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Family Law Legal Definitions

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edmonton law office legal helpGenerally means the time children spend with the parent they don't usually live with.

Child Custody / Parenting

Generally means the parent that has care and control of the child.

Child Support

Financial support for which the child is entitled from his/her parents.

Child Welfare or Children's Services Matters

Matters dealing with the protection of children.

Common Law Relationship

A relationship which is regulated in Alberta by the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, and other areas of law which describe any two unrelated people living together in a mutually dependent relationship for at least three years (or less if they have children together).


Final termination of the marriage.

Extracurricular Activities

Activities for a child outside the regular school program for which the parents are expected to contribute in proportion to their incomes.

Financial Disclosure

Statement of income, expenses, assets and liabilities of the parties in addition to tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements.

Four Way Negotiations/Meetings/ Settlement Discussions

Negotiations by the parties and their lawyers to reach an out of court binding agreement.

Grounds For Divorce

Reasons for divorce: typically the three available under the Divorce Act - 12-month separation, adultery, or cruelty.


Bundle of rights and responsibilities by an adult regarding a child.

In Loco Parentis

Person standing in place of the parent and for which they have assumed expressly or by implication the responsibilities (including child support and access) of a non-biological child.

Joint Custody

Where both parents share the decision making powers with respect to a child although if one parent has “primary care” of the child, he/she typically has the final say in decisions. However, either parent can apply to the court for a judicial determination as to what is in the best interest of the child.

Matrimonial Property Division

Division of assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage.

Men's or Father's Rights

A movement or belief that there is bias in the perception of the Court in favour of women as it relates specifically to child custody, access and support.

Parental Alienation

A negative behaviour expressed by the child of separated or divorced parents, caused by the negative comments one parent makes about the other.


Cross-examination under oath of the opposing party prior to trial used to challenge information regarding relevant issues. A transcript of the proceeding is made and may be used in Court as evidence.

Section 7 Expense

An extracurricular activity or medical/dental/educational expense for which the Court or the parties determine is one that should be proportionately shared between the parties.

Section 3 Support

Basic child support under the Federal or Provincial Child Support Guidelines.

Separation Agreement or Minutes of Settlement

An agreement in writing by separating spouses setting out rights and obligations to each other and a division of property, debts, child custody, access and all other rights that flow from the relationship.

Shared Custody

Care of the child is split between parents where each parent has the child at least 40% of the time.

Sole Custody or Custody

Where one parent or guardian has the sole decision making powers with respect to a child.

Spousal Support

Legal obligation of financial support for the ex common law or married spouse.

Personal Injury Law Legal Definitions

Affidavit of Records

As a party to a lawsuit, you are required to tell the other side exactly what documentary or electronic records you have in your possession that relate to the legal dispute, whether favourable or unfavorable to your case. Once you have gathered your records, your lawyer will determine which records are to be produced and will compile them into a list which will become part of your Affidavit of Records. You will sign the Affidavit swearing that the records listed are all those in your possession pertaining to your lawsuit. You must also produce relevant records which may not be in your possession, but which you have to power or ability to obtain.

Contingency Fee Agreement

An agreement signed by both the lawyer and client, where fees are payable to a lawyer only if a case is successful. The agreement is usually based on a percentage of the client's recovery.

Formal Offer to Settle

A settlement offer or offer to settle is a term used to describe a communication from one party to the other suggesting an agreement to end the lawsuit before a judgment is rendered. The Alberta Rules of Court allow what is called a Formal Offer to Settle. In this case if either party (the "Offeror") makes a Formal Offer in accordance with the Rules to the other party (the “Offeree”) and the Offeree does not obtain a larger judgement at trial or at a hearing, then the Offeror may be entitled to additional legal costs to be paid by the Offeree.

General Damages

Damages for non-monetary losses suffered by a Plaintiff. These damages are not capable of exact quantification. Examples of such losses suffered include pain, suffering, and disfigurement.

