COVID Times and the New Alberta Family Docket Court

In May 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench implemented a Family Docket Court (“FDC”) in Edmonton and Calgary. All family matters, with a few of limited exceptions, must now attend FDC before any other Court process can be scheduled. The purpose of FDC is to assess each family’s needs and direct them to the most appropriate services and court processes. Consequently, the Judge sitting in FDC can grant Consent Orders (Orders both parties agree on) but cannot adjudicate contested applications.

Aside from a couple exceptions, parties will have to attend FDC if they are making an application relating to any of the following issues:

    • Parenting
    • Child Support
    • Guardianship
    • Spousal/Partner Support
    • Contact with a Child
    • Family Property

Prior to making an application to attend FDC, the Court recommends that parties first attempt alternative dispute resolution to resolve their matter. However, the Court recognizes that alternative dispute resolution may not be appropriate or possible in certain circumstances, in particular where family violence is involved. 

To proceed with a family matter in FDC, one party must file and serve a Notice to Attend Family Docket Court  on the other, via email. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all parties must attend FDC virtually via videoconferencing. In FDC, the Court will first explore whether there is a possibility of resolving the matter without further litigation.. Second, if no dispute resolution has been attempted the Court may, where appropriate, refer the parties to a dispute resolution process, such as mediation, rather than allowing the litigation to advance., Only if  the Court considers it appropriate will it allow the matter to proceed to litigation.

Certain family law applications may be brought before the Court without having to attend FDC. This includes urgent applications for a protection order and simple desk applications.

If you are presently dealing with a family law matter,  our Family Law Practice Group is available to provide you with legal advice and can assist you with understanding your circumstances and navigating the court process.

This article was written by Sarah McFadyen, a student-at-law at McCuaig Desrochers LLP

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