Child Custody in Alberta

    Child Custody in Alberta

    There is always an anxious wait on child custody rights for every couple going through a separation or divorce. When both parents demand full child custody in Alberta, the anxiety becomes even greater. If you are parting ways with your partner and would like to know the position of the law regarding your child’s guardianship, this is the best article to read.

    Custody, guardianship, parenting, and contacts have often been confusedly used interchangeably. It is essential to know the meaning of these words and how they are used regarding child custody in Alberta.

    What is Child Custody in Alberta? 

    Child custody in Alberta is the legal way of keeping a child by a parent or both parents. It describes the legal relationship between a parent and a child. Child custody has to do with the right to keep a child and make decisions for them until they come of age.

    Guardianship is a legal term that refers to the legal and physical relationship between a parent/guardian and their child. This involves the right to make critical decisions on behalf of a child, provide a home, and manage the child’s daily care.

    Parenting refers to only the physical time a guardian spends with the child, while contact refers to the physical time a non-guardian will have with a child.

    Types of Child Custody in Alberta

    There are four major types of child custody in Alberta. They are:

    1. Sole custody

    Sole custody or full custody is when one parent takes full responsibility for the child. The sole parent will be responsible for making all the decisions concerning the child and providing guidance on their day-to-day activities. The other parent will only have limited access to the child. 

    Sole custody is most likely to be awarded if the other parent shows less care/concern or has previously been found guilty of physical abuse, mental illness, or other behaviour. Those who end up raising a family in Alberta as single parents usually gain sole custody of the child.

    2. Joint custody

    In a joint custody arrangement, major decisions on the child are taken together by both parents. In the case of disagreement on a child’s decision, a neutral party like a mediator can help coordinate the final decision. Joint custody is complicated, and it’s only awarded to parents who can work together in making good decisions for the child. Nonetheless, the child may live more with one parent than the other.

    3. Split custody

    This is a type of child custody arrangement where two or more children are involved. The responsibilities can be shared as in joint custody. Some children will live primarily with one parent while the others will live more with the other parent. 

    However, courts in Alberta prefer to rule in favour of children staying together in one place than splitting.

    4. Shared custody

    This is when each parent takes shared custody of the child. One parent spends at least 40% of the time with the child. Shared custody is also similar to Joint custody in that both parents can spend equal or unequal amounts of time with the child. The difference is that the decision-making power on matters that affects the child belongs to one parent in shared custody.

    Child Custody Laws in Alberta

    In Alberta, both parents have equal rights to gain custody of the child. Two primary Canadian laws apply in Alberta relating to child custody – The Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. The divorce Act applies to married couples who had separated and sought a divorce, not when the couple was unmarried. The family law Act is applicable to both divorcing and unmarried partners.

    The child custody law in Alberta prioritizes the best interest of the child. The following factors determine the child’s best interests:

    • The ability for each guardian to parent the child both financially and emotionally.
    • Each parent’s schedule. The less busy parent will take custody of the child.
    • The child has a say if the child can express themselves.
    • The parent-child relationship. This has to do with who is closer to the child.
    • Who has been the primary caregiver for the child (housewives or stay-at-home mums are favored)?

    Child Support Under the Canadian Law in Alberta

    Each of the separated parents needs to support the child in cash and other methods to secure the financial upbringing of the child. However, a parent’s chance of taking custody of the child does not reduce because they’re not making child support payments. Under Canadian law, they still have the right to see the child. Moreover, Canadian law places the child’s best interest above all, including support payment.


    When it comes to child custody and raising a family in Alberta, both parents should try to agree on parenting issues. However, this may sometimes not be easy. The Family Act Law and the Divorce Law are the two laws covering child custody in Alberta. If you need help with the legal position of your child, you can connect with a professional to make the right decision on child support.


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