Alberta Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
When writing a parenting plan in Alberta, you should consider the provisions of Alberta's Family Law Act.
Alberta's Family Law Act went into effect in 2005, and was created in an effort to streamline court procedures and to promote the well-being of children and families, specifically after marriages end and parents separate.
Within this act, you can find out the information you need to make a proper parenting order after a divorce or separation.
Most family law cases can now be heard in both the Court of Queen's Bench and the Provincial Court. Both courts and the Act adhere to the policy that the best interests of the child are their main concerns and the ultimate factor in determining guardianship.
Considering your child's best interests (as defined in Alberta's Family Law Act) and any other needs of your child when writing your parenting plan will most likely ensure its acceptance by the Court.
Alberta's Family Law Act clearly lists the criteria they consider when ruling in the child's best interests and these factors should be kept in mind when creating a parenting plan:
- How the child's physical, psychological, and emotional safety will best be protected, along with any other special needs the child may have
- Any history of family violence and what impact it had on the child and other family members
- The child's overall well-being and the history of the quality of care and nurturing the child has received
- The child's cultural, spiritual, religious, and linguistic upbringing
- Any views or opinions the child may have as far as a custodial preference, provided the child is of an appropriate age and maturity level to make such a decision
- The nature of the child's existing relationships and bonds with the parents
- The ability of each parent to provide care and basic needs to the child
- Whether or not the parents are able to communicate effectively with each other and compromise on issues with the child
- Any civil or criminal proceedings that may have an impact on the child
A parenting plan or custody agreement in Alberta should include:
- A custody and access schedule that defines how both of you will divide your time with your child, including holidays and vacation times
- A summary of how you both will share the responsibilities toward your child
- A system for any potential dispute resolution
- Any other appropriate provisions to ensure the best interests of your child will be upheld
Guardians are expected to meet the following roles and responsibilities, while upholding the best interests of the child, as outlined in Alberta's Family Law Act:
- Nurture the child's emotional, physical, and psychological well-being.
- Provide basic necessities, such as food, medical care, shelter, and clothing.
- Make day to day decisions regarding the well-being, health, welfare, and daily care of the child.
- Decide the child's primary place of residence.
- Make decision's pertaining to the child's education and other activities.
- Decide how to raise the child in regard to lingual, religious, and cultural aspects.
- Dictate who the child lives with and who the child associates with.
- Consent to medical treatment of the child.
- Handle the child's legal matters.
- Appoint a person to act on behalf on the child in case of an emergency or illness.
- Receive and distribute information pertaining to the child's health, education, etc.
Although the majority Alberta parents are automatically entitled to guardianship of their child, there are a few laws that may affect guardianship, depending on your situation:
- Parents that marry, before or after the birth of the child, are automatically guardians of their child and will remain so unless it is overridden by the court.
- Single mothers are automatically allowed guardianship of their babies, as it is much easier to determine maternity than paternity.
- Single fathers must meet certain criteria, such as cohabiting with the other parent for at least twelve months, with the child being born in that time frame, or the father must have lived with the mother on some permanent level when the child was born to in order to automatically have guardianship.
- Single parents meeting at least one of the above qualifications will retain their guardianship of the child even if they no longer live with or have a personal relationship with the other parent.
- Single parents that have not lived together as previously described are still individually entitled to guardianship of their child, but may or may not retain guardianship depending on the living arrangements of the child and any parenting agreements in place.
- Once a child has lived with a parent for a year, permanent guardianship is established.
- It is possible for both parents to retain guardianship even if the child primarily lives with only one of them.
- Parents without permanent guardianship, and other third parties such as grandparents, may apply for an appointment through the Court.
Alberta courts generally prefer to intervene only as necessary, which is why you are required to submit a parenting plan, but you may petition the court to create your plan, if necessary.
If you absolutely cannot reach an agreement, even after attending mediation, the court will make a plan for you. That plan may or may not work in your favour and may not be what is actually best for your child, since the court does not know your child.
Parenting plans that are submitted with some matters in dispute will result in the Court making those decisions for you.
Under Alberta's Family Law Act, guardians are obligated to cooperate with each other on child related matters, so working together on the custody arrangements is a good starting point.
A parenting plan that you mutually agree upon will typically be made a parenting order by the Court. If you can cooperate when creating a parenting plan, it will undoubtedly serve the best interests of your child.
The top fifteen cities in Alberta (by population, Statistics Canada) are: Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Strathcona, Lethbridge, St. Albert, Medicine Hat, Wood Buffalo, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Spruce Grove, Okotoks, Leduc, Lloydminster, Camrose.