Whether you’re facing a divorce, parentage issues, guardianship, child support or other family law matter, both federal and provincial family laws may affect the outcome.
This can further complicate an already complex and stressful matter regarding you and your loved ones.
It helps to have a family lawyer who understands the relevant laws and with the experience to guide you through the legal processes towards the outcome you are looking for.
Alberta’s Family Law Act is the most important piece of legislation regarding non-divorce-related family law matters in the province.
It helps to determine the following:
Alberta’s Family Law Act does not cover divorce.
In some areas, the Divorce Act works alongside the Family Law Act, such as with child/spousal support and parenting arrangements.
The divorce process in Calgary is quite simple on the face of it. The problem is that emotions and conflicting interests often get in the way and complicate matters.
No divorce is official until the divorce decree is finalised by a judge in the family courts of Alberta.
You may not need to appear before a judge if you can reach a separation agreement beforehand with your partner.
However, if there are issues that cannot be resolved by collaboration between the lawyers that you appoint, or by a process of mediation or arbitration, you may end up at trial.
At divorce trials, a judge will decide on the key elements of separation, such as child custody, child/spousal support, and property division.
Before you can file for divorce in Canada, you must have been separated from your spouse for at least 12 months unless there are other factors involved, such as domestic violence.
Once the application is filed, most divorces in Alberta are settled within three to six months unless there is a trial.
Trial cases can last for many months or even years and become very expensive. They are also conducted in public. Most couples prefer to avoid this and reach an agreement by alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration.
Within Alberta’s Family Law Act, the legal status of parent-child relationships is defined.
The parents of a child are generally taken to be the birth mother and the biological father unless the child has been adopted or conceived through assisted reproduction.
Parentage and guardianship can be treated as completely separate issues in Calgary. Guardianship refers to the right to make decisions on behalf of a child rather than the biological parentage.
In many cases, the mother and father have joint guardianship over a child. However, if a legal guardian is appointed, that person has the legal right to make decisions for the child, regardless of who the parents are.
The powers, responsibilities and entitlements of a child’s guardian are all specified in the Family Law Act.
Parenting orders may be necessary after a couple with children separate and start living apart.
If both guardians agree on their respective rights and responsibilities regarding the children then no parenting order is legally necessary.
However, disputes often arise about parenting time, visitation rights, respective responsibilities, cost-sharing, and other matters.
In this situation, one guardian may want to request the court for a parenting order to be granted under the Family Law Act.
This will be a legally enforceable court order that can compel each parent to comply with the terms. It usually also includes a provision for dealing with any future parenting disputes.
A key feature of the Family Law Act is that all decisions must be made in the best interests of the child or children.
Obviously, “best interests” is a subjective term that can be interpreted in different ways according to different perspectives. Sometimes parents do not agree and a judge must intervene and make the decisions for them,
The judge will be expected to follow guidelines for determining “best interests” and to ensure that the child’s physical, psychological and emotional safety comes first.
Certain factors (such as the following) will generally be considered by the judge before he or she decides:
A key component of any divorce agreement involving children is a mutually acceptable agreement on child support. It is a legal obligation for parents to provide for the upbringing of their children.
If this cannot be worked out through collaboration or mediation, a judge will apply the relevant family law guidelines for calculating child support in Alberta.
Once a court order details the child support amount and duration, the payor parent is legally obliged to make these payments to the recipient parent. This can be enforced by the courts.
Changes to child support orders can be made only through the courts and only if there is a substantial change in circumstances for either parent or the child.