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Guardianship

What is guardianship?

A guardian of a child has certain entitlements (rights), responsibilities and powers with respect to that child.

A guardian is entitled:

  • To be involved in making significant decisions about the child;
  • To have enough time with the child to exercise the powers and responsibilities.

A guardian is responsible:

  • To nurture the child’s physical, psychological and emotional development;
  • To ensure the child has medical care, food, clothing and shelter.

A guardian has the power:

  • To make day to day decisions about the child;
  • To decide where the child will live;
  • To make decisions about education and extracurricular activities;
  • To make decisions about the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing;
  • To decide who the child will live with and/or associate with;
  • To decide if the child will work and if so, what kind of work;
  • To consent to medical care;
  • To provide consents where required by law;
  • To receive and to respond to any notice required by law to be given to a guardian;
  • To deal with legal matters on behalf of the child;
  • To appoint someone to act on the guardian’s behalf in an emergency situation, when the guardian is ill or absent;
  • To receive health or educational information about the child;
  • To exercise any other power that may be necessary to carry out the guardian’s responsibilities.

Who is a guardian of a child?

If you have given birth to the child, then you are a guardian.  The question comes up as to whether the other parent is a guardian.

If the other parent was married to the birth mother when the child was born, or married her after the child was born, then they are a guardian.

If the other parent had lived with the birth mother in an adult interdependent relationship at the time the child was born or after the child was born, then they are a guardian.

If the other parent lived with the birth mother for 12 months or more, during which time the child was born, then they are a guardian.

If the parents did not live together at all, but the other parent demonstrated an intention to assume the responsibilities of a guardian within a year of finding out about the pregnancy or the birth, then that parent is a guardian.

A parent can demonstrate an intention to assume the responsibilities of a guardian in many ways.  Some of these are:

  • Voluntarily paying or offering to pay support for the child or to the birth mother during her pregnancy;
  • Voluntarily providing or offering to provide support, other than financial support, to the child or to the birth mother during her pregnancy; or
  • Signing an agreement with the birth mother to be a guardian.

If a parent is not a guardian, but they want to be, they can apply to the court for guardianship.  The court can make an order granting them guardianship.

To find out if you are a guardian of your child, complete this quiz.

To find out if the other parent is a guardian of your child, complete this quiz.

If a non-parent wants to become a guardian of the child, they can apply to the court for guardianship.  The court can make an order granting them guardianship.

A child can have several guardians.

When can the Alberta Court make a Guardianship Order?

 The court can order guardianship on application:

  • by any adult who has had the care and control of a child for at least 6 months (but this requirement can be waived by the court),
  • by a parent who is not already a guardian; or
  • by the child when there is no guardian or the guardian is unwilling or unable to care for the child.

Either the child or the applicant must reside in Alberta, but the court can waive this requirement.

For more information on guardianship and parenting

Before you go to court, consider mediation

If you want legal advice or to hire a lawyer, information is here.

For some kinds of applications, and in some parts of the province, you must come to a Family Justice Services office for an Intake appointment.  At that appointment, we will screen for family violence, talk about options with you, answer any general legal questions that you may have and go through the court forms with you.

For other kinds of applications, you must do the paperwork yourself.  We can give you the forms and instructions.