Calgary Family Law Services NW
Emotions can run high when children are involved, and it’s typical for parents to initially disagree on child support & parenting.
It’s important to remember what’s most important: your children and their well‑being. When you and your ex-spouse make decisions concerning them, keep in this in mind - it will help you focus on what’s in their best interest.
Don’t involve your children in any of the conflict you may be having with your ex-spouse, and try not to put pressure on them to be involved in the decision-making about their future. An appropriate and workable parenting plan is vital in order to help your children adjust to their new family circumstance, even as you manage other details of your separation or divorce.
The team at Bodnaruk Law can help you:
- understand which guidelines apply to you
- use those guidelines to calculate child support amount
- understand your legal rights and obligations
- understand your child's rights and best interests
- prepare the right documentation if you go to Court
Even though your family is no longer intact, your children maintain a legal right to financial support from you and your ex-spouse for as long as they meet the definition “child of the marriage”. If you are unable to come to agreement on child support, it’s sensible to contact a lawyer for advice and assistance.
Child support guidelines fall under both federal and provincial laws depending on where each parent lives. We help you sort through which guidelines apply to your family’s particular situation.
In order for us to clearly define a child support amount, both you and your ex-spouse must fully and clearly disclose your financial information, and provide a detailed list of expenses related to your child or children, including costs associated with their education, extracurricular activities, and/or other expenses.
If financial disclosure is not provided in a timely manner (i.e. 30 days from when your ex-spouse was served with a Notice to Disclose), or their income is suspected of being under-reported, we will proceed with Court action to force them to respond.
Child support order enforcement and modifications
Child support should be reviewed regularly based upon changes in income and/or changes to expenses related to your children.
Bodnaruk Law is able to assist you with the enforcement and modification of existing child support orders.
When you separate or divorce, you and your ex‑spouse need to plan how you will share time with your child (or children), and how decisions about them will be made. This can be worked out between the two of you, or it can be formalized into a Parenting Agreement.
A mediator can help you reach agreement and make sure all of the bases are covered. If you’re unable to come to agreement, you can go to Court in which case a judge makes the decisions and sets out a Parenting Order.
Parenting agreements and parenting orders are solely based on the needs of your child and your individual capabilities as parents. They set out how decisions are made and how time with your child is shared. The Court’s primary concern is the best interests of your child - your wishes are secondary.
The Court favours children spending significant amounts of time with each parent, unless there is a specific reason why spending significant time with one parent is not in the child’s best interests. In most cases, an agreement or order for parenting time would allow for a child to have significant contact with both parents. Having significant contact with both parents is often considered to be the best arrangement for a child’s psychological and emotional health and development, and provides for a more stable environment.
In developing your parenting agreement, you must consider various custody arrangements, each with varying degrees of decision-making input, living arrangements, and access:
Sole custody: not commonly granted unless one parent has an inability to effectively act as a parent to the child. The child lives primarily with one parent who makes all of the major decisions about the child. That parent may consult with the other parent, but the final decision rests with them. The other parent may or may not have access (parenting time) with the child, depending on the reason why that parent has difficulty in fulfilling a parental role with the child. While you may wish to pursue sole custody, unless your ex-spouse is proven unfit, the Court is unlikely to approve it. Sole custody