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Family Law: How Alberta Defines Family Violence

Family Law: How Alberta Defines Family Violence

In Alberta, ‘family violence’ is used to describe “violence that happens within a family. It can include domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and more. However, family laws in Alberta define family violence in different ways when dealing with issues under those laws.”

The Alberta Protection Against Family Violence Act defines family violence as:

  • Actions that intimidate or injure someone
  • Actions that cause damage to property
  • Any act or threat of an act that intimidates a family member by creating a reasonable fear of property damage or injury to a family member
  • Forced confinement (such as being locked in a room with no way out)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking (including repeated, harassing contact either in person or via technology)

In Canada, acts of violence are governed by the Criminal Code. However, your family law lawyer will be able to assist with separation proceedings to ensure that you, your family and your property are safe during a divorce. Family law lawyers are adept at assessing each unique situation and navigating the Court system to help family violence victims seek justice.

Family law lawyers in Calgary may advise their clients to obtain an Emergency Protection Order (“EPO”) if immediate intervention is needed. An EPO is a legal document that sets enforceable restrictions on the violent person. For example, an EPO can legally prevent the violent person from entering the home or restrict them from communicating with the person seeking the EPO and the children, if necessary. An EPO is enforceable by the police.

Family violence is not only physical

Family violence can be challenging to detect and acknowledge, even from the victims. This is because domestic abuse can be subtle actions or words and not ever involve any physical altercations such as verbal, emotional, and financial abuse. These types of abuse can be as damaging as physical violence and are included by the Department of Justice in its definition of family violence.

The following non-physical behaviours are considered acts of family violence:

  • Threats of physical violence
  • Limiting or removing access to finances
  • Yelling, name-calling, berating
  • Destroying property
  • Stalking a spouse or child

It is important to note that family violence is not limited to the above list. There is no distinct definition for family violence crimes as all family dynamics are different and each situation is unique.

What to do if you’re experiencing family violence

Sadly, Alberta’s domestic abuse rates are the highest they’ve been in 10 years, and incidences increased significantly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are experiencing any form of family violence and are afraid to leave the relationship, we encourage you to:

  • Confide in a trusted family member or friend
  • Ask a family member or friend to check in on you regularly
  • Ask a family member or friend to accompany you when you decide to leave your partner
  • Have your children in the care of a loved one and away from the situation when you decide to leave your partner
  • Call the Calgary Distress Centre at (403) 266-4357 – they are available 24 hours a day
  • Call the police if you feel you are in danger
  • Apply for an Emergency Protection Order

You don’t need a lawyer to request an Emergency Protection Order and there is no fee involved.

How a family lawyer in Calgary can help

At Jones Divorce and Family Law, we understand that family matters can be extremely challenging to navigate and you may have concerns for your safety. We are trained to screen for instances of family violence and can assist you in taking the correct steps toward protecting yourself and your family. Remember that you are not alone during this time. A family law lawyer can help you understand your options so you can make the best decisions for you and your family.


Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.