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Grandparent Rights To Access And Custody Of Grandchildren (Alberta)

The breakdown of a common law relationship, a divorce or the death of one spouse impacts not only the immediate family, but the extended family as well.  Unfortunately grandparents often feel the brunt of these events and may even experience a loss of contact with their grandchildren. Grandparent rights exist in Alberta so that they, if appropriate, continue to enjoy a relationship with their grandchildren.

In other cases, Grandparents are the primary caregivers to their Grandchildren as a result of a parent’s death or incapacity due to substance abuse or mental illness. In these unfortunate situations, grandparents often have more rights. It is important in these circumstances to obtain a Court Order outlining a Grandparent’s ability to make decisions on the Children’s behalf when other guardians are not present.

While the Family Law Act does not clearly out line or give rights to grandparents, you do have rights. The Alberta based family lawyers and wills lawyers at Kahane Law Office help grandparents when sorting through the legal aspects of their rights to see or have custody of their grandchildren.

Naming A Grandparent As A Child’s legal Guardian

Two main ways exist for grandparents to get legal rights to look after their grandchildren. These include the following:

Grandparent Rights In A Will

Often, in wills, a guardian is names in the event the a child’s parents pass away. This proactive step is easy, and inexpensive. No extra costs costs exist when adding these provisions to yo

ur will drafted at Kahane Law Office. We encourage clients to add guardianship provisions int their will, even if they do not currently have children.

Court Mandated Grandparent Rights

Alberta Courts have the discretion to make an Order naming a Grandparent as a Guardian to a child in certain circumstances.  For example, when a Grandparent has had the care and control of a child for more than 6 months or if the Child has no guardian, provided the Grandparent is a suitable Guardian and is able and willing to exercise the powers, responsibilities and entitled of guardianship in respect of the child.

A few things are key when considering court applications for grandparent rights:

  • the Biological parents of the Child are required to have notice of Guardianship applications;
  • in addition, the Biological parents of the Child may consent to this type of Guardianship Order;
  • the Grandparents ensure the Court that they will:
    • nurture the Child’s physical, psychological and emotional development
    • guide the child towards independence; and
    • ensure that a child has the necessaries of life including medical care, food, clothing and shelter.

Grandparent Financial Responsibility For A Grandchild

Finances often play a key role when dealing with children. This is true when dealing with grandchildren as well. While Courts order grandparents to be guardians, financial responsibility is another matter. Even if a Grandparent is named as a Guardian of the child, he or she has no legal duty to support the child from the Grandparent’s own financial resources.

Grandparent Rights To Contact Or Spend Time With Grandchildren

We often get asked if grandparents have a right to see their grandchildren when a separation or divorce is going on. Alberta courts have significant discretion when it comes to granting grandparent rights to access grandchildren. As a general rule, the following may occur:

  • Provided that it is in the Child’s best interest, a Courts Order contact time between a Grandparent and a Child;
  • A Grandparent does not require the Court’s permission to apply for this type of Order if the guardians are the parents of the child and the guardians have separated or if one parent has died and the Grandparent’s contact with the Child has been interrupted by this separation or death;
  • Prior to making this type of Order, the Court must be satisfied that contact between a Grandparent and the Child is in the best interest of the Child (including whether the child’s physical, psychological or emotional health may be at risk without this contact) and that the guardian’s denial of contact between the Grandparent and child is unreasonable; and lastly
  • If a parent can demonstrate that contact time between a Grandparent and child is inappropriate or not in the Child’s best interest, the Court may not grant this type of Contact Order.

Expiry Of A Contact Order

Court orders vary significantly. Some orders granting grandparent rights if the face of separation or divorce expire. Other order do not expire. If the Court grants a Contact Order, a Judge’s powers allow her or him to make an order for an indefinite or indefinite period or until a specified event occurs (for example, the Child turns 16).

Getting Legal Help For Securing Grandparent Rights

The family law lawyers at Kahane Law Office in Calgary help with grandparents seeing and getting custody of their grandchildren. They meet with you to discuss in further detail your rights as a Grandparent. We also let you know your options moving forward. We understand that every situation is unique and provide you with a variety of options to move the matter forward, including attending settlement meetings, mediation, arbitration or appearing in Court. Call or email us today to set up an appointment. A quick call or email at 403-225-8810 or click here to email get you the help you need.