Divorcing with Children in Alberta's Court of King's Bench

If you're a resident of Alberta and you want a divorce, you'll go through the divorce court process in the Court of King's Bench.

Most divorce cases resolve without going through the entire process because parents skip to the last step once they've opened a case and negotiated a divorce settlement.

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Step 1: Consider predivorce parenting orders

While you can file for divorce at any time, the divorce won't be final until you've been separated for at least one year.

If you need a justice to rule on parenting or child support before then, request parenting orders through the Alberta Court of Justice or the Court of King's Bench.

To get a decision even more quickly, request interim parenting orders in particular. These will last until you get final parenting orders to replace them.

If you have an emergency, like the other parent threatening to remove your child from the province, you can apply for an interim parenting order on an urgent basis to get the issue heard within days.

The Alberta Court of Justice is the easier court to navigate without a lawyer, and it often processes requests more quickly.

Step 2: Start your divorce case

To start your divorce case, you must file a claim for divorce in the Court of King's Bench. If you agree on all terms of your divorce, you can file for an uncontested or joint divorce and skip to Step 8.

If you file in Calgary or Edmonton, you must attend a virtual Family Docket Court appearance before or shortly after you file a divorce claim. You're exempt if your file for uncontested or joint divorce.

Someone other than you who is at least 18 must serve (give) a copy of the documents you filed to your spouse. After, the server must fill out an Affidavit of Service (with a photo of your spouse attached) and give it back to you to file with the court.

Possible: Try an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method

Justices often require divorcing parents to try an ADR method early on in a case. (If ADR isn't required, parents must go to a pretrial conference before they're allowed to go to trial.) If you reach an agreement in ADR, the divorce process will skip to Step 8.

Step 3: Take an online Parenting After Separation course

Each divorcing parent must complete an online Parenting After Separation course before submitting a Family Application in the next step.

The course takes about three hours. You'll receive a certificate if you finish the course. You must file this with the court as proof of attendance.

Step 4: File the rest of your forms

Once your spouse responds to your claim for divorce, file the rest of your documents.

  • Request for Divorce
  • Divorce Judgment (filled in with the terms you want the court to grant)
  • Affidavit of Applicant for Divorce
  • Copy of your Marriage Certificate, attached to your affidavit (if you were married in Alberta)
  • Family Application
  • Child Support Data Sheet, attached to your Family Application (if you're requesting child support)
  • Recommended: A proposed parenting plan, attached to your Family Application

Ask your lawyer or court clerk where to find your court's version of these forms. You must be separated for at least one year before you file the first four items.

Your spouse must also fill out a Child Support Data Sheet (if the case involves child support) and provide their financial information. They should turn in their own proposed parenting plan so the court knows what they want for the child.

Step 5: Participate in discovery

Discovery is how you gather information to prepare your case for settlement or trial. You'll exchange information about yourselves, as well as child-related information that only one spouse has.

Discovery often involves out-of-court questioning of witnesses, including each parent. You or your lawyer will question the other side's witnesses, who will answer under oath while a court reporter writes out their responses.

Questioning helps you at trial as you can mention inconsistencies there if what a witness says in court doesn't match what they said during questioning.

During the discovery period, you should keep trying to settle. Settlement often becomes more appealing as spouses learn about each other's evidence.

Step 6: Attend a pretrial conference

The court may require you to attend a pretrial conference to determine whether your case is ready to proceed to trial. You must submit a Family Pretrial Conference Summary one week before the conference.

If the court determines your case is ready, you'll choose trial dates. The court will inform you of any documents and other information to provide to the court and to the other parent before the trial begins.

If your case is not ready, the justice will let you know what you must do to get your case ready for trial. They'll give you specific deadlines to complete these tasks and may schedule another pretrial conference.

Some justices run pretrial conferences as mediation-like meetings. If you reach a full settlement, you won't have to go to trial. Your lawyer or either parent will write the terms into a divorce judgment, and the process will skip to Step 8.

Regardless of the outcome, the justice will write a report called a Report of Pretrial Conference Justice.

Step 7: Go to trial

Trial is where the justice makes the final decisions for your divorce if you haven't been able to reach a full agreement.

Some parents agree to try binding judicial dispute resolution instead of going to trial. There, the parents — with a justice's help — make a final attempt to agree. The justice decides any issues the parents can't reach an understanding on, and the decisions are legally binding. The process is less formal than trial.

In a trial, on the other hand, both parents formally present evidence and question each other's witnesses, who may include experts like doctors or child development specialists.

Review the trial courtroom procedure to get an idea of what may happen during your trial.

Step 8: Get a Judgment

The justice signs a Judgment after making decisions at trial or approving a divorce settlement. They only approve a settlement if the forms are complete and the parenting and child support terms are in the child's best interest.

You have 30 days from the date the justice signs the divorce judgment to appeal. If there's no appeal, the divorce becomes final on the 31st day. Then, you can ask for a Certificate of Divorce, which you will need if you want to remarry.

Throughout your case

During the court process, you may need to create a parenting time schedule, write a parenting plan, draft keep a log of interactions with the other parent and more.

The Custody X Change app enables you to do all of this in one place.

With customizable parenting calendars, a parenting plan template, a digital journal and more, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to parenting in two households.

Throughout your case, take advantage of our technology to stay on top of all the moving parts.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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