In Alberta, child custody law is the area of law governing decision-making with respect to children. In most cases, both parents retain decision-making authority, even though the children may live with one parent most of the time (or all of the time).
Our Calgary, Alberta child custody lawyers can assist with resolving issues relating to children, including the parenting or access schedule, and guardianship applications for step-parents and grandparents.
The bottom line in every case is the best interests of the children.
This overriding principle is both the law, and a moral imperative. At FC&Z Family Lawyers, this principle underlies our entire philosophy towards divorce and separation. Where children are involved, everyone benefits by putting their needs first.
At the same time, we understand that helping children means working with their parents to ensure both parents can be a constructive and positive part of their life. No matter the situation, we can work with you to ensure that your interests are represented in what is invariably a difficult and challenging time for a parent. Call today to schedule a free consultation with a Calgary child custody lawyer: 403-460-1230.
Who Our Custody Lawyers Can Help
FC&Z child custody lawyers represent fathers, mothers, same-sex parents, families who are separated, divorced, or still together. Our clients include parents outside the jurisdiction looking for access to their children, as well as Canadian residents seeking support from a parent who lives abroad.
We have experience representing grandparents, step-parents and other relatives who are seeking to be positively involved in a child's life.
What is Child Custody in Alberta?
Child custody is typically joint, in that both parents will retain authority over decision making. However, this is not always the case, particularly where one parent is under some legal incapacity.
Usually, what is referred to as a "child custody" dispute is not really about decision making at all, but the parenting arrangements for the children. In other words, which parent the children live with.
Parenting can be shared, if children live with each parent at least 40% of the time, or one parent may have primary parenting with the children staying with the other parent every weekend, or every second weekend, or some other schedule. The right parenting schedule will depend on the situation of each family, but the best interests of the children must take priority.
As of March 1, 2021, the term “custody” is no longer used in the Divorce Act. Instead, decision-making responsibility is used. It is intended to cover important parenting choices encompassing issues such as children’s health, education, language, and religion. These responsibilities can be shared between spouses or given to one spouse alone. A spouse with decision-making responsibility has the right to ask for and get information about their children’s health, education and well-being.
What is Child Access in Alberta?
Child access refers to the children's right to visit, spend time with and bond with the parent they do not live with. If parenting is not shared, and the children live with one parent most of the time or all of the time, a child access schedule will be central to the divorce.
Child access lawyers work to ensure the children benefit from having a relationship with both of their parents. In some cases this is simply a matter of working out a mutually agreeable schedule. In other cases, where there are difficult circumstances such as substance abuse, violence or other problems, a different approach may be required.
It can also be challenging to arrange access when one parent lives outside Canada. For example, imagine a case where a father lives in the United States but wishes to spend some time with his children in Canada or in United States. Our child access lawyers have worked with parents who live outside Canada to arrange appropriate access. We have also acted for the Canadian parent who wishes to ensure their children are safe, and not removed from the country.
As of March 1, 2021, the term “access” is no longer used in the Divorce Act. It has been replaced with "parenting time," which refers to the time a spouse spends with a child. A spouse with parenting time has the right to make day-to-day decisions (including emergency ones) about a child during their time together. They also have the right to ask for and get information about their children’s health, education and well-being.
What is Child Guardianship in Alberta?
Guardianship refers to responsibility for the care and welfare of children. In some situations, it is not possible for parents to look after their own children. In these cases, the court can appoint a guardian, often a relative such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. The guardian will be responsible to ensure the well-being of the children. Guardianship may be temporary or permanent. In all such cases, the best interests of the children are paramount.
Restraining a Parent From Seeing Their Child
In some situations, the best interest of the child is that they not see their parent. In other words, the parent must be barred from visiting or spending time with their child. Sometimes this is a temporary situation, and in other cases permanent. The courts decide these difficult cases by considering what is in the best interests of the children. An experienced child custody lawyer can help ensure the facts are presented fairly and the case correctly decided.
In some cases, moving away with your children amounts to barring the other parent from seeing them. These types of cases are referred to as "mobility" disputes. FC&Z has represented many parents in mobility disputes, which may require a court application to resolve.
Issues Addressed by Child Custody Lawyers
Child custody lawyers can assist with the resolution of issues relating to the care of children, and decisions that affect children. Both parents normally have the right to be involved in deciding such issues, even where the children live with one parent. Issues that can arise include the following:
- education, including what school the children attend
- health care, including medical treatment
- religion, including attendance and membership in religious communities
- involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities
- how the children spend their time, what friends they see, and other such matters
- which parent the children live with
- the parenting schedule
- where the children spend holidays
Where parents have difficulty resolving day-to-day issues by agreement, a parenting coordinator hired by both parents can meet with both parents to resolve disputes and work out a decision. In other, more serious cases, the parents may turn to the Courts for a decision. A family lawyer can be a key ally in navigating such matters.
How We Help With Child Custody & Access Issues
Although the best interests of the children have priority, both parents may not agree on what that means. Sometimes, the emotions associated with a divorce can make it difficult to resolve issues reasonably and fairly. As child custody lawyers, we can help by advocating for you. Your voice counts, and we can help ensure it is heard.
Parenting is challenging at the best of times, and there is no one right answer. Determining what arrangements will be in the children's best interest is complex and fact-specific. Effective legal representation will help ensure your position is presented properly and decided fairly.
How you proceed is up to you - but it's critical that you understand your rights, and your legal options. That's where we come in.
When you retain Davidson Fraese as your child custody lawyers, we start by listening. Once we understand the situation, we can work with you to explore your options and develop a legal strategy that puts your kids first. We can then work towards resolving your dispute, whether through negotiation, mediation or litigation in the courts.
Keeping Custody Negotiations Cheap and Simple
In every case, the childrens' psychological, emotional, financial and material interests must be taken into consideration. If both parents can adopt that priority, everything else comes into focus.
Most child custody disputes are resolved out of court. Our philosophy is that the kids come first. We find that when parents are able to set aside the antagonism they have for each other, and focus on their kids, settlement is usually possible.
It's almost always better to resolve child custody disputes out of court. However, sometimes that is just not possible. In those cases, effective legal representation can mean a shorter path to the courtroom. We work with you to decide what's right for your children.
When Child-Related Situations Change
Parenting is a long-term relationship. You never really stop being a parent. An agreement that worked when you first separated might no longer be appropriate. Your childrens' needs might change as they grow older. Children may decide to live with one parent, and then change their minds. With children, the only constant truly is change.
The child custody lawyers at Davidson Fraese understand this, and can step in to help you resolve conflicts, preserve your rights, and protect your children.
Hiring a Child Custody Lawyer in Calgary
We believe in putting the children first. We only work with parents who are prepared to do the same.
We offer a free consultation as a way to find out whether we are a good fit for you, and vice versa. To schedule your free consultation, call our Calgary office at (403) 460-1230. Alternatively, you can get in touch online through our contact page.