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Parenting / Custody / Contact Orders (Parents – Variation Application)

There are two statutes in Alberta that deal with issues relating to the care of children when parents (or guardians) do not live together.  These are the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act.

What's the difference between parenting and custody?
There really is not a whole lot of difference – these are both words to describe the arrangements parents come to when they don’t live together and have to share the responsibilities of raising the children.

Custody and access are the older terms, and are still found in the Divorce Act.  A parent with custody has the rights and responsibilities for the child.  A parent with only access has just “visiting rights”.  Many parents will share the custodial rights in a joint custody arrangement, or by an order giving the access parent extra rights.

Parenting is a newer term in the Alberta Family Law Act, and applies to arrangements between guardians.  A parenting order or agreement will set out all the decisions that need to be made for a child and say whether the decision is made by one guardians or both.  It will then set out how the child’s time will be divided between the guardians.

Contact is the term used when a parent who is not a guardian, or if a third party wants to see the children.  A person with a contact order would have no decision making powers or responsibilities with respect to the child.

If you are the sole guardian of a child, you do not need a parenting or custody order, but you may want an order saying that you are the sole guardian.  If the child has another biological parent, then that parent may or may not be a guardian.  Check here to find out.

More information on Parenting

Before you begin:

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.