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Child custody and the Family Law Act in Alberta

A divorce necessitates a lot of difficult decisions. The hardest among them will probably be those concerning child custody. While the federal Divorce Act contains the regulations for ending a marriage, the Family Law Act set the guidelines for child custody in Alberta. Here are some important things to know for anyone about to make some key decisions in his or her life, and the lives of any children affected.

When married parents get a divorce, they must decide how to continue parenting their child or children. This means choosing how to make decisions, and determining where the kids will live. Without a specific agreement or court order, the parents are said to have "joint custody." Both are entitled to spend time with their kids, and decisions concerning the kids are made together. Typically, an order or agreement will specify where the children live, but the joint custody continues over major decisions.

In some cases, one parent may be awarded sole custody of the kids, and on rare occasions, parents may agree to this arrangement. When this happens, that parent makes all the major decisions for the children, and the other parent is limited to day-to-day issues while he or she spends time with the children. Be aware, however, that the order may limit the custodial parent's power; certain decisions may still require the consent of the other parent, such as whether or not the parent may move to a new location with the child.

For parents who cannot agree on matters, the Family Law Act provides guidelines for a judge to follow when making decisions for them. The judge's first priority is to protect the welfare of the child. He or she will issue orders based on factors such as the child's age, physical and emotional needs, heritage and the ability of each parent to do the job.

Many factors come in to play during a divorce when child custody issues are involved. The Family Law Act seeks to address as many of those as possible in order to help families arrive at the best solutions for the situation. An attorney who has great experience with the Act and family law in Alberta in general will be able to assist along the way.

Source: albertacourts.ca, "General information: Guardianship, parenting, custody, access and contact", Accessed on Dec. 12, 2016

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