Co-Parenting in Alberta: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

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Understanding Custody

Custody refers to the legal responsibility and authority a parent has over their child or children, as defined in the Family Law Act, Section 37 and Section 46. It includes decision-making responsibilities as well as care and control of the child or children. Typically, one parent is given sole custody of the child or children, while the other parent is given ‘access’ or ‘visitation’ rights. The amount of time for access is most often established by a court order, such as the ‘unlimited access’ model. Where both parents have joint custody, this means that both parents retain equal decision-making rights ― but there are a variety of conditions that can influence this definition. For example, a court may grant one parent ‘residence’ rights: the child lives with that person but both parents retain equal decision-making rights. Where a parent is granted custody of their child or children, there are also corresponding contractual obligations. For example, according to the Family Law Act, Section 33, the parent with custody “is responsible to support the child with reasonable provision out of pocket money, clothes, and other necessaries”. The definition is further supported by the Alberta Child Support Guidelines, which address the topic of child support and the payments associated with it.


Parental Rights in the Co-Parenting Process

When it comes to establishing an arrangement for co-parenting in Alberta, the court is guided by the principle ‘best interests of the child’, as defined in the Family Law Act, Section 37(2). As outlined by a court order, each parent receives rights and responsibilities to co-parent their child or children, with support from legal counsel. It is possible for parents to agree to a ‘parenting plan’: essentially a document where both parents agree to the conditions of their relationship with their child or children. This typically serves as an outline for communication and dispute resolution guidelines and timelines for visitation, medical care, and access to records. It should also set out clear expectations for decision-making power, financial support, responsibilities, and shared educational and development goals. A parenting plan is one way for co-parenting families to create a stronger sense of order and structure in their environment.


Parent Visitation Rights in Alberta

The Alberta Justice website provides a comprehensive overview of visitation rights in the province. Generally, the right of a parent to spend time and commune with his/her child is deemed fundamental. The emphasis is placed on ensuring the best interests of the child are taken into account when designing a visitation schedule that works equally well for both parents. Visitation rights are legally enforceable and can also include extended family members. Depending on the age of the child and their level of maturity, their needs and desires in regards to a visitation schedule can be heard and addressed in court. Supervised visits are also an option, when deemed medically necessary for safety and security. According to the Family Law Act, Section 37(7), the access parent is expected to:

  • Follow any court-ordered guidelines, such as ‘unlimited access’ orders
  • Respect the child’s need for stability and continuity of transactions
  • Express respect for the custodial parent’s authority, including their right to be the custodian or primary decision maker of the child
  • Encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Contribute to the health and well-being of the child


Co-Parenting Expenses and Mediation

Under the Alberta Child Support Guidelines, any amounts paid to support children must be split equally between the parents. A basic monthly payment is calculated by taking into account both parent’s incomes and different elements, including child care costs, and any ‘special or extraordinary’ expenses for the child or children. If both parents can come to an agreement in regards to financial responsibility, this needs to be documented in writing and legally filed. In the event that parents are unable to agree on a co-parenting arrangement, mediation is an option that the court can order. Here, an independent mediator will hear both sides of the issue and make a decision accordingly.



The legal terminology and rights associated with co-parenting in Alberta can be confusing. But the primary goal is to protect the child’s best interests and ensure that the child or children achieve a level of stability and security as they adapt to their new family dynamic. It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of each parent, whether that be a custodial and non-custodial parent, and to abide by the court’s decision. With the help of legal support, the arrangement of a co-parenting situation can be defined in a way that works for all involved.


Fact Check and Resources

In crafting this post, we conducted thorough fact-checking and research, consulting the following sources:


Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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