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Only lawyers and judges are allowed to use the Alberta Law Libraries.

False.

Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) are open to the public. Although only lawyers and judges can borrow books from ALL locations, anyone can use the materials and online databases inside the library. Also, anyone can get help (by themselves or in a small group) from the law librarians to learn about how to do legal research and access the materials they need.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
If I suspect animal abuse and report it, I could get sued by the animal owner if it turns out I am wrong.

False.

The Animal Protection Act says that no action may be taken against you for making a report or helping with an investigation in good faith.

However, the owner could take action against you if:

  • you knew the report was not true but you were trying to get someone into trouble; or
  • you had no reasonable grounds for your suspicion.
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Last Reviewed: March 2016
When we move in together, we automatically become Adult Interdependent Partners.

False. 

Under Alberta law, a person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with another person in a “relationship of interdependence”:

  • for three 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 a child together (by birth or adoption).

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.
Last Reviewed: October 2015
I signed a domestic contract, so I have to follow everything in it.

Probably—but not necessarily.

In general, when a couple separates and they have a domestic contract (such as a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement), the terms of that contract will govern the legal issues that come up during the separation. However, that is not always the case. For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • One or both ex-partners provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if special circumstances existed when the agreement was signed that prove that one of the parties did not understand the contract, or if one of the parties did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, the parents could not agree that no child support would be paid (because child support is the right of the child).

In addition, if there was a legal issue that was not dealt with in the agreement, it can still be disputed when the relationship breaks down.  

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My grandfather wrote a Will in Newfoundland. It has been probated there. It cannot be used to deal with the house he owned here in Alberta.

False.

The grant of probate from Newfoundland may be eligible to be “resealed” in Alberta. “Resealing” is the process of having a local court confirm a court order from another jurisdiction.

Last Reviewed: June 2016
When I apply to vary (change) a court order, I can choose to go to either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench because it is a new application.

False.

After you have a court order, your situation may change and you may want to vary (change) the order. Varying an order is not a new application. It is still connected to the first application. To vary your order, you will need to go through the same court that originally issued the order.

For example, your order for child support may have come from the Provincial Court. Even though both the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court can hear child support applications, you will need to go back to Provincial Court to change your order.

Last Reviewed: October 2016
When a case sets a precedent, it means that judges must make the same judgment in similar cases.

Not necessarily.

A precedent is 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. In general, the higher the court that made the decision, the more persuasive the decision will be.

Last Reviewed: September 2016
If I get deported, I can just take my kids with me.

Not necessarily.

You cannot take your children with you without the permission of the other parent/guardian(s).

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
I can say whatever I want in my criminal trial—it can’t be used in family court.

False.

Although criminal law and civil law (including family law) have separate legal processes, and the evidence from one is not automatically included in the other, it is very important to understand that the evidence, information, and behaviour from one court proceeding can be used in another court proceeding. For example: if you are criminally charged with failing to provide the “necessaries of life” for your child, that same evidence can be used in the family court hearing about parenting time.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Asking to mediate or taking part in any form of alternative dispute resolution is a sign of weakness.

False.

There is no single “right way” to solve a dispute; parties should do what works best for them and their situation. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is just as valid a way to solve a problem as going to court. It is also important to understand that mediation (and other forms of ADR) actually take a great deal of strength: it requires in-depth discussions and complete honesty. In many ways, it would be much easier to simply hand over all of the decision-making power to a judge.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
Owning property in “joint tenancy” with another person means we each own half the property.

False.

When two people own something in joint tenancy, they both own all of it, and they each have the right to deal with all of it.

For example, if you have a joint bank account with another person, you both own all of the money in that account. This means that either one of you can go to the bank and take out all of the money. As joint tenants, either of you are legally allowed to do this. When one of the joint tenants dies, the other joint tenant automatically becomes the sole owner of the account.

On the other hand, when an account is held by two people as “tenants in common,” it means that you each own half of it. If one of you dies, that person’s half does not automatically go to the other owner. Instead, that half goes through the Will of the deceased.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My dog barks at night and sometimes the neighbour complains to me. There’s nothing he can do about it though, because the dog is mine and on my property.

False.

Each “municipality” (city, town, or village) has its own bylaws about pet ownership. These may include rules about the behaviour of pets. For example, there may be penalties for excessive barking. Usually, there is a process for citizens to make complaints, which can then be investigated by a bylaw officer. They can enforce the rules in different ways, such as issuing tickets. This can happen even though the dog is on your property when it barks.

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Last Reviewed: September 2016
You can’t get partner support unless you were married or had children together.

False. 

In Alberta, if you were in Adult Interdependent Relationship, you may be eligible for partner support under Alberta’s Family Law Act. You do not have to have been married, or have children together.

Under Alberta law, 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 a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.
Last Reviewed: October 2015
Lawyers will charge whatever they want and I won’t be able to do anything about it.

False.

Although a lawyer can never tell you exactly how much your case will cost at the beginning, he or she should at least tell you what his or her hourly rate is. Typically, this is written into your retainer agreement. Your lawyer may also tell you how many hours he or she thinks your case may require, but this estimate could change depending on the progress of your case.

However, if you feel like your legal bill is too high, you can contact the Review/Assessment Office at the Court. A review officer will look into your legal bill to see whether it should be lowered.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Now that I am married, I don’t have to worry about things like Powers of Attorney, Personal Directives, and Wills. If something happens to me, my spouse will be able to take care of everything.

False. 

Many married people assume that if they become incapable of making their own decisions, that medical staff, banks, and other service providers would simply take direction from their spouse (this is called “substitute decision-making”). As a result of this assumption, they do not complete the legal paperwork required to give their spouse this authority.

This assumption is wrong. Alberta law does not have any such automatic default position. If you want your spouse to be able to make decisions on your behalf, then you must create the necessary legal documents: a Power of Attorney (for financial decisions) and a Personal Directive (for other decisions). These documents have specific legal requirements and they must be entered into separately from any domestic contract.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

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