction (for example, a case in British Columbia) are not binding on courts outside of that jurisdiction. But some judges may still consider the facts of the case anyway if they are similar. For example, a court decision made by a court in British Columbia could be a “persuasive” case. This means that it may be considered by Alberta judges if the facts of the cases are similar. But an Alberta judge may choose to use a different method of deciding the case. In general, the higher the court that made the decision, the more persuasive the decision will be.

See also: "Case law"

Preliminary matters (also called "pre-trial applications")

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Issues that can be dealt with before a trial, or that need to be addressed before a trial can happen. Preliminary matters are dealt with in “docket court” or “chambers.”

For example:

  • To make a decision about child support, the court will need financial information about the person who is being asked to pay child support. Sometimes this person may not provide this information to the other party or the court. The judge may order this person to provide the missing information.
  • A separating couple may be going to trial to determine how their property will be divided. One person may try to sell or give away some of the property before the trial. The other person may request a hearing to ask for a court order that stops the other person from doing this.

Primary residency

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When a child lives (or spends his or her time) mostly with one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a child lives mostly with the father, but spends two days every week with the mother, then the father has primary residency.

See also: "Shared residency"

Primary source

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A law or legal document itself. This is different from a secondary source, which is something that discusses or reviews a law.

Examples of primary sources are:

  • statutes,
  • regulations,
  • court decisions,
  • contracts, and
  • Wills.

Private adoption agency

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An organization licensed by the Alberta government to provide adoption services, including:

  • arranging the placement of children with adoptive parents;
  • completing home studies;
  • arranging record checks for child intervention and criminal records;
  • providing adoption counselling;
  • preparing, filing, and serving legal documents; and
  • completing post-placement assessments to ensure that the child is doing well in the adoptive family’s home.

Probate (also called a “grant of probate”)

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A court process to confirm that:

  • a Will is authentic (for example: not fake or forged);
  • a Will is legally sound (for example: it was not signed by a person who lacked the capacity to sign a Will); and
  • the person named in the Will as the Personal Representative has the authority to administer the Testator’s estate according to the terms of the Will (for example: the person who was named as Personal Representative still has capacity, and there is no other legal reason to not allow that person to be the Personal Representative).

To get probate, special forms must be submitted to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Surrogate office.

Procedural matters

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Issues related to the “rules of court.” These are the formal rules and requirements that set out how things must be done when you are involved with the court in any way. For example: The rules say that a person must give paperwork to the person they are taking to court. If they cannot find the other party to give them a copy of the paperwork, they may go to court to find out what to do next.

Promissory note

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A written and signed promise to pay a certain amount of money to another person. A promissory note may be signed by one or more people.

A promissory note is different from an “IOU.”

  • An IOU generally just says that a debt exists, and what that amount is. It does not usually outline any conditions to the loan.
  • A promissory note usually has conditions. For example: an interest rate, a repayment schedule, and consequences if the person can’t pay back the loan.

Pronouncing a death

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The official process of confirming that a person has died and recording the time of death. This is generally done by a doctor.

Property (also called "assets")

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Something that you own. Property can be:

  • “personal” property, such as bank accounts or vehicles; or
  • “real property,” such as land, a house, or a condominium.

See also: "Debt"

Protective order

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A court order to protect a victim of violence, abuse, or harassment. Protective orders can be part of the criminal law or the civil law.

The protective orders available in Alberta include:

  • Emergency Protection Orders under Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act
  • Queen’s Bench Protection Orders under Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act;
  • Emergency Protection Orders under the federal Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (this Act applies to people who live on First Nation reserves);
  • restraining orders;
  • peace bonds;
  • bail conditions; and
  • no contact orders.

Provincial Court of Alberta

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A lower trial court that only deals with certain types of cases, including:

  • some family matters (but not divorce or division or property);
  • all criminal matters begin in Provincial Court;
  • some civil matters (if the total amount you are suing for is less than $50,000);
  • traffic matters; and
  • all criminal matters for youth.

This may be the only court that a person goes to. Or, it may be the first court a person goes to before they go to a higher court.

See also: "Alberta Court of Queen's Bench"

Provincial law

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Laws that are made by a provincial or territorial government. In Alberta, provincial laws are made by the Government of Alberta and apply only in Alberta. Examples include: the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, the Alberta Family Law Act, and the Alberta Wills and Succession Act.

