Last week, we wrote about the federal and provincial laws that impact child custody and child access decisions in Alberta divorces. We explained that the court must focus on the best interests of the children as directed by the federal Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act.
It can be extremely beneficial to negotiate a parenting agreement between the parties, rather than have the judge in the divorce case set out the terms in a parenting order. The judge will not know the family other than through the evidence presented at trial.
While negotiation will involve compromise, each party will still have input and control over what the agreement ultimately says. Many negotiation methods are available, including mediation and collaborative divorce. Negotiation often is cheaper, faster and less stressful than the court process, although sometimes trial becomes necessary.
The parenting agreement must determine who has the power to make important life decisions for the child like those concerning religious, medical, psychological and educational matters. Such decision-making responsibilities can be given completely to one parent, divided between them or executed jointly.
The parties will also set out a schedule for how the children will divide their time between their parents after the divorce, including with which parent the children will live a majority of the time and the schedule for the other parent’s access to the kids.
An Alberta family lawyer can provide information about the various negotiation methods available to help a divorcing parent decide how to proceed. The lawyer can also help evaluate the circumstances to decide if a trial would be a wiser option.
We will continue this discussion of child custody in Alberta, including more about the factors to consider under provincial law and what happens if the arrangement needs to be modified after the divorce is final.