Access and Parenting Time
The Divorce Act (“DA”) refers to ‘access’ when one parent has ‘primary residence’ of the children and the other parent has either specified or flexible time with the children. The Divorce Act only applies if you were married. In Alberta, if you were never married to the other parent, the Family Law Act(“FLA”) applies. The FLA uses the term ‘parenting time’ with respect to the parenting schedules of when each parent has time with the children. I will use the term parenting time throughout in reference to both access and parenting time, unless specifically.
Access to, and parenting time with, your children is your right and it is your children’s right. No one can deny you time to be with your children, except under extreme circumstances. Parenting time schedules are best worked out between parents with the best interest of the children taken into consideration.
The best interests of the children generally start with the premise that maximum contact with each parent is best; meaning a schedule of between 50-50 to 60-40 parenting time with each parent. However, they are your specific circumstances that dictate what is best for your children. These circumstances range from work schedules of the parents, activity schedules of the children, health requirements of the parents and children, educational needs and age of the child. With respect to age of the child, children’s’ needs change as they grow older, and that may allow for expanded parenting time as the child grows older from infancy; as well, it may involve less parenting time for one parent once a child is a teenager and starts to make up their own mind about their priorities and their schedule.
“Primary residence” is when one parent has the children residing with them more than 60% of the time. Whether or not primary residence is a factor in your situation both parents always have an equal right to make major decisions affecting the children, and an equal right to all information with respect to the child. Decision making is separate than parenting time and residence, please see Decision-making / Custody below.
The “parenting plan” is an agreement between parents with respect to how the children will spend their time between the two households, how decisions with be made and how the parents will communicate to each other. If you find that your communication with the other parent is not very good, as is often the case, you can use a Parenting Coordinator to help you work out a parenting plan. Parenting Coordinators will assist you to work through your communication barriers and to facilitate decision-making affecting the children. If need be, the parenting coordinator can also make an arbitration award, a binding decision that you have to follow, please see Parenting Coordinator below.
Whether you are the parent with the primary residence or the parent with parenting time, I will discuss your wishes and circumstances with you. We will determine what parenting plan will work best for you and your children.
Mediation, Parenting Coordination, Collaborative Law and Peacemakers are very useful tools for arriving at a parenting plan that takes into consideration each parent’s unique circumstances as well as focussing on the children’s wishes and circumstances. A parenting plan that works for everyone (both parents and the children) is the ultimate goal, as it fosters harmony in the relationship between parents and children and between parents.
If there have been any recent changes in your access time / parenting time that you did not discuss and/or that you do you agree with, it is very important that you contact me right away to take action and your protect rights.
Access and Parenting Time - Other than Parent
When a person other than a guardian applies to have time with a child, it is referred to as Contact. Alberta has legislation that allows a person other than a parent or guardian to apply for a court order granting them Contact with a child. There are a number of circumstances that need to be present for the application to be successful. In most circumstances, the person needs to have court approval to file the application. The court first conducts a hearing to determine the significance of the relationship and whether there is necessity to issue an order for contact. If the person gets passed the first hurdle, then they can make their application for Contact.