Six things you need to know about child custody in Alberta
- Do not confuse custody, guardianship, parenting, access and contact
A word that appears in The Divorce Act, Canada may also appear in the Family Law Act, Alberta, but have a different meeting. For example, the Family Law Act, Alberta, uses the terms ‘parenting’, ‘contact’, and ‘guardianship’. Parenting refers to the guardian’s physical time spent with a child. Contact refers to the physical time a non-guardian has with a child. Guardianship refers to powers, responsibilities, and entitlements that the guardian would have over a child. Think of guardianship as the ability to make decisions for or on behalf of a child. Under the Divorce Act, Canada, ‘Custody’ has traditionally been viewed as being a term relating to physical time with a child. However, Custody is similar to guardianship in that it refers to the overall decision-making responsibilities of a parent over a child. The terms ‘parenting’ and ‘access’ refer to physical time spent with a child. While one parent may be the primary caregiver of a child, the other parent would have access to that child. Typically, a parent has primary care of a child if they have the child in their care for over 60% of the time while the other parent (access parent) has less than 40% of the time. When both parties have a child in their physical care between 40-60% of the time, they are deemed to have shared parenting of a child. There are a number of other terms used in different pieces of legislation such as “split custody”, “undue hardship”, and “exempt property”.
- Children have a say
Courts will consider the views of children who are old enough and mature enough to express a preference. Children, however, cannot choose who they want to live with and the Court may make a different choice because of other issues (family violence, criminal behaviour).
- Both parents have some form of access
Even if one parent is granted “primary care”, the other parent is allowed to see the child and has the right to ask for information about the care and well being of the child. Access will be denied entirely if the Court believes the safety of the child is at stake. Don’t make any decisions until you are fully aware of all the access options: reasonable, conditional, supervised, specified, no access.
- Mothers and fathers get equal consideration
There is no inherent bias favouring mothers. The overwhelming consideration is what is best for the child. This means the Court will consider multiple factors, such as who was providing daily care; the degree of attachment (does the child have a stronger attachment with the mother or father) and how can the existing lifestyle of the child be maintained with the least disruption.
- Good intentions are not enough
Just having the willingness to take on Child Custody is not enough. You must also show that you have the financial resources to sustain the existing lifestyle of the child.
- Payment of child support is a financial (not access) issue
A parent who fails to make a child support payment still has the right to see that child. This is because the Courts place the highest priority on maintaining what is best for the child, not the fulfillment of child support payments, although the courts rarely hesitate to enforce child support.
Contact our office today at (780) 784-6666 or online to request more information about child support guidelines in Alberta.
Do you know the difference between child custody and child access? Get the answer by arranging a free introductory consultation in the Edmonton Law Office today.