Worried about how child custody and child support will be handled during your Cochrane, AB divorce?
If so, you’re not alone. Child custody, access, visitation, and child support are usually the biggest sources of concern for our clients with minor children. In addition, while most parents want to support their children, there’s a lot of fear associated with child support; one parent is afraid they won’t get enough and the other worries they’ll be asked to pay too much.
Most people want to know their child will be safe and happy. Most people want to retain a relationship with their children after their divorce. And parents aren’t the only adults impacted by divorce proceedings.
Here’s what you need to know about how Alberta courts handle these delicate issues.
Which parent usually wins custody cases in Alberta?
Sole custody is very rare in Alberta.
To understand why, you must first understand the concept of “guardianship.” Under Alberta law, both parents are “guardians” of their children.
Guardians have the right to be involved in making significant decisions about the child and to have enough time with their child to exercise their powers and responsibilities. Guardians are responsible for taking care of the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional development and for making sure the child has adequate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter. They also have the power to make day-to-day decisions about the child’s management, as well as larger decisions about the child’s medical needs, educational upbringing, religious training, and other such matters.
When guardians live together, they share all of the powers, entitlements, and responsibilities for the children. But when a divorce happens, they must make arrangements for how these issues will be handled.
Alberta courts believe it is almost always in the best interests of the child for that child to have a relationship with both parents. Therefore the court generally favors split, 50/50 custody arrangements. When that’s not possible, joint custody arrangements where one parent has primary care and control over the child the majority of the time but the other parent has access to the child at least 40% of the time are common.
Who pays child support in Alberta? How much is it?
The payor will depend on the custody arrangement.
The payee is generally the parent with primary care and control over the child. However, in a split custody arrangement the payee is generally the parent with the lower income. The higher-earning parent pays a smaller amount than they would in a joint custody agreement, as the courts will take the amount both parents would have paid and then subtract the lower amount from the higher amount. In such an arrangement, the higher-earning parent pays the difference.
Child support amounts are determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The law allows for deviations from these guidelines when income is in excess of $150,000, as at those income levels child support can start to become a wealth transfer from the higher earning parent to the lower earning parent. For high income parents, child support often becomes negotiable past a certain minimum threshold.
How Access (Visitation) Works in Alberta
After your divorce, you will have a parenting plan that either was the result of your own negotiations and settlement agreement or the result of the court’s determination as to the arrangements that are in the best interests of the children.
You will usually have a schedule for when each parent will have time with the child, provisions for special days such as birthdays and holidays, and written drop-off and pick-up procedures. Your agreement should also cover who is responsible for travel expenses if one parent lives far away from the other.
Most parents will have visitation or access even if the other parent wins sole custody. In these cases, access may be supervised. Supervised access requires a third party, often a paid third party with expertise in facilitating relationships between parents and children in supervised environments, to remain with the parent and the child during their visits.
What happens if one parent is abusive, or unfit?
Obviously any parent would be frightened to lose custody in such a situation. We understand your number one priority will be protecting your children.
If you can prove abuse, neglect, the maintenance of an unsafe environment, alcohol or drug abuse then the judge will generally be willing to award sole custody with supervised access for the other parent.
As your Cochrane, AB family lawyers, we will work with you to gather the appropriate evidence and to make your case.
Do grandparents have rights in Alberta?
Grandparents may be factored into an access order. Those who are not guardians of the child, but who want to spend time with the child, may also apply for Contact. This gives you the right to spend time with the child but does not give you the right to make any decision in regards to the child.
Judges will consider the best interests of the child when determining whether grandparents should have contact with the children. In general, the courts have recognized that the child should not have to lose their relationship with their grandparents simply because their parents have divorced, and make provisions for the presence of grandparents in the lives of their children.
During the negotiation process, parents may also bake grandparent time into their parenting orders to ensure that both sets of grandparents are factored into the child’s life.
Get Help Today
Our family law lawyers have over 20 years of experience helping parents just like you create parenting arrangements that are within the best interests of their children. We can help you protect your relationship with your child and negotiate custody, access, and child support arrangements that are fair and make sense for your family.
When you meet with us, bring us your goals, concerns, and questions. We’ll take the time to discuss your situation thoroughly, and will help you determine your next steps.
Call (403) 225-7777 to schedule your first appointment today.