divorce; family law; Alberta; seperation; married; common law

Divorcing Tips

What Parents Need To Know About Parenting During Divorce In Alberta

Clients will often meet with us when they are having trouble reaching an agreement on a parenting schedule. Separation and divorce can be a scary and challenging time in people’s lives. Being a parent during divorce can make things more difficult. There are some divorce parenting legal questions that lawyers get more frequently in Alberta.  Here are the most common divorce parenting lawyer questions clients have when they come in to discuss this issue:

1) How Old Before A Child Can Decide Which Parent They Will Live With?

This is a difficult divorce parenting question. In Canada, we do not have a certain age where children can make a decision as different children have different maturity levels. While children have a voice, they do not make the choice.

We often recommend that children attend with a child psychologist to have a safe outlet to express their feelings.  Psychologists provide a wide range of services for the process; from counseling the specific child to being able to provide a report for the Court on what is in the child’s best interests regarding a parenting plan. A court will make the ultimate decision and will vary the amount of input a child has based on the circumstance. While divorce parenting can be difficult, it is usually better to work together as parents.

2) How Do Courts decide which parent the child will live with?

The Courts look at what is in the child’s best interest to determine where that child resides.  This is a very difficult question for a court to answer. In most cases, parents are the experts when it comes to their children, which is why we recommend that clients resolve parenting issues outside of the Courtroom and with professional assistance, if required, prior to attending before a Judge.

As divorce parenting can be difficult, if forced to determine this issue, the Court will consider a variety of factors, including the history of care for the child and the child’s physical, psychological and emotions needs (including the child’s need for stability).

3) What If My Child Does Not Want To Visit The Other Parent?

If the parties have a Court Order outlining a parenting arrangement, then the child needs to understand that Court Orders are not suggestions and just like his or her parents, they bind the child.

Parents, when parenting during divorce, are required to do everything in their power to ensure that these orders are followed and if this doesn’t happen, then that party may be found in contempt of court resulting in possible jail time and significant fines.

In cases where a child refuses to see a parent we often retain the help of child psychologists to assist us in determining why this is occurring.

4) What Can I Do If The Other Parent Won’t Let Me See My Child?

If the parties have a Court Order outlining the schedule and one parent withholds access, this parent may be found in contempt of Court.

If the parties do not have a Court Order, it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately as a Court application may be needed to enforce parenting time. A parent who has been refused time will likely be awarded compensatory parenting time and may be awarded a monetary penalty from the other parent.

In either case, the longer a parent leaves the new parenting plan in place, the harder it will be to enforce the previous parenting agreement or Order, or change it. These drastic changes in parenting plans need to be dealt with immediately.

5) What If I Am, While Parenting During Divorce, Nursing The Child?

This is an important factor when discussing parenting time with an infant, but has been a controversial topic before the Courts.  There is no magic age where a child is determined to have nursed “enough”. The Courts do view time with dad as important or more important than nursing, particularly if the child is over the age of 1.

6) Can One Child Live With My Ex And The Other Child Live With Me?

This arrangement is referred to as Split Custody.  Parents can mutually decide what is best for their children.  However, if this is not agreed upon between the parents, a Court will likely keep siblings together as it is often considered in the children’s best interest.

7) Do I Need The Other Parent’s Permission To Move Across The City Or Out Of Town With The Child?

This issue relates to both the decision-making abilities of the parents, while also impacting the actual parenting schedule.

If parents enjoy joint custody or joint guardianship of their Children, then consent is required to move the Children. This decision needs to be made jointly.

If a parent has sole decision making ability, but the parents share equal time with the Children, then both parents will again be required to consent to a significant move.

8) Do I Need The Other Parent’s Permission To Travel Out Of The Country On Vacation With The Child?

If parents enjoy joint custody or joint guardianship of their Children, then a notarized letter is required outlining the other parent’s consent. When parenting during divorce, some parents refuse to sign this letter. IN these situations, an application to the court for an order allowing for the travel may be required.

If a parent has sole custody, then consent from the other parent is not required.

9) What Can I Do To Ensure Our Child Experiences As Little Pain And Suffering As Possible Throughout A Difficult Separation?

Asking this question from the beginning of the process and being aware of how a separation affects your children is the first step in ensuring that your children stay as healthy and positive as possible.  In most cases, we refer our clients to child psychologists to ensure that the needs of the children are being met.

It is vital that parents not discuss the details of the separation with their children or ask the children where they want to live no matter what their age. This puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on Children and can significantly impact their mental health.

10) Are There Any Programs Or Courses Which Are Recommended That Can Help The Parents And Children Through This Process?

All parents of children under the age of 16 are required to take the Parenting After Separation Course prior to filing a parenting application with the Court or having their Divorce Certificate rendered. Additional courses for the higher conflict situations include Parenting After Separation – High Conflict,

The most common course for children is Children of Divorce and for Father specific is Be a Great Dad.

Divorce Parenting Legal Help From Alberta Lawyers

If you want more information on divorce parenting, or have any questions about parent or child rights and obligations in divorce, call today. We are able to help answer your questions. Call Kahane Law Office now. You can reach us in Calgary, Alberta at 403-225-8810 or toll-free at 1-877-225-8817, or email us directly here.