Independent Medical Examination (IME)

Occurs when a doctor/physical therapist/chiropractor who has not previously been involved in a person’s care examines an individual and prepares a comprehensive report. IMEs may be conducted to determine the causation, diagnosis, prognosis, extent and medical treatment of a work-related or other injury where liability is at issue; whether an individual has reached maximum benefit from treatment; and whether any permanent impairment remains after treatment. An IME may be conducted at the behest of an employer or an insurance carrier to obtain an independent opinion of the clinical status of the individual.

Minor Injury Regulation (MIR)/"the Cap"

The Cap applies to "minor injuries" as defined by MIR. Minor Injury, in respect of an accident, means:

  • A sprain,
  • A strain, or
  • Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD; see definition below)

caused by an accident that does not result in serious impairment (see the legislative definition of “serious impairment” below). If an injury falls within the legislation relating to a Cap injury, then the injured party’s general damages claim is limited to the prescribed amount under the legislation. It has recently been determined that Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) related injuries (see definition below) may not fall under the Cap legislation and thus may not be limited by the Cap rules. However, this is currently under appeal in Alberta.

Questioning/Examinations for Discovery

It is rather informal but a vitally important part of almost every lawsuit. You will meet your lawyer at the other law firm’s office and swear or affirm to tell the truth. The opposing lawyer will ask you questions about anything he or she thinks is relevant to the lawsuit. Questions will include things such as (for example) the circumstances leading up to your injury, your medical history and how the injury has changed your life. Everything you say will be recorded verbatim by a reporter who will produce a transcript. The goal is to encourage a speedy settlement, or if settlement is not reached, to promote a fair and shorter trial by allowing each side to learn what to expect that the other side will say at trial. It is often the only chance your lawyer has to see the other party and to learn how that party views the facts and intends to present them.

Serious Impairment

Means an impairment of a physical or cognitive function that results in a substantial inability to perform:

  • Essential tasks of the claimant's regular employment, occupation or profession, despite reasonable efforts to accommodate the claimant's impairment and the claimant's reasonable efforts to use the accommodations
  • Essential tasks of the claimant's training or education in a program or course that the claimant was enrolled in or had been accepted for enrolment in at the time of the accident, despite reasonable efforts to accommodate the claimant's impairment and the claimant's reasonable efforts to use the accommodations, or
  • Normal activities of the claimant's daily living, that has been ongoing since the accident and that is expected not to improve substantially.

Special Damages

Damages intended to compensate a Plaintiff for a quantifiable monetary loss. Examples of such losses include: past and future lost earnings, medical bills, and motor vehicle repair costs not otherwise covered by insurance or a benefit plan.

Statement of Claim

A document filed by a Plaintiff in a civil action which shows the facts relied on to support any claim against a Defendant and the remedy or relief sought. In most cases, you must file your claim within two years of the accident. Otherwise, you will lose your right to sue the party causing the injury.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

Is an umbrella term covering acute or chronic pain, especially in the muscles of mastication and/or inflammation of the temporomandibular joint which connects the mandible to the skull.


A promise made to provide something; such as documents, photos, medical reports, etc. Undertakings are almost always requested and given at the Questioning phase of the litigation.

Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)

Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck associated with extension.

Real Estate Law Legal Definitions

Bareland Condominium

When the condominium plan is registered as a “bareland plan”, the owner also owns the land that the condo is on. In this case, a vendor must not only provide an estoppel certificate, but a real property report with compliance or title insurance as well.

Bridge Interim Financing

Required when you are buying and selling a property and your sale proceeds will not be available for your purchase on closing day. You borrow the amount required to close your purchase transaction and the loan is repaid from your sale proceeds.

Building & Development Permits

When selling a property you must provide the purchaser with a real property report with compliance. If you have built a deck, added a shed, built a garage or installed a hot tub, a permit from the municipality is required. If you built the structure without one, you are required to apply for one when selling the property. There is information at

Cash to close

The exact amount of money that the solicitor for the purchaser must pay to the solicitor for the vendor on closing. It includes such things as property tax adjustment, condominium fee adjustment, homeowner association fee, etc.


