Calgary Divorce & Separation Lawyers
As one of the leading family law firms in Western Canada, DBB Law understands the complex legal, financial, and emotional considerations involved in separation and divorce matters. Our highly knowledgeable family and divorce lawyers support clients through every step of the process and create individualized legal solutions to suit their needs and the needs of their children.
The term “divorce” relates primarily to legally married couples and is the process by which a marriage is terminated. Divorces are governed by the federal Divorce Act, which requires a couple to demonstrate that there has been a “breakdown in the marriage”. The most common way to show the court there has been a breakdown in the marriage is for the spouses to have lived separate and apart for at least one year prior to applying for a divorce.
While you might expect that one spouse needs to move out of the family home to qualify as living “separate and apart”, this is not always the case. Courts look at each family’s unique circumstances to determine whether the spouses have been living their lives independently, regardless of where they reside.
Spouses who continue living in the same home (for financial reasons, for example, or to ease the transition for their children) may still be living separate and apart if they no longer socialize with the same friends, attend the same events, or sleep in the same bedroom. Courts will review the details of each couple’s situation to determine whether the requirement to live separate and apart for one year has been met.
Although far less common, adultery or cruelty (physical or mental), can be reasons for shortening the one-year “separate and apart” rule in limited cases. In cases involving adultery, only the “innocent” spouse (i.e. the spouse who did not stray outside of the marriage) may raise the issue with the court and must prove that adultery took place. As could be expected, adultery is onerous to prove and often creates unnecessary conflict between the parties, making it difficult to co-parent in the future. However, the offending party can swear an affidavit confirming the adultery.
Similarly, the emotional complexities surrounding spousal cruelty can substantially complicate the divorce process. The cruelty must have been so serious that the trauma caused to the victim spouse’s mental or physical well-being renders it impossible for the couple to continue living together.
In Alberta, common-law couples fall under the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. Partners are considered to be common-law (or “adult interdependent”) in nature if they:
- Have lived together in a relationship of interdependence (i.e. they share their lives, are emotionally committed to each other, and function as an economic and domestic unit) for at least three (3) years;
- Have lived together in a relationship of some permanence and have a child together (either by birth or adoption); or
- Have entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement together.
A common-law separation does not have the same formal steps to terminate the relationship legally. However, court processes and agreements may be required to determine issues such as division of property, parenting rights and obligations, and spousal/partner support.
Separation creates a myriad of legal entitlements and obligations for both spouses/common-law partners under both federal and provincial laws. In most cases involving married couples, a divorce cannot be granted until most or all of these matters have been resolved, including:
- Division of property, including shared assets, liabilities, real estate, and the matrimonial (family) home;
- Dividing up a family-owned business, if applicable;
- Parenting matters, including decision-making responsibility, parenting time, and guardianship
- Child support; and
- Spousal support.
Many of these issues are commonly dealt with in a contract agreed to between the couple, called a separation agreement. Other agreements that may govern these matters include pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, or cohabitation agreements (for common-law couples). If an issue cannot be resolved by agreement, the parties may be required to deal with the matter in court.
For almost 45 years, DBB Law has provided trusted, cutting-edge legal advice to families across Alberta and Western Canada. Based in the heart of downtown Calgary, our firm offers compassionate representation to clients navigating a separation or divorce. Our talented family and divorce lawyers proactively protect each client’s interests while taking any steps possible to reduce conflict throughout the process. To discuss your family law matter or schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us online or by phone at 403-265-7777.