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Parenting After Separation in Alberta

Parenting After Separation in Alberta
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4 Parenting Tips Following Separation in Alberta

child-centered Parenting

In all instances, focus solely on what is in the best interests of your children. All your discussions and decisions should be focused on your children’s well-being. Maturity is key in helping you to separate your emotions about your ex and what is in your children’s best interests. 

Do Not Badmouth the Other Parent

I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. However much you dislike the other parent, never speak badly about them to your children. This toxic behavior does more harm to your children than good. Attempting to divide a child’s love, affection or care for the other parent is simply cruel.

It stops your child from building and maintaining an important relationship with their parent, and some research has shown that this reduces a child’s feeling of self-worth as it teaches them to dislike half of who they are. Unless you can do the impossible and physically change your child’s genetic makeup, what is the point of continuing to denigrate the other parent?

Separate a ‘Bad Spouse’ from a ‘Bad Parent’

Remember, a bad spouse does not necessarily mean a bad parent. A spouse who may have cheated on you may very well be a loving parent that your children love and adore. Separating these two facets of their personality may be very difficult for you, but part of being child-focused means setting those feelings aside and allowing your child to continue a loving relationship with their other parent.

Do not Argue in Front of Your Children

Imagine how arguing in front of your children must make them feel. Your job as a parent is to shield your children from things that hurt them, and fighting with the other parent in front of the children hurts them. Would it be so hard to refrain from instigating a fight with the other parent (or choosing not to rise to the other parent’s attempts to instigate a fight) simply for the duration of your pickups and drop-offs?

The courts do not view parents who argue in front of their children favourably and you also risk inviting Children’s Welfare Services into an already complicated matter.

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Parenting After Separation course in Alberta

Parents who separate in Alberta are required to attend the Parenting After Separation (PAS) course. This course is free and is designed to ensure that any negative consequences of the separation for the children’s social, educational, health and emotional needs are mitigated.

Parents who attend this course will receive guidance on:

  • The effects of their separation and/or divorce on the children
  • How to communicate with each other for the benefit of the children
  • The legal issues concerning separation and divorce
  • How best to work together to promote a healthy environment for the children
  • Problem-solving and dispute-resolution strategies

After completing the course, parents receive a certificate that must be filed with the court (usually through a divorce lawyer). This is generally required before the court will grant a divorce or provide assistance with a custody or support issue.

Is the PAS course mandatory in Alberta?

Parents seeking a divorce or assistance from the Alberta courts with child custody, guardianship, parenting or child support must take the PAS course if they have children under the age of 16.

Attendance must be within three months of filing a Statement of Claim for divorce or other court application.

Is the PAS course available online?

The Parenting After Separation course is available both online and in-person in Alberta.

The in-person course lasts for a day (around six hours) while you can complete the online course in around three hours.

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Parenting After Separation for High-conflict Families course

In the interests of relieving the disruption and stress for children during separations, Alberta also provides free additional assistance for parents in high-conflict families.

If the Parenting After Separation course leaves separating parents still struggling to work together for their children, they will need to attend the Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families (PASHC) course.

This course provides guidance for conflicting parents on:

  • Helping each other to emotionally disengage
  • Identifying and renegotiating the boundaries between them
  • Developing a parenting plan that will reduce conflict between them
  • Helping to minimize the contact between them

Parenting Arrangements

Alberta family law requires parents who separate or divorce to make “parenting arrangements” that plan in detail how to manage the care of their children. The requirements are the same whether you were married or in an adult interdependent relationship under Alberta law.

Parenting arrangements should include details about the following:

  • Where the children will live
  • Who the children will predominantly spend time with
  • Who is responsible for making major decisions about education, religion, medical care, etc.
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What is the dispute resolution process for Alberta families?

Dispute resolution can be very challenging in family situations and litigation should be the last resort.

It’s best to resolve matters outside of the courtroom and there are several options to do so. The main ones are:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative law
  • Arbitration

Out-of-court dispute resolution is generally less expensive and less time-consuming than litigation. It also helps maintain control over decision-making rather than placing the responsibility in the hands of a judge.

The Alberta courts presume that parents are in the best position to make decisions in the best interests of their children. So, the court prefers not to intervene unless absolutely necessary and the federal Divorce Act also encourages the use of the above-mentioned family dispute resolution processes.

In fact, under the Act, parents have a duty to try to resolve their disputes this way if it is appropriate to do so.

In some circumstances, like if there has been family violence, alternative dispute resolution may not be appropriate. Speak to a lawyer before agreeing to such a process if you are in that situation.

Parental duties and the best interests of the child

Parents and others who apply for court orders under the new Divorce Act must accept the following duties:

  • To exercise their parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact with a child under a contact order in a manner consistent with the best interests of the children.
  • To protect children from conflict arising from the proceeding.
  • Where appropriate, to try to resolve matters through a family dispute resolution process.
  • To provide complete, accurate and up-to-date information as required under the Divorce Act.
  • To comply with court orders until they are no longer in effect.

As long as you can demonstrate that the decisions you make are in the best interests of the children, you can agree on any parenting arrangement. This may or may not mean that a child spends equal time with each parent.

If two parents are unable to reach a parenting agreement in Alberta, you will lose the right to make a decision and a judge must decide for you — based solely on the best interests of the children.

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