See also: "Federal law" and "Jurisdiction"

Provisional order

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A court order that is only temporary until the final outcome is decided. Provisional orders are used when there are jurisdictional issues. Specifically, the Court in one geographic area makes a court order (the “provisional order”), but the order does not take effect until the Court in the other geographic area confirms it. In other words, it is a “suggested” order until it is confirmed.

Public Guardian

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A department (also called an “office”) of the government of Alberta that protects the health and personal well-being of clients of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Clients can include:

  • children under the age of 18 (the age of majority),
  • the estate of a deceased person,
  • adults without capacity,
  • prisoners, and
  • missing persons.

Generally, people become clients of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee through court orders, the requirements of the law, or when a family member applies on their behalf.

See also: "Public Trustee"

Public Trustee

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A department (also called an “office”) of the government of Alberta that protects the financial assets and well-being of clients of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Clients can include:

  • children under the age of 18 (the age of majority),
  • the estate of a deceased person,
  • adults without capacity,
  • prisoners, and
  • missing persons.

Generally, people become clients of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee through court orders, the requirements of the law, or when a family member applies on their behalf.

See also: "Public Guardian"

Q

Quantum (of support)

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The amount of partner support or spousal support to be paid—the “how much” part of the calculation. The quantum (“how much”) and the duration (“how long”) are closely linked: a larger monthly quantum may mean a shorter duration.

Quasi-criminal proceeding

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A legal process that gives a court the right to punish someone for his or her actions even if those actions are not listed as a crime in the Criminal Code of Canada. For example: a person who has an Emergency Protection Order or restraining order brought against him or her would be involved in a quasi-criminal proceeding. 

See also: "Criminal proceeding" and "Civil proceeding"

Queen's Bench Protection Order

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A civil court order, given under the Alberta Protection Against Family Violence Act, that provides long-term protection for a victim of family violence. Unlike an Emergency Protection Order, it is not meant for immediate and urgent protection. A Queen’s Bench Protection Order (QBPO) can order the abuser to:

  • leave the family home;
  • not communicate in any way with the victim or the victim’s family; and
  • stay away from other specific places (such as the victim’s workplace).

A QBPO can also give the police the authority to take any weapons used by the abuser to threaten or commit family violence. The abuser may also be ordered to:

  • pay the victim for financial losses caused by the abuse;
  • attend counselling; and/or
  • allow the victim to use certain family property.

R

Recipient (assisted reproduction)

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The person or couple who receive donated eggs, sperm, or embryos from a donor.

Recipient (of support)

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The person getting financial support from another person.

See also: "Payor"

Reciprocating jurisdictions

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Countries, provinces, and territories that have agreements with Alberta to:

  • allow Alberta court orders for support (and in certain cases, written support agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • have their court orders (and in certain cases, written support agreements) accepted and enforced in Alberta.

These agreements are called “reciprocity agreements.” Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

See also: "Interjurisdictional support orders"

Record

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Any kind of information that is stored or recorded in a way that can be viewed or heard. This includes paper documents, electronic documents, and sound recordings.

See also: "Evidence"

Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)

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A special kind of account that is registered with the federal government, which you can use to withdraw income during your retirement. People will often use RRIFs when they are no longer eligible to keep a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) (after they turn 71), but you can open an RRIF at any time. Funds in an RRIF can grow tax-free just like funds in an RRSP.

However, an RRIF is different from an RRSP:

  • You can no longer contribute any money to the account.
  • You are required to withdraw a certain percentage of the RRIF each year. The percentage is based on your age.

In other words, you use an RRSP to save for retirement, but you use an RRIF to spend your retirement income.

When you open a RRIF, you will be asked to fill out a Designation of Beneficiary form. Your beneficiary can be updated later if you want or need to change it.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)

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A special kind of account that is registered with the federal government, which you use to save for retirement. The money you put into an RRSP is not included as “income” on your tax return when you deposit it, so you do not pay “income tax” on that money during that year. Instead, you will pay income tax on that money when you take it out of the account.

Every year, you are allowed to contribute a certain percent of your income to your RRSP. All of the money in your RRSP can grow tax-free during the time it is in that account.

