4-way Meeting – A meetings between each person involved in a dispute and their counsel. These meetings allow couples to collaboratively settle their issues on property division, support obligations, and custody arrangement.


Access: The term used by the Divorce Act of Canada to describe having physical care and control of a child in the case of married persons.


Affidavit – A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court proceedings.


Alimony / Spousal Support / Spousal Maintenance : Usually refers to monthly payments from one spouse to the other after separation.  Typically, payments are made monthly but other schedules of payment can be used, including one-time lump sum payments.


Application – A request in writing for an order from the court directing that parties to a dispute take a particular action.


Arrears: Sometimes called Retroactive Child Support or Retroactive Spousal Support, this is the term we use to describe support payments/obligations that were not made and are now owed.


Case flow Conference: An alternative to a docket appearance in court before a judge, a “case flow conference” allows parties to bring their issue before a neutral third party in a private setting. In the conference, a Caseflow Coordinator provides information that can help parties resolve their conflict outside of a traditional court room.  If one or both of you is self-represented in Provincial Court, your matter will automatically be directed to a Caseflow Conference.


Chambers – Sometimes referred to as “morning chambers” or “regular chambers”, Chambers is a form of court that deals with matters that take less than 20 minutes. Regular chambers does not settle disputes regarding changes of child custody, substantial changes to a parenting arrangement, or retroactive child/spousal support for a period greater than six months.


Child Support: Child support is an amount of money paid by one parent to the other to help ensure children suffer as little economically through separation as possible.  There are two kinds of child support: Section 3 and Section 7. Section 3 child support is the monthly recurring amount that is meant to cover the staples of life.  Section 7 child support is more complex and is meant to be used for the additional costs and expenses of raising children.


Cohabitation Agreement – A written agreement between a couple that has chosen to live together outside of marriage. A ‘cohabitation agreement’ provides for how all current and future property will be dealt with in the event the relationship breaks down.


Common Law: Also known as custom and judicial precedent, “common law” refers to law that is not codified in statute. Some may refer to a relationship as a “common law relationship”. In alberta, a “common law relationship” is now known as an “adult interdependent relationship”.


Consent Order: A court order arrived at and which formally records the agreement between parties. Typically, these Orders only deal with some of the issues that arise and only until a more formal agreement is reached or a Trial is completed.


Contested Matter: An issue that the parties in a dispute cannot come to an agreeable resolution on. A “contested matter” may be resolved through settlement or Court Order.


Contract Amendments – A change made to an existing contract that alters the contract or particular sections of a contract.


Custody: The term used to describe a married person’s right, responsibility and obligation to make decisions in their child’s long-term and short-term best interests.  Common decisions are: Where will they live? What school will they go to? What medical treatment will they receive? This term does NOT relate to having children in one’s physical care.


Desk Divorce: A divorce that is uncontested by both sides and considerably less expensive than a contested divorce. They may also be known as “no contest divorce” or a “joint divorce”. Where there are no issues regarding division of property, spousal support, child support or child access and child custody, or the issues have been resolved by agreement, a desk divorce may occur.


Divorce Contract: A legal document that allows divorcing spouses to come to an agreement regarding the terms of their divorce.  A Divorce contract is the simplest and most cost-effective way of resolving matters.


Emergency Protection Order (EPO) – A type of restraining order for victims of family violence or threats of violence. These orders prevent abusive family members from contacting and communicating with their alleged victims.


Equalization Payment – A payment from one partner to the other made for the purposes of offsetting an imbalance caused by the division of joint held property.


Family Law Act – A statute that governs the roles and responsibilities of individuals in a child’s life. In addition, it governs issues such as spousal support and child support in the event of a relationship breakdown.



Family: A cohesive unit which comes in a variety of forms. A group need not be related by blood to be considered a family.


Guardianship: The term used to describe an unmarried person’s right, responsibility and obligation to make decisions in their child’s long term and short-term best interests.  Common decisions are: Where will they live? What school will they go to? What medical treatment will they receive? This term does NOT relate to having children in one’s physical care.


Legal Separation: The process of negotiating, preparing and signing a Divorce (Separation) Contract.


Legally Separated: The relationship or marital status of persons who have signed a Divorce (Separation) Contract, but who have not yet (or will not be) Divorced.


Lis Pen: Translating to “a pending suit”, Lis Pen is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed concerning a particular parcel of land.  This is a red flag for buyers and sellers indicating that a piece of property is the subject of a legal dispute. A Lis Pendens is particularly important if there are significant assets held solely by one spouse or the other but not in joint name.


Litigation – The process of bringing an disputed issue to the attention of the court.


Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP): An enforcement program for court-ordered child support and/or spousal/partner support.  MEP is the governing body that helps support recipients collect. MEP also has several different methods of “enforcement”, such as suspending an Operator’s License or a passport.


Matrimonial Property Act – A statute that defines what property is available to be divided and how that property will be divided in the event of a divorce.


Mediation – A method of resolving issues with the help of a “mediator”. The mediator acts as a neutral third party and identifies issues that need to be resolved while guiding the couple towards resolution those issues.


Parenting Regime/Schedule: A formal schedule of parenting time. The regime/schedule provides parents with designated times in which they are to have physical care and control of a child.


Parenting Time: The term used by the Family Law Act of Alberta to describe having physical care and control of a child in the case of unmarried persons.


Provincial Court Trial – A hearing between two parties held at Provincial Court.


Provincial Court: The type of court house that handles the issues of child and spousal support, parenting arrangements, private guardianship and all child protection cases. It does not decide on matters under the Divorce Act or property distribution following a relationship’s breakdown.


Queen’s Bench Trial – A hearing between two parties held at the Court of Queen’s Bench.


Queens Bench: A type of court house that has sole jurisdiction over divorce and the division of property, and presides over matters involving child support, spousal support, and child custody and access.


Retainer – Otherwise known as a retainer fee, a retainer is a single or recurring payment to a lawyer that is held in a trust account and used to pay for the lawyer’s services.


Separation Contracts: A legal document that allows separating partners to come to an agreement regarding the terms of their separation. A Separation contract is the simplest and most cost effective way of resolving matters.


Special Chambers – Special Chambers deals with family law matters that are expected to take 20 minutes or more. Special Chambers can provide resolution to disputes that Regular Chambers will not address.


Statement of Claim – The document used by one party to commence an action against another. In family law, this can be used to apply for divorce, division of matrimonial property, spousal support, child support, and many other forms of relief.


Statement of Defense – A document in reply to a Statement of Claim or a counterclaim that can either agree to the relief sought by the opposing party or contest all or part of the relief sought by the opposing party. If a Statement of Claim or Counterclaim is contested, a Statement of Defense will provide the reasons for doing so.


Supervised Parenting: Parenting time that is monitored by another adult.  Sometimes the person is known to the parties involved, sometimes the person is appointed by the Court, and sometimes supervision occurs at a specific facility like PACE.


Travel Consent/Authorization – An agreement by one parent/guardian to allow the child to travel with the other parent/guardian to a specific destination(s). This document is generally signed and, in the case of international vacations, can be notarized to inform boarder officials of prior consent by the non-vacationing parent/guardian.