Court

I debated quite a bit about whether I should write this post or not, but finally decided to in the hopes that it will help others going through something similar.  I had very little idea what to expect going into court, and, as a result, was nervous and forgetful when speaking to the judge.

Backstory

So there’s a bit of a backstory to this post.  Bunny’s brother is getting married in Florida in April, and her parents have offered to fly us and the M&Ms out for a vacation and to attend the wedding.  For any of you who are divorced with kids, you know that this means I need a consent to travel form signed by my ex-wife or a court order allowing me to travel.  So I asked my ex whether she would sign a consent to travel form.  After some back and forth, we were unable to come to any agreement on what days she would get the kids in exchange.  I was worried if it got delayed too much further, we would have trouble getting the flights/reservations we needed, so I decided to take it to court.

Process

The process for making an application in court in Alberta is pretty straightforward, Bunny and I managed to navigate the process ourselves.
  1. The application forms for most things under family law are available from Family Justice Services, but it’s not very clear which one I needed.  Looking through the forms in the relevant section, there was only one that had an option to ask for permission to travel, so that was the one I used.
  2. The next step is, obviously, to fill the form out.  This can be quite time consuming, depending how much there is to attach.  I had to include my separation agreement, the original divorce order, as well as a thorough description of what was planned (including the addresses we intend to stay at).  At the end of the day, this whole process feels pretty useless when you realize that precisely nobody reads any of this (at least in this case, maybe there is the occasional one where they read it; I sure felt like this was a waste of time).
  3. After making sure it’s completed, I took it to the court and filed it.  It cost $50 to file, they asked me to choose a court date, then they stamped it, signed it, made me swear/affirm (you have the option of either swearing on a bible or affirming that what you file is true; both are equally legally binding) that it was true, and then gave me a copy of it.
  4. Then I made another copy, and served one on my ex-wife.  I simply showed up at her house (well after the kids were in bed, so there was little/no chance of conflict in front of them), and rang the doorbell.  When she opened the door, I said “I have a present for you” and placed the forms in her hand, and walked away.
  5. The final thing to do before court was to file an affidavit of service, in which I affirmed the date and location where I gave the papers to my ex-wife.
  6. This morning rolled around, and I showed up in court.  I showed up a bit early, and spoke with the duty counsel (that’s a lawyer that’s on duty to help individuals not represented by lawyers in order to ensure everything runs smoothly).  She was an extremely helpful person who took notes on everything about my case, and spoke briefly with my ex-wife as well, in order to help present everything to the judge.
  7. Speaking in front of the judge.  As I was the applicant, my story was the first to be told.  Duty counsel did most of the speaking, based on our earlier conversation.  Then my ex-wife’s side of the story was told.  After each of our sides was presented, the judge went back and forth asking us questions.  “What times would work for you?”, “Why doesn’t that work for you?” etc. and so on.  At one point, as I was speaking, the duty counsel reminded me of something I had mentioned to her earlier, but forgotten to say, so I was able to add it. (Like I said, very helpful person, someone should send her a gift, but that’s probably horribly inappropriate.)
  8. After what felt like only 30 seconds of back and forth (I’m sure it was probably longer, but it seemed to be over in an instant) the judge said “I’m going to make an order, it’s going to say this, this, and this.”  And I felt like saying “Wait, I didn’t get to say this, that, or that.”  But that was it, no more chance to speak.
  9. Then I sat and waited while the order was typed up, and then signed.  We were each given two copies (or at least I was given two, she was given at least one).  My ex-wife informed me that she intends to appeal it, though I’m not sure what grounds she believes she has for that.

Results

The bad

The kids will be spending their spring break with my ex-wife.  This is unfortunate, because I get very few non-school days with the M&Ms as it is.  Because I have them Monday afternoon through to Friday morning, I miss out on most of the school holidays (which are on Mondays and Fridays) as well as the weekends.  It really makes it hard sometimes to visit family and friends with them, and we had been planning to take a trip to visit two of my aunts and Bunny’s parents over spring break.

I didn’t get awarded costs.  I had asked for costs to be awarded for this application, but that got left by the wayside in the discussion about which times would work for whom.

The good

While I didn’t get awarded costs, the only cost for the application was $50.  As I had agreed to pay $42 for the signing and notarizing of the consent to travel form from the start, which I now don’t have to pay.  So I’m really only out $8 more at the end of the day.
I can take the M&Ms on the trip.  The judge granted permission to travel with the children for the dates I requested.
The judge was sympathetic to my argument that I don’t get much non-school time with the M&Ms, and has specified that for spring break, the will return to me at 5:00 pm on the Saturday, so I will at least have Sunday with them.

Final Thoughts

After talking with Bunny about this, we’ve decided that instead of being upset about not being able to take the M&Ms to visit family over spring break, we’re going to take a vacation for the two of us, since we haven’t managed to have a honeymoon yet.  We haven’t decided where to go yet, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.

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