When you open an RRSP, you will be asked to fill out a Designation of Beneficiary form. Your beneficiary can be updated later if you want or need to change it.

See also: "Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF)"

Regulations

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The practical details about laws that allow the laws to be enforced. Regulations may include details such as:

  • what information to include in forms; or
  • how much it will cost to file a document.

Regulations are easier to change than laws, as they do not have to be passed by the whole Legislative Assembly of Alberta or the Parliament of Canada. Despite this difference, they are just as much “law” as those passed by the Legislative Assembly or Parliament.

Not all laws have regulations, but all regulations are attached a particular law. The law will state who has the authority to make regulations about that particular law.

See also: "Statutes"

Remedy (sometimes called "relief")

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A way for a civil court to:

  • enforce someone’s legal right; or
  • compensate someone when they have been injured, harmed, or treated wrongfully.

Removal order

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An order that says a person must leave Canada.

Represented Adult

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An adult who is the subject of a Guardianship Order and/or a Trusteeship Order under the Alberta Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act. This means that decisions are being made for the adult by a Guardian (personal decisions) and/or a Trustee (financial decisions).

Reproductive materials (also called "gametes")

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The cells used to make a baby. The cells from a man’s body are called “sperm.” The cells from a woman’s body are called “eggs” or “ova.” These reproductive materials are sometimes called “gametes.”

See also: "Embryo"

Resealing (a court order)

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The process of having a local court confirm a court order from another jurisdiction.

Reserve

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Land set aside under Canada’s Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band. Band members have the right to live on reserve lands, and band government and administration is often located there.

Residency (parenting)

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The term “residency” refers to where the child lives.

There are different kinds of residency:

  • Shared residency is when a child lives (or spends his or her time) equally with more than one adult who has guardianship or custody.
  • Primary residency is when a child lives (or spends his or her time) mostly with one adult who has guardianship or custody.

Respondent

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The person who has a court application brought against him or her. The respondent is one of the “parties” in a court application.

In situations of family violence, the “respondent” is the person who is accused of being abusive, and a “claimant” has asked a court for protection from the respondent.

See also: "Applicant"

Restitution

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A court-ordered payment from a person who caused damages to someone to the person who was harmed. For example, in family violence situations, the abuser may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim.

This payment is meant to make up for financial losses. For example:

  • property damage or loss;
  • physical or emotional harm that led to financial loss; or
  • expenses from having to move out.

Restitution is only ordered if the person who caused the damage is found guilty of a crime. The victim can apply for restitution, and if the judge agrees, it can be included as part of the offender’s sentence.

Restraining order

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A civil court order that protects a victim of violence by keeping the abuser away from the victim. Restraining orders can be made against family members as well as non-family members (such as a neighbour): the claimant can make an application against anyone who has made him or her feel unsafe. This could include actions (such as violent behaviour) or words (such as threats). The terms of a restraining order can be very specific to each person’s situation.

Retainer

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A fee you pay a lawyer to secure his or her legal services and to cover future legal fees and expenses.

See also: "Retainer agreement" and "Limited scope retainer

Retainer agreement (also called an “engagement letter”)

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An agreement you sign with a lawyer to “officially” hire him or her as your lawyer. This agreement explains various things, including:

  • a description of the work to be done,
  • a description of how legal fees and expenses (also called “disbursements”) will be calculated and charged,
  • the roles of the lawyer and the client,
  • how the lawyer and client will communicate with each other, and
  • what will happen if the fees are not paid.

Most times, when you hire a lawyer, you will pay the retainer and sign the retainer agreement at the same time.

See also: "Limited scope retainer"

Revoke

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To withdraw or cancel the effect of something. A document that is revoked is no longer valid. For example, a licence, a Will, or a law could be revoked. If you revoke your Will, it will no longer apply if you die. You would need to make another Will to replace it.

Royal Assent

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The final stage of a law being passed. It is the way that the Queen approves what the government has suggested. A bill must receive Royal Assent to become a law.

Federal bills are given Royal Assent by the Governor General (who represents the Queen). In the provinces, a bill is given Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor (who represents the Queen).

S

Safe visitation

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This term generally refers to supervised access that takes place in a facility specifically intended to provide the opportunity for visits under the supervision of trained staff and volunteers.

