Calgary & Strathmore Family Lawyers Advising on Decision-Making & Parenting Time

Many complicated factors contribute to a separation or divorce, especially if the spouses do not part amicably. However, if the parties share a child, things can become even more challenging. Most parents want what is best for their children, but occasionally, there are disagreements about what that is or the right way to get there while considering what’s in a child’s best interests.

Getz Collins and Associates provides trusted advice on parenting matters, including decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Our knowledgeable family lawyers understand the complex interpersonal issues involved in parenting disputes and develop personalized, modern legal solutions.

Decision-Making Responsibility (Custody) in Alberta

Decision-making responsibility (formerly known as “custody”) is a parent’s legal entitlement to make significant decisions about their child’s care and upbringing, including medical care, religious guidance, discipline, and schooling. Parents can create an agreement on the division of decision-making responsibility or may need the court to decide for them.

Shared Decision-Making Responsibility

In most cases, a co-parenting arrangement where parents share elements of decision-making responsibility is preferred. In cases where parents have joint decision-making responsibility, they must communicate and attempt to reach an agreement on their child’s care. Joint decision-making responsibility is not usually an equal split.

Sometimes, parents may adopt a “split” decision-making responsibility arrangement. Having split decision-making allows parents to divide decision-making responsibility, usually by child (if the couple has more than one child) or by issue (e.g. one parent has sole or primary decision-making power over education, while the other is responsible for cultural or religious matters).

Sole Decision-Making Responsibility

If a parent is granted sole decision-making responsibility, they are not legally required to consult with the other parent before making a decision about the child’s upbringing. However, the determining factor for dividing decision-making responsibility will always be the arrangement most in the child’s best interests.

As the parent with sole decision-making will handle the child’s day-to-day expenses, the other parent is usually responsible for paying child support.

Parenting Time (Access) in Alberta

Formerly referred to as “access”, parenting time is the amount of time a child spends in each parent’s care. Agreements or orders governing parenting time will usually address issues such as the frequency and length of parenting time, where it is to take place, and whether it is to be supervised.

Parenting time is often divided into a shared arrangement, where each parent has the child in their care approximately 40% of the time. Less commonly, couples with more than one child may choose to split parenting time by having at least one child reside with each parent most of the time. In some cases, the couple may choose a primary parenting time arrangement, where the children are in the care of one parent at least 60% of the time.

As with decision-making responsibility, the court’s primary concern when determining how to divide parenting time between parents is the best interests of the child. Regardless of any conflict between the parents, courts recognize the importance of maintaining both parents’ presence in a child’s life whenever possible.

Best Interests of the Child & Parenting Arrangements

When making any decision regarding children, a court’s primary consideration is always the best interests of the child. Even if the parents enter into their own arrangements regarding their child’s care, those agreements can be set aside or overridden by the court if it determines it does not meet the child’s best interests.

Provincial and federal family laws include factors to be considered by courts when determining what is in a child’s best interests. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The strength of the child’s relationship with each parent, their siblings, grandparents, or any other person who plays an important role in their upbringing;
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the other parent’s relationship with the child;
  • The history of the child’s care;
  • The child’s particular needs and need for stability;
  • The child’s views and wishes, if they can be ascertained and depending on their age and maturity;
  • Any cultural, linguistic, religious, or spiritual considerations, including Indigenous heritage;
  • Any history of family violence and safety concerns;
  • The parents’ ability to effectively communicate and co-parent.

Parenting Plans

Having a parenting plan can reduce confusion or conflict between parents as they navigate co-parenting post-separation. It can also help set out a chosen method of dispute resolution in the event of a disagreement. These plans can be incorporated into a separation agreement or court order.

Proactively engaging the services of a skilled family lawyer can ensure a parenting plan addresses as many variables as possible to avoid disputes and create a roadmap for successful co-parenting.

Getz Collins and Associates: Advising Clients in Calgary & Strathmore on Parenting Matters

At Getz Collins and Associates, we understand family law cases involving parenting issues are highly emotional and can cause considerable stress for our clients. We work closely with clients to learn the unique circumstances of their families and create effective, proactive legal strategies to minimize conflict as much as possible. Our team of knowledgeable family lawyers is also highly skilled in the courtroom and advocates strongly for clients as needed.

With offices conveniently located in Calgary and Strathmore, Getz Collins and Associates offers comprehensive and unbundled cost-effective services in family law cases. We serve numerous communities across Alberta, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and all surrounding areas. Reach out online or call us at 587-391-5600 to schedule a confidential consultation.