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An error of law versus an error of fact

If you're seeking an appeal, it typically means that an error was made by the judge -- at least, you believe such an error was made. You want a higher court to look at the decision to see if it should hold up. You think they will identify the error and rule in your favor because of it. The two main types of errors that can cause this are errors of law and errors of fact.

An error of fact means that you think the judge had the wrong facts or interpreted them incorrectly. With the right information, you think the judge would not have ruled against you, and you want a chance to give the high court that information.

An error of law means that the judge had all of the right information, but you think the law wasn't applied correctly. Judges are human; a mistake could have been made.

For example, you may have asked for child support in a divorce, but the judge determined that you couldn't get it because your child was 20 years old, which is too old for support to be granted because the cutoff is 18.

This could be an error of law if your child is still a student and the judge simply forgot that the Family Law Act says that full-time students, even if they're over 18, can still qualify for child support. It could be an error of fact if your child is actually under 18, but the judge was given the wrong information, perhaps because you have another child who is over 18.

The difference may seem small, but it is very important when considering an appeal in Alberta. Make sure you know your legal options when a ruling doesn't go in your favor.

Source: Alberta Courts, "Do you have grounds to appeal?," accessed July 01, 2016

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