Safety plan

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A plan that helps you prepare and stay safe in family violence situations. A safety plan can be used in many different situations, whether you are a parent, child, partner, elder, or pet owner. 

Secondary source

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Any material that discusses the law itself or how the law has been applied. In other words, secondary sources “interpret” primary sources or give an opinion about the meaning of the law.

Examples of secondary sources are:

  • legal encyclopedias and finding aids,
  • journal articles and textbooks about the law, and
  • public legal information materials.

Secure Services Order

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A court order that allows Child Protective Services to keep a child in a “secure services facility” for a period of 5 days or less. This is called “confinement.” The time is used to stabilize and assess the child. During that time, Child Protective Services creates a plan of care for when the child comes out of the facility.

Secured loan

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A type of loan where the borrower promises that if the loan is not paid, the lender can take a particular piece of property as payment. The promised property is called “security” or “collateral.” This arrangement is called a “secured loan” because the lender is secure that they will get some type of payment.

See also: "Unsecured loan"

Self-represented litigant

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A person who is not represented by a lawyer in a court action. Someone who has a “limited scope retainer” or is getting “unbundled legal services” can still be a self-represented litigant if they are not represented by a lawyer in court.

Senate

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A part (also called a “body” or “house”) of the Parliament of Canada. Senators are appointed by the Governor General based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Senators are responsible for:

  • passing new laws; and
  • making changes to existing laws.

This is done through debates, committee work, and speaking with the public. Any new laws or changes to existing laws must be approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate before coming into effect.

Separation

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When a couple (married or unmarried) decides to live apart from each other because their relationship has broken down.

Separation agreement

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A contract created by partners or spouses to deal with the issues that come up as they end their relationship.

This agreement can address many topics, including:

  • child custody, access, guardianship, and parenting time arrangements;
  • child support;
  • spousal/partner support; and
  • property division.

The separating couple can reach this agreement on their own, or with the help of third parties (such as mediators or lawyers).

Service

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A formal process of delivering documents to another party in a court action. There are important rules about serving documents that must be followed.

Service ex juris

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A legal term for service outside of the jurisdiction. If the person you need to serve is outside of the jurisdiction, you will need a court order that allows you to serve them there.

What is considered “outside of the jurisdiction” is different depending on which court you go to:

  • In Provincial Court, you will need an order for service ex juris if the other party is outside of Alberta.
  • In the Court of Queen’s Bench, you will need an order for service ex juris if the other party is outside of Canada.

Set aside an agreement

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When a court “sets aside” an agreement, it believes that making one of the parties carry out his or her “end of the deal” would not be right. Another way of saying “setting aside” is “striking down.”

An agreement can be set aside for many reasons, such as:

  • one party was pressured, forced, or tricked into signing the agreement (this may also be called “undue influence”);
  • one party did not have the “capacity” to enter into the agreement (that is, they did not have the legal ability to understand the agreement);
  • the parties involved in the agreement did not give each other full and accurate information (that is, they did not provide each other with complete “disclosure”); or
  • any of the parties did not understand what they were signing.

By setting an agreement aside, a court is basically cancelling it. A court can set aside:

  • the whole agreement;
  • just a particular part; or
  • several parts of the agreement.

See also: "Contract" and "Domestic contract"

Severance (to sever)

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The formal term for what happens when joint ownership changes from a joint tenancy to a tenancy in common.

Shared accommodation

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Living with someone else as part of a rental agreement. This can include:

  • living with your landlord and sharing the space; or
  • renting a living space with a roommate.

Shared residency

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When a child lives (or spends his or her time) equally with more than one adult who has guardianship. For example: if a mother and a father have shared residency, the child will spend between 40-60% of his of her time with each of them. 

See also: "Primary residency"

Shelter

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A safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis. 

Sole custody

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When only one person has been given all of the decision-making power about a child.

See also: "Joint custody" and "Split custody"

Sole guardianship

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When only one parent or guardian has all of the decision-making power about a child. It also means that no one else is a guardian of the child: no one else makes decision, and no one else needs to be informed about decisions made about the child. This is not very common, as courts place a high value on both parents having a say about their children.

See also: "Joint guardianship"

Solicitor-client privilege

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The right of a lawyer’s client to have certain communication between themselves and their lawyer kept private. This includes verbal, written, or other methods of communication.

