Divorce with minor children is stressful. At Merchant Law, we understand your worries and fears.
We are expert child custody, access, and child support lawyers who are committed to protecting your relationship with your child. Child custody law can be complex, but we’re here to help you put your best foot forward.
Here are some of the questions our clients in Alberta bring to us when they are dealing with custody and child support cases.
Does the wealthier partner have an advantage in an Alberta custody case? Do mothers have an advantage in an Alberta custody case?
Alberta law does not advantage either parent in custody proceedings.
For the most part, Alberta judges believe the vast array of evidence which suggests that children do better when they have a relationship with both parents.
Thus, they tend to favor joint or shared custody arrangements where each parent spends at least 40% of their time with the children. This is by far the most common custody arrangement in Alberta, and the one you are most likely to receive.
For the most part, you should turn your attention towards proposing a co-parenting agreement that can work for your family.
Can grandparents get custody in Alberta?
Only a guardian may sue for custody. A child’s parents are their guardians by default.
However, grandparents who have lived with the child for over six months may apply to become a guardian as well. If the courts grant their application, a grandparent could then sue for custody just like a parent could.
It is rare for grandparents to be awarded custody unless there are special circumstances, but it is not unheard of.
It’s far more common for grandparents to apply, and be awarded: contact. Contact gives a person a right to remain in touch with a child. This does not guarantee face-to-face time, though it could include face-to-face time. It can also include phone contact, or virtual contact.
Types of Custody
Alberta recognizes the following types of custody.
Legal custody is the right to make decisions for your child. These decisions include medical, legal, educational, and religious decisions. Most parents will retain joint legal custody of their children.
Physical custody refers to the right to live with the child. Joint physical custody or shared physical custody means that parents spend roughly 40% of their time or more with the child. 50/50 arrangements, or something close to them, are common. This is the most common custody arrangement in Alberta.
It’s also possible for both parents to retain joint legal custody while one parent takes sole physical custody. This may happen in cases where the parents live very far apart, making a shared custody arrangement infeasible.
Split custody is a rare arrangement for families with multiple children. Some of the children live with one parent, while the other children live with the other parent.
Finally there is sole custody. This refers to an arrangement wherein the child lives with one parent more than 61% of the time, and retains sole legal custody of the child as well. In this arrangement the other parent gets access, or visitation. This is time that the parent gets to spend with the child, usually in their own residence.
What does it take to obtain sole custody of a child in Alberta?
Sole custody is very rare in Alberta. In order to obtain it, you must prove that the other parent represents some kind of a danger to the child, or has very little relationship with or interest in the child.
The most common causes for sole custody awards happen in cases where family violence exists, where the other parent has a drug or alcohol problem, or in cases where the other parent is incarcerated.
It takes a great deal of evidence to prove that sole custody is in the best interests of the child. If you don’t have sufficient evidence, an attempt to sue for sole custody can even backfire on you. One of the factors that judges consider when considering custody is the willingness of both parents to foster a relationship with the other parent. Suing for sole custody without grounds to do so could result in the other parent being awarded sole custody instead.
Even if you obtain sole custody, it is unlikely you will be able to cut the other parent out of your child’s life. Judges will still order some access for the other parent. It is just highly likely that the access will be supervised until such time that the parent can show that they are no longer a danger to the child.
Who pays child support in Alberta?
In cases where there is a primary physical custodian, the non-custodial parent pays.
In cases where shared custody exists, the court takes what each parent would have paid and subtracts one from the other. The higher earning parent then pays the difference to the lower earning parent.
Child support must be worked into any divorce arrangement. You cannot negotiate child support away during the divorce settlement process.
How much is child support in Alberta?
Child support must meet the minimum amounts set forth in the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
That doesn’t mean there is never any reason to discuss child support. While the amounts are automatic in some cases, they aren’t in all cases. High net worth couples have room to negotiate under the guidelines. There may be grounds to ask for more child support than the guidelines demand. Your child may have special needs or expenses.
If you feel you need more child support than the Guidelines demand, or are a parent whose income is in excess of $150,000, then speak to one of our lawyers about how we can help you negotiate a fair child support arrangement.
Get Help Today
Our family law team has over two decades of experience helping parents look out for the best interests of their children. We’re highly adept at crafting parenting plans that work, or at proving abuse when necessary.
To get help with your case, call (403) 237-7777 to schedule your appointment today.