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What is joint custody in Alberta?

In Alberta, child custody has many terms that refer to it, including dual residential placement, shared parenting and co-parenting, among others. Whatever you choose to call it, shared child custody is defined in the 1997 Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Divorce Act of Canada as an arrangement in which the kids get to spend at least 40 percent of the time living in each parent's home. This is an ideal situation for the parents and may be good for the children as well. If you have questions regarding this type of situation, you may want to consult a lawyer who has a good background in child custody arrangements.

Additionally, there is joint legal and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody states that the parents both have a clear say in the important decisions of the child. Schooling, religious upbringing and medical decisions all are part of this type of custody arrangement. Joint physical custody implies that each parent has control over a part of the child's whereabouts. The two are different in meaning so you need to be clear about this when you discuss it with your ex-spouse and your legal representative.

To make it even more confusing, sometimes literature will refer to joint custody as sole custody with frequent access. The authority on the subject doesn't make this mistake but it is often the case that what you read on the Internet or in the newspaper will be nebulous and unclear.

In split custody arrangements, parents divide the time they spend with their kids into unequal time blocks, with one parent having full custody of all the kids. The courts system does its best to ensure that children stay together and aren't divided between two parents. Sometimes, split custody comes when the kids are older. These issues really need to be worked out with a professional who has experience in this type of situation.

Source: Department of Justice Canada, "Child custody arrangements," accessed Sep. 22, 2015

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