The client can give up (“waive”) the right of privilege. This would then allow the client or the lawyer to share the information that was discussed between them.

See also: "Duty of confidentiality"

Specific decision-making

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A process that allows medical staff to ask a loved one to make a decision for a person who has lost capacity. However, this option can only be used for certain time-sensitive decisions, and when there is no other decision-making arrangement in effect. In other words, when there is no Personal Directive or Guardianship Order in effect at the time.

Specific decision-making is restricted to:

  • health care; and
  • temporary admission or discharge from a residential facility.

Split custody

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When there are two or more children, and some of the children live mostly with one person who has custody (for example: the mother) and the other children live mostly with the other person who has custody (for example: the father). Or, this can be when one person has decision-making power about one thing (for example: medical issues) and another person has decision-making power about another thing (for example: religious matters)—however, this arrangement is not common.

See also: "Joint custody" and "Sole custody"

Sponsorship

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The ability of citizens or permanent residents of Canada to help family members (including spouses and romantic partners) immigrate to Canada. To sponsor a family member, you must be able to support your relative financially when they arrive. Also, for 3 years you must:

  • be able to meet basic needs—such as food, clothing, and shelter—for yourself and your relative; and
  • make sure your relative does not need to ask for financial help from the government. If they do, you will be held financially responsible.

Spousal support

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Money paid by one former spouse to the other former spouse, to help with living expenses. Spousal support is sometimes called “spousal maintenance.” The term “spousal support” applies only to spouses who were married or are still married to each other. For partners who were never married, the correct term is “partner support.”

You may have heard this called “alimony”: that is not the term that is used in Canada.

Spouse

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A person who is legally married to another person.

Starting documents

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The documents that start a court action. This can be:

  • a Claim. For example, this is used under the Family Law Act;
  • a Statement of Claim. For example, this is used under the Divorce Act or the Matrimonial Property Act; or
  • an Originating Application. For example, this is used for some kinds of protective orders.

For Claims and Originating Applications, documents that provide evidence will be filed at the same time and are part of the starting documents. For example, Statements or Affidavits.

For Statements of Claim, documents that provide evidence can be filed at the same time, or can be filed later as part of an “Application.”

Be Aware

The Alberta Rules of Court calls these documents “commencement documents.”

Statutes (also called "acts" or "laws")

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Written rules passed by the government that affect the rights and responsibilities of people and organizations. In general, the laws that apply in Alberta are passed by either:

  • the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (these laws apply only in Alberta);
  • the Parliament of Canada (these apply across Canada); or
  • “bylaws” passed by Alberta “municipalities” (cities, towns, villages, or counties), and which only apply in those municipalities.
Be Aware

Many people and resources talk about “the law” in general. This usually refers to the whole legal setting. It includes the “laws” (statutes) themselves, regulations, bylaws, and case law.

Stillbirth

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The death of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This can happen during pregnancy or during the birth.

Succession

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The process of inheriting something from someone else. This word may also refer to the order in which people inherit something. For example: if a person dies without a Will, the law says who is first in line to inherit. Sometimes the person who is first in line cannot inherit (for example, if they have died), and the inheritance moves to the second person in line.

Summary legal advice

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Meeting for a short time (often around 30-60 minutes) with a lawyer to:

  • discuss your legal issue; and
  • get legal advice about how you should move forward.

Summary legal advice is not the same as having your own lawyer. This lawyer may only meet with you the one time, and is not taking on your case at this time.

See also: "Limited scope retainer"

Supervised access

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A way for children to spend time with a parent (or someone else with whom they have contact), under the supervision of another adult. For example: a grandparent may supervise the visit between a child and their parent, if this is in the child’s best interests. This allows the contact to continue when there are safety concerns. There can also be also conditions on how and where the visit takes place. 

Supervised access may be ordered, or agreed to, when an unsupervised visit would not be in the child’s best interests.

For example, supervised access could be in the child’s best interests if the parent/person:

  • has limited parenting or child-care skills;
  • has a history of abusing alcohol or drugs;
  • has a history of abusing the child; 
  • might otherwise abduct the child; or
  • has not had contact with the child for a long time, and they may need some time to re-establish their relationship.

