Children are usually the biggest concern when two people decide to end a marriage. When dealing with issues related to child custody, courts keep in mind the one most important factor- the best interests of the children. In some cases, parents amicably decide about child custody before they begin the divorce proceedings. In such cases, their agreements need to be properly documented in the divorce deed. However, if an amicable agreement is not possible then the decision of who will get the custody is determined by the court.
Sometimes during a divorce, parents forget to decide about custody of the child and by the time the issue crops up communication have broken down and each partner assumes their decision about the child’s custody will be accepted by the other. Often this does not happen and as a result, parents find themselves completely clueless about the issues pertaining to child custody in divorce. As per child custody laws in Alberta, both parents have equal rights of custody over the children, until the court decides otherwise.
Types of child custody:
Joint custody – When both parents are given custody of the child and are legally allowed care and control of the child, as well as decisions on the important issues regarding the child. Joint custody means that the child can live part-time with either of the parents. This kind of custody requires complete cooperation from both parents.
This is when the children spend 40% of the time with each parent. Child support in divorce for this kind of custody is calculated by the court, depending on the amount of time the children spend with each parent.
When only one parent has custody of the child and the child lives with that parent. The other parent is, however, given visiting rights. But all decisions pertaining to the child are taken by the parent who has the custody and it applies even if the other parent disagrees.
Recently courts have come out with another concept known as sole custody. Usually, courts do not encourage this kind of custody as it is in the best interests of the children to live together. But in some cases, if the parents mutually decide, then one or more children of the same marriage can remain with each parent.
Child custody is technically decided either by the court or between spouses if they are in agreement with each other. Usually, the parent who has the custody of the children during the separation is given the custody as well since courts do not like to disrupt a steady and stable home routine if the children have settled down with one parent. If the parents have come to a mutual agreement about the custody of the children before filing for divorce then courts usually do not interfere with the agreement. It is advisable that parents should try to reach an agreement on their own rather than hire the services of a lawyer. However, if they fail to reach a mutual agreement they should take legal advice about child custody before they make any decision.
There are several factors that a court keeps in mind to determine what is best for the child. Courts prefer a stay at home mother to a working father usually as they believe that children should be in an environment where the parent is around often. If you can establish that you are the primary caregiver for the child then courts presume that you are best suited to care for the child in the future as well and will grant you custody.
Parents who divorce often worry about the time they will get with the child post the divorce and obviously want the best for their children once the marriage ends. If future arrangements and child custody have not been predetermined by the parents in advance then it can cause a fair amount of anxiety. Child custody in Alberta comes under the Family Law Act which goes into detail about what factors are to be kept in mind while deciding the best interests of the child. This is done in such a way that it ensures the physical, emotional and psychological safety of the child.
Going to trial over child custody can be stressful for both the parents and the children. If the parents cannot reach a mutual agreement then there are other options they can exercise, like seeking help from a family mediator, child custody paralegal, or even therapists and counsellors who specialize in such matters. The knowledge and guidance can then be used to negotiate an agreement between the two parties.