Mandatory Family Pre-Court Requirements
Effective December 18, 2023, barring certain exceptions, anyone who wishes to bring their family law matter before Calgary and Edmonton courts must complete the following four requirements before filing their application.
Completion of the Parenting After Separation (“PAS”) Course
If the family law application involves children under the age of 18, parties must complete the PAS course. Recertification of the PAS course is required if more than two-years have passed since completion.
Meeting with a Family Court Counsellor (“FCC”)
The FCC requirement is mandatory for self-represented parties with dependent children. FCCs assist in defining issues, obtaining clarity on financials disclosure, and exploring alternative dispute resolution.
Exchange of Financial Disclosure
If the family application involves support orders or the division of family property, then parties must fill out the Financial Disclosure Statement and exchange financial disclosure with each other.
Participation in Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”)
Unless waived or deferred by the Court due to urgent circumstances, parties must attend ADR with an acceptable provider (e.g., mediation/arbitration with a neutral and qualified professional; four-way settlement meeting with counsel and parties) within six months before filing an application. The ADR requirement is met if one party attends an ADR session and provides their required financial disclosure, even if the other party fails to attend or provide their financial disclosure. However, the ADR requirement is not satisfied if a party attends ADR to discuss financial issues without first providing their financial disclosure.
Waivers of Mandatory Pre-Court Requirements
Applications for waiver or deferral can be made via a desk application or an ex-parte court application. Waivers or deferrals may be issued for situations where there is a:
- risk of immediate harm to parties or one or more of the children;
- risk of imminent risk of abduction of one or more children;
- risk of severe economic harm to a child or party of an action;
- or where the other party refuses to participate in the mandated process, they cannot be located or there is an existing order prohibiting contact between the parties.
If there is consent to certain issues, parties can also get Consent Orders without needing to do the Pre-Court Requirements. However, the exchange of disclosure will still be necessary for Consent Orders dealing with support issues.
These changes aim to streamline family law proceedings in Alberta, but also present risks and hurdles to litigants who do not comply with the requirements. It is crucial for parties to familiarize themselves with these changes and ensure compliance to navigate the legal process seamlessly. For detailed information, you can book a consultation with one of our lawyers and discuss your legal options.
Do you have questions about your legal status and rights? Call us.