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Calgary Family Law Blog

Alberta family law does not provide automatic grandparents rights

Are you a grandparent who is denied the privilege of having a relationship with your grandchildren? Sadly, many grandparents in Alberta face this situation. Your son or daughter may be divorced, with limited custody, and the other parent may prevent you from having contact with your grandchildren. More tragic and extreme cases sometimes involve alcohol or drug abuse and dependency, neglect, domestic violence or criminality -- in which case child protection authorities may be involved, and you might be able to seek guardianship in a family law court.

In Alberta, grandparents do not have automatic rights to see or have any contact with their grandchildren. Without the consent of the parent who has custody, the sole solution may be to petition the court to allow contact. Authorities will look at different facts while they consider granting you the right to build or continue a relationship with your grandchild.

New study suggests a bad divorce can cause poor health in kids

Most parents will do just about anything within their power to protect their children. Even if the marriage to the other parent ends, the resolve to protect the kids remains. The phrase, "in the best interests of the child" comes up repeatedly during a divorce in Alberta. While much of the focus is on the mental and emotional welfare of the kids, a new study indicates that a child's physical health may also be at risk in ways few would ever imagine.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted an unusual experiment involving 201 healthy adults. The subjects agreed to living in quarantine for five days as the researchers exposed them to a common cold virus. After exposure, they observed the effects of the virus on the subjects.

More couples are choosing an amicable divorce over litigation

Nothing sums up the decade so far quite like the selfie phenomenon. Social media bursts at the digital seams with cellphone self-portraits of people on vacation, at work, at home or anywhere the urge to share strikes them. Recently, the "divorce selfie" has emerged as a strange new take on the phenomenon. Though it may seem incomprehensible to some Alberta men and women heading toward divorce, it may not be so strange after all.

The typical divorce selfie features two smiling individuals crowding the frame. Sometimes they're giving the thumbs up, or even brandishing their divorce papers. In the caption, many of them express that they still care about their former spouse, and that they will continue to co-parent in harmony. It is not always easy to reach that level of acceptance and understanding, but it can be done by setting aside the differences that a divorced couple often has.

Separation agreements 101: What to know before you begin

Before two people can get a divorce in Alberta, they must first separate for a minimum of one year. While there is no legal requirement to do anything beyond agree on a date of separation, many people find it useful to create separation agreements. By making certain arrangements in advance, there should be less chance of disagreements down the road.

A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that clarifies the responsibilities each party takes on between the separation date and the divorce. The purpose is to head off contentious issues before they arise. Commonly addressed in separation agreements are matters relating to child custody, division of property, assets and debts. Child support is another important item frequently included.

During a divorce, selling the family home may be a necessary pain

When a marriage ends in Alberta, everything changes for the former couple. One of the biggest changes that happens because of a divorce involves the marital home. While in some cases one spouse hangs on to the home, quite often the former couple either chooses, or is forced, to sell. It's not an easy decision, but there are those who can help.

For many couples, their home is the single most valuable asset they possess. Real estate values have skyrocketed in much of Canada, and even in Alberta, where the gains have been less substantial, many divorcing couples may find their house is worth far more than what they paid for it. Because of the substantial gain in value, it can be difficult for one party to buy the other out, or to create a fair distribution of the marital assets.

Even in extreme cases, spousal support may not be blocked

For many men and women, a divorce is an emotional time. Although emotions may run high during the process, it is important to remember that spousal support rulings and other applications of divorce law are not based on feelings, positive or negative. Though the laws of Alberta can be subject to interpretation, they are applied based on facts and evidence. Unfortunately, this can lead to situations that may feel unfair to some.

In May 2015, a British Columbia couple separated after less than five years of marriage. Later that year, police arrived at the woman's home to find her in medical distress, and the former couple's infant daughter without vital signs. Though the mother recovered, the 18-month-old girl did not. 

Can the courts change a maintenance order after a divorce?

A good parent should want to support his or her child to the best of his or her ability. Even after a divorce, each parent is encouraged to play a role in the upbringing of the children. This may include spending time together, helping to make important decisions for the child and paying maintenance to the custodial parent. However, a parent should not be expected to pay more money than is necessary, or be put in a financially untenable position because of maintenance payments. For that reason, it may be possible to change a court order for maintenance in Alberta.

There are several reasons why one may wish to alter the amount of monthly child support payments. An obvious one is a change in the number of dependent children. A significant change to a person's income could make an existing order difficult to fulfill. Additionally, a change in section 7 expenses, also called special or extraordinary expenses, could merit a corresponding change to payments. 

Alberta court backlog means family law disputes have to wait

There are numerous reasons why people might choose to go to court after a divorce or separation. Sometimes situations can change and one party feels it's time to amend an agreement. Perhaps what once seemed like a workable arrangement is no longer meeting the needs of one or both parties. Whatever the case may be, many men and women opt to bring their family law disputes to the courts of Alberta. In fact, so many people have opted for the courts that a logjam of cases has built up.

Family law cases commonly heard in court include child custody and access disputes, issues over spousal or child support, and mobility cases where the custodial parent wishes to move with the children. Typically, cases like these are half-day hearings. So many people have requested hearings that the wait times have become extremely long. In Calgary, some people are waiting up to a year to go before a judge. 

Farmers may have especially complex divorce proceedings

Close to 40 percent of all marriages in Canada end before death doeth part the spouses. While each divorce is unique, many divorces are similar in nature. Farmers, however, often have special circumstances due to the nature of their livelihoods. As such, a divorce in an Alberta farming family may require special skills to properly execute.

A farmer's divorce is complicated in much the same way as a business owner's might be. Many of his or her assets are intrinsically part of how the family's living is earned. Dividing the assets can be extremely problematic. 

Without careful planning, a divorce can cause financial disaster

The financial impact of ending a marriage cannot be overstated. While no professional advisor would recommend staying in a bad marriage for the sake of money, anyone about to go through a divorce in Alberta should be aware of the monetary hit that may be coming. For proof, one only need look at the numbers released by a Canadian insolvency trustee.

A survey conducted by the trustee's firm found that 14 percent of respondents, who were or had been insolvent, cited the breakdown of their marriage as the leading cause. For those aged 40 to 49, the number shot up to 20 percent. The trustee suggested that divorce itself is not usually the sole cause, but it can exacerbate an already difficult financial situation.