Your Guide To Child Custody in Alberta

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At McLean Legal Family Lawyers, we understand just how much a divorce can impact you and your entire family. In theory, while a divorce only occurs between you and your spouse as you work to dissolve your marriage, in practice, your children are just as involved.

Determining how your new living situation will affect your children’s lives is important and, understandably, it can be overwhelming. Having a trusted child custody lawyer on your side can be a benefit, as they help you to understand and work towards a custody/guardianship arrangement that is most advantageous for your children.

Here are some quick facts to help you before your first meeting with your lawyer.

Your Guide To Alberta’s Child Custody/Guardianship Laws

What is custody?

When you have children within a marriage, both of you are automatically the custodians, or guardians, of your children. These terms mean essentially the same thing.  Together, you share all the powers, responsibilities, and entitlements that come with parenting.  Custody is an often misunderstood term – it does not mean who has physical care of the children; that would be “parenting”.

For non-married couples, guardianship is not automatic and may need to be consensual or determined by a Court.

When you separate from each other, you do need to determine who will have the custodial rights/guardianship rights over your children.  Indeed, third parties, such as school administrators or childcare providers, will need to know whom they can take instructions from for the children’s welfare or pick-up arrangements.

What kind of custody/guardianship arrangements are there?

Joint Custody/Joint Guardianship

Joint custody/guardianship provides that both parents have an equal say in all major decisions affecting their children.  These joint entitlements have nothing to do with the amount of time each party may be parenting the children.  

Sole Custody/Sole Guardianship

In sole custody arrangements, only one party is responsible and entitled to make all major decisions regarding the children. While the other parent can provide their opinion regarding any particular decision to be made, the party having sole custody has the exclusive right to make the final decision.

Often, sole custody/guardianship is granted by a Court when it is clear that the parties cannot put aside their personal grievances or acrimony to make decisions that would benefit their children.  Remember, the relationship each party had with the other is different from the relationship each has with the children.  One can be a terrible partner but a wonderful parent, and it is vital to distinguish between the two.

child custody in Alberta

When do you apply for custody/guardianship?

If you want to apply for child guardianship or to apply for child custody in Calgary, you can apply through either the Provincial Court (Family Division) or the Court of Queen’s Bench provided that you have a child or children living in Alberta.  Typically, one is also separated from their former partner at the time of the application.

You can attempt to apply on your own provided that you complete and swear all of the required forms located on the Courts’ website and are comfortable speaking to a Judge on your own.  If you are uncomfortable with either step, we recommend you consult with a lawyer for advice, direction and assistance.

Do the courts need to decide child custody/guardianship matters?

If you and your former partner have come to an agreement regarding the custody/guardianship of your children, then the courts do not have to get involved. 

However, if you disagree regarding what is in the best interests of your children and who should make the various decisions, then the Courts will need to step in. Their decision will be based on some of the following non-limiting factors:

  • The children’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs
  • The children’s need for stability
  • Who has been caring for the children until now
  • What the children want (typically considered regarding older children)
  • The children’s relationships with each party
  • The willingness of a party to foster the children’s relationship with the other party
  • The ability to care for the children

Determining child custody/guardianship can be emotional and logistically challenging. By turning to a child custody lawyer in Calgary, you can be confident that the interests of your children are put first while striving to reach a beneficial outcome.

There is a brighter future ahead with McLean Legal Family Lawyers. As your dynamic, multi-service family law firm in Calgary, McLean Legal Family Lawyers can offer you personalized legal services tailored to your particular circumstances. We endeavour to resolve matters quickly and with minimal conflict, offering calm, professional, and realistic advice. Given our years of experience in family law, we can assist with your child support, spousal support, divorce, mediation and separation agreements, as well as civil litigation issues, commercial/corporate services, and real estate transactions. With over 30 years of experience and success, we’re the Calgary family lawyers that offer you a brighter future. Book your free consultation by calling 587-353-2632.

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