Required any time a purchaser is purchasing a home with a down payment of less than 20%. This insurance insurers the lender against default by the purchaser. The policy is paid for by the purchaser and the cost is added to the mortgage.

Estoppel Certificate

Certificate provided by the Vendor in a sale of a condominium. It is prepared by the property management firm for the condominium corporation. It provides confirmation of the current monthly condominium fees, whether they are up to date, any court actions the condominium corporation is involved in, any upcoming special assessments, etc.


A guarantor is required when a purchaser does not qualify for a mortgage. It is basically a co-signor on the loan, although legally not exactly the same.

High ratio mortgage

A mortgage where the mortgagor has paid less than 20% down payment on the property.

Mortgage Insurance

Most lenders offer the purchaser disability insurance. This plan will pay your mortgage payments in case of disability or in some instances pay the balance of the mortgage outstanding in case of death of one of the owners. Purchasers should inquire with their existing insurance company for their rates if they decide to apply for insurance.

Real Property Report

A drawing with measurements of the house on the lot showing all structures on the lot. It is prepared by a certified land surveyor. A real property report is transferable and remains current until a change is made such as a garage, new deck, shed, pool or hot tub.


The difference between the purchaser’s mortgage and the cash to close (down payment) and is payable to the purchaser’s solicitor by certified cheque or bank draft. The solicitor calculates the funds required and the funds are provided at the time of signing of all mortgage and purchase documents.

Tenancy at will

What the “tenancy” is called when a purchaser takes possession of the premises without paying the full cash to close the deal. This is used when the purchaser’s lender does not advance the mortgage on time. If you take possession as a tenant you will be required to pay interest on the cash to close to the sale.


A monthly payment plan for property taxes which all municipalities in Alberta provide. There is no charge for it.

Title Insurance

Some lenders require title insurance in all instances. Title insurance is also used in lieu of a real property report. All lenders require either a real property with a compliance certificate or title insurance. Title insurance is a onetime payment of approximately $229.00. A real property report costs approximately $500.00 and a compliance certificate is $110.00. It is the vendor’s responsibility to provide a purchaser with a real property report, but in some instances a purchaser will accept a title insurance policy paid for by the Vendor. Title insurance is not transferable.

Vendor (usually at prime plus 3% on the cash to close).

You will not be paying interest on your mortgage until it is advanced, at which point the cash to close is paid to the vendor and the transaction is complete.

Western Protocol Closing

Completing the purchase of property without having first registered the title to the property in the new owners name.

Wills & Estates Law Legal Definitions


Generally means a person who receives or is entitled to receive a beneficial disposition of property under a will or on an intestacy.

Dependent’s Relief action

It is an application against an Estate for a Court Order for maintenance and support of family member. This action now falls under Division 2 of the Wills and Succession Act of Alberta. If a person:

  • dies testate without making adequate provision in the person’s will for the proper maintenance and support of a family member, or
  • dies either wholly or partly intestate and the share to which a family member is entitled under a will or Part 3 or both is inadequate for the proper maintenance and support of the family member,

the Court may, on application, order that any provision the Court considers adequate be made out of the deceased’s estate for the proper maintenance and support of the family member.

Holograph will

A will made by a writing that is wholly in the testator’s own handwriting and signed by the testator without the presence or signature of a witness or any other formality.

Intestate Estate

An estate, or any part of an estate, that is not disposed of by will

Personal Representative

Means an executor or an administrator or trustee of the estate of a deceased individual;

Property in an Estate matter

Includes all of the following:

  • real and personal property, as well as rights or interests in them,
  • anything regarded in law or equity as property or as an interest in property,
  • any right or interest that can be transferred for value from one person to another, and
  • any right, including a contingent or future right, to be paid money or receive any other kind of property;


An individual who makes a will


  • a codicil,
  • a writing that
    • alters or revokes another will,
    • appoints a personal representative, or
    • on the death of the testator, confers or exercises a power of appointment,
  • any other writing that is a testamentary disposition.

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