See also: "Safe visitation" and "Access"

Supervision Order

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A court order allowing a child to remain in the custody of their parent/guardian, but requiring supervision and protective services for the survival, security, and development of the child.

A Supervision Order has terms and conditions that must be followed by:

  • Child Protective Services;
  • the parent/guardian; and
  • any other person living with the child.

There are many kinds of “conditions” that can be included in Supervision Orders. Which conditions are ordered will depend on the exact situation. The Court can order anything it thinks is reasonable in the circumstances to protect the child.

Supported decision-making

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A process that allows an adult to name one or more other adults who will help make and communicate personal decisions. Supported decision-making is intended for people who may need a bit of help from someone they trust when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity.

Supreme Court of Canada

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The highest court in Canada. This court hears appeals from the provincial and territorial courts of appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Court Martial Appeal Court. This is the final court of appeal in Canada.

Surrogacy

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The act of agreeing to carry, and give birth to, a child for another couple or person. This woman is called the “surrogate.” This is usually done with the understanding that:

  • the other person or couple will parent the child once he or she is born; and
  • the surrogate will not be a parent to the child.

A surrogate may:

  • provide the eggs to conceive the child; or
  • carry a child who has no genetic connection to her. This means that the surrogate did not provide the eggs that helped create the embryo.
Be Aware

A woman who makes a baby by having sex will not be considered a “surrogate” under Canadian law. A surrogate must become pregnant by being artificially inseminated or by having an embryo placed in her uterus. If a woman is not a surrogate under the law, she will be a legal parent to the child.

See also: "Intended parents"

Surrogacy agreement

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A written contract between:

  • a person or people who are using a surrogate; and
  • a surrogate.

This agreement will discuss the future rights and responsibilities of everyone who signed it. This includes the expectation that, after the birth, the surrogate will give the child to the intended parents.

Swearing or affirming something

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When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

If you swear that something you wrote is true, it may be called a “sworn” statement.

T

Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

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A special kind of account that is registered with the federal government, which you can use to save money. Unlike with regular savings accounts, the income earned on the money while it is in the account is completely tax-free, while it grows in the account and when you take it out of the account. Every year, there is a maximum amount of money that you are allowed to deposit into a TFSA.

When you open a TFSA, you will be asked to fill out a Designation of Beneficiary form. Your beneficiary can be updated later if you want or need to change it.

Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO)

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A court order that makes the Director a joint guardian of the child. This means that the parents/guardians may still be consulted for major decisions. However, they do not have to be. Under a TGO, the Director has the final responsibility for the child. The Director will make all final decisions based on what they feel is in the best interests of the child.

Tenancy in common

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When 2 or more people own an asset together, but each owns a portion, that property is held in “tenancy in common.” Each person involved is called a “tenant in common.” For example: land. Under tenancy in common, each of the tenants owns a portion (or share) of the value of the land. If one of the tenants in common dies, that person’s portion does not automatically go to the other owner(s). Instead, that portion goes through the Will of the deceased.

See also: "Joint tenancy"

Tenant

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Someone who is living in a rental property with the permission of the landlord. This can include:

  • someone who has signed a rental agreement; or
  • someone who has permission from the landlord to live there (even if they have not signed a rental agreement).

Terminate

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To bring something to an end. For example, if you “terminate” guardianship, you will no longer be a guardian of the child.

Testator

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The person who writes a Will.

Third party

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In court processes, this term refers to someone who is not directly involved in a legal disagreement, but who is affected by the results of the dispute. For example: in family law cases, the bank who gave the mortgage on the family home is a “third party.” However, on this website we also use the term “third party” to refer to people who are not directly involved in a legal disagreement but are connected to it in some other way. For example: two people who are separating might hire a mediator to help them resolve their issues—that mediator will be called a “third party.”

See also: "Party"

To hold property in trust

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A relationship where one person (a “trustee”) legally holds property for the benefit of another person (a “beneficiary”). The trustee manages the property and collects income from the property, and then passes the income on to the beneficiary.

This happens often with children, because children are too young to hold and manage property themselves.

To take effect

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To start to apply. For example: a contract can be signed on March 15, but the terms of the contract may not start to apply until April 1. In this case, the contract “takes effect” on April 1.

