Prominent linguists have long held that words matter, a belief inherent in law and embedded in the painstaking way in which legal definitions, standards and applications are framed. Alberta family law demonstrates a progressive view of child guardianship in divorce cases by referring to a “parenting order” to cover both child custody and access, among other things. This conveys a more global understanding that equalizes the roles of both parents, without reference to who has physical custody and who has access.
By definition, parenting encompasses the rights, responsibilities and decision-making powers concerning children. In a divorce, the law recognizes this as child guardianship and, in doing so, prioritizes the child’s interests above the rights of the parents. Guardianship, as the law perceives it, favours the involvement of both parents in all facets of a child’s life, such as allocating sufficient time to parent and sharing parental responsibilities.
A parenting order is obtained by agreement or when a divorcing couple cannot agree on issues, such as the child’s residence or visitation frequency or financial support. At such time, a parenting order documents the court’s decision on these and other issues affecting the child’s welfare. It is advisable for parents to exert themselves to reach an agreement rather than forfeit making decisions about their own child.
It is usual for the natural parents to be a child’s guardians, but not always. Sometimes, a third party, such as a relative or grandparent, may be granted legal guardianship. Such cases showcase the distinction between parenting and its legal counterpart, guardianship. As agonizing as divorce can be, reordering your child’s lifestyle and future can be more so. An experienced Alberta family law attorney can assist in dealing with child custody issues outside of court or help navigate a client through a court-issued parenting order.
Source: justice.alberta.ca, “What are parenting orders and contact orders under the Alberta Family Law Act?”, Accessed on Dec. 26, 2017