Understanding Guardianship, Parenting Orders and Parenting Time.

In 2003, the Family Law Act (FLA) received royal assent in the Alberta legislature and created significant change in the family law context. Prior to this most recent legislation, decisions were made in terms of custody to one or both parents, and access to a parent or another individual who had an invested interest in a child’s life. The current Family Law Act has eliminated the terms custody and access completely from the legislation. The FLA now uses the terms Guardianship Orders, and Parenting Orders with Parenting Time.

The concept of custody and access is a wide spread cultural phenomenon that comes with a vague understanding of what it entails. However, parents continue to get confused by what this means to them, specifically, if they find themselves in family court. Before we discuss what these new terms mean, how they differ from the old terms of custody and access, and how they may affect you, it’s important to understand why Alberta made these changes.

The Alberta legislature has adopted the new language of Guardianship, Parenting Orders with Parenting Time to encourage collaborative parenting even after separation. The hope is that this will maximize the participation of parents in raising a child, and to help acknowledge the growing diversity and complexity of blended and extended family arrangements.

Sections 19 through 31 of the Family Law Act set out how a guardian is to be identified, what Guardianship legal powers entail, as well as the responsibilities and entitlements and other incidental components. Basically, it sets out the parameters of who a parent of the child is, and when individuals who are not direct biological parents of a child can also become legally acknowledged guardians. Guardianship is not the only direct equivalent to custody in the Family Law Act. In fact, the FLA has layered rights over a child with Parenting Orders with Parenting Time.

Parenting Orders and Parenting Time give the courts the ability to create, and be reflective of, far more customized plans than what was previously possible. Instead of granting one or both parents complete control over the decision making of the major components of a child’s life, courts can consider and treat major areas individually. This results in a complex lattice of divided decision making. A parenting order is a critical configuration for how a court will spell out the structure for care and control of a child. Similar to custody, a Parenting Order will have the child living with one guardian, or split between the identified guardians of a child. The difference from custody is that Parenting Orders are limited to the rights associated in the guardianship of a child. Parenting Time is the closest comparison to access. It can be very flexible or very prescribed and detailed, depending on the needs and schedules of the parents.

At RCM Family Lawyers, our divorce and family law attorneys have experience advocating your guardianship claims. We know the legal rights and responsibilities associated with parenting, and can assist you during this confusing and emotionally challenging time. We know that divorce and separation is hardest when it comes to the safety and priority of your children. We keep their needs in the forefront while navigating the legislation within the Family Law Act.

About Author

Nicholas J. Van Duyvenbode

A divorce lawyer passionate and outcome driven about family law