Tort

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In civil law (in other words, not criminal law), certain kinds of loss or harm arising from another person’s act, or a failure to act. The victim can then sue the person who did them wrong.

Trial

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A court proceeding where the judge makes decisions about something that 2 or more people disagree about. Written evidence (such as affidavits) are used in trials, but the judge also hears oral evidence from the parties. This is different from hearings, where the judges usually do not hear oral evidence.

Trial court

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A court of law where you begin your court action. Trial courts deal with both “hearings” and “trials.”

There are 2 levels of trial courts in Alberta:

  • The lower court is the Provincial Court of Alberta.
  • The higher court (or “superior” court) is the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Trust company

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A corporation that can act as a trustee on behalf of a person or a person’s estate. The trust company manages the assets and eventually transfers the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries. In a Will, a trust company can be named as the Personal Representative.

Trustee

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A person who legally holds property for the benefit of another person (who is called a “beneficiary”).

Trustee (under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act)

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A person who is legally responsible for making financial decisions for a person who is not able to do so themselves. This does not include being responsible for personal decisions: those are made by the Guardian. The same person can be both the Guardian and the Trustee, but they can also be different people.

A Trustee is similar to an Attorney under a Power of Attorney, but they are different.

  • A Trustee is appointed by a court, as a result of a court application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.
  • An Attorney is appointed by someone who signs a Power of Attorney (a court is not involved).

U

Unbundled legal services (also called "Limited scope retainer")

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In this type of arrangement, a lawyer is hired by a client to only perform certain agreed-upon legal duties, rather than providing full representation for the entire case. For example, your lawyer might draft a document for you, but instead of your lawyer filing that document at the courthouse for you, you will file it yourself. Or your lawyer might prepare legal arguments and do legal research for you, but you will represent yourself in court. 

This arrangement makes legal advice more accessible for people who cannot afford a lawyer for their whole case, or prefer not to hire a lawyer to act for them on all legal matters.

See also: "Retainer," "Retainer agreement," and "Self-represented litigant

Uncontested divorce

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A divorce is “uncontested” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues) and the other spouse does not respond at all, or does not respond within the time that is given.

See also: "Contested divorce," "Desk divorce," and "Joint divorce"

Unjust enrichment

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A type of common law cause of action that can arise where one party is the legal owner of property, but both parties contributed in some way to getting that property. In such a case, the party who is not the legal owner may be able to claim an interest in that property. The cause of action is based on the fact that in some cases it may be unfair (or “unjust”) to allow the legal owner to benefit from (be “enriched” by) the other party’s contributions.

Property division claims for unmarried partners are often based on unjust enrichment.

Unsecured loan

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A type of loan that does not require any collateral. These types of loans are more likely to be given to borrowers who have a high credit score.

See also: "Secured loan"

V

Valuation

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A set of procedures used to estimate the value of something, such as a business or a pension plan.

Victim

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The person who is controlled and/or hurt by someone else (the “abuser”). Victims can be anyone who is in a relationship with the abuser, such as a child, an elder, or a romantic partner. Victims may also be called “survivors.”

W

Waive

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The act of voluntarily giving up a right or privilege. For example: if someone waives his or her right to spousal support, that means he or she is choosing to give up the right to make a claim for spousal support.

See also: "Waiver"

Waiver

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A document or part of a document that records the waiving of someone’s right or privilege. For example: when you waive your right to spousal support and you want to put it in writing, the document you sign is called a "spousal support waiver." 

See also: "To 'waive' something"

Warrant permitting entry

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A warrant permitting entry is a way for concerned family members or loved ones to check in on someone they believe might be a victim of family violence. If a warrant permitting entry is ordered, a police officer is given permission by the court to enter a specific location to search for and help a victim. The police officer can then remove the victim from the location if the victim gives his or her permission.

Will

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A document that says what will happen to your “estate” once you have died. Your “estate” is most (or sometimes even all) of your property, including money, that is distributed by your Will.

See also: "Holograph Will"

Y

Youth Enhancement Agreement

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A formal written agreement that is made between: 

  • Child Protective Services; and
  • a youth aged 16 or over who is living on their own.

It is meant to address the issues that brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services. A Youth Enhancement Agreement can be made whether or not the child has been in government custody.

See also: "Family Enhancement Agreement"

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