What Is Family Court? Your Guide to Family Court Processes

by | Feb 14, 2019 | Law

Court Room Calgary Alberta

The court system isn’t one big free for all where every judge hears every kind of case. The court system in Alberta consists of three main branches, the Provincial, Court of Queen’s Bench, and Court of Appeal.

Each branch also handles individual areas of law, such as family law. The majority of family law cases, excepting divorce and property division, end up in the family court of Provincial Court. Once one of the parties files for Divorce the matters will be in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Of course, that begs the question: “What is Family Court?”

What Is Family Court?

Families in conflict often can’t settle any number of important family matters. When that happens, it falls on the court to settle issues including:

  • Child Protection
  • Child Support
  • Parenting Arrangements
  • Guardianship
  • Spousal Support

Let’s say that you recently separated and your spouse won’t agree on where the children should live during the week. In that case, you ask the family court for a decision. A judge will rule on the mater.


Before you ever set foot inside the court, there is a lot of paperwork. A lawyer will handle most of it if you can afford one. If you represent yourself, though, all of that paperwork falls on you.

For example, you must fill out a statement or affidavit for spousal support, parenting, or guardianship. This is your sworn testimony for court. You must file documents with the court. You may also end up serving documents to the other person.

If all of this seems daunting, you can find services that specialize in helping you with part of the process. These services often prove more affordable than a lawyer.

Essential Process

There is a fairly standard procedure when you appear before the judge in family court.

The plaintiff — the person seeking something — introduces everyone to the judge and then. They tell the judge what they want and present any facts or argument that support their position. The judge may or may not ask the plaintiff questions.

The defendant offers facts and arguments that support their position. Again, the judge may or may not ask clarifying questions.

The plaintiff can respond to the defendant’s facts and arguments. After hearing the facts and arguments, the judge decides the matter. Everyone thanks the judge.

Parting Thoughts on Family Court

The question, what is ‘family court,’ has a simple surface answer. It’s the court that deals with legal matters a family can’t settle privately.

In practice, it handles a number of sensitive and financial issues. The court may decide who retains guardianship for a child or other family members. It can determine child support or spousal support. The court may also give one primary parent custody of a child.

In cases where a child is at risk, the court can also make more ultimate decisions. For example, it may temporarily or permanently remove a child from home.

Court Support AB helps you navigate the Alberta Family Court. Whether you need help with self-representation or managing forms, filings, contact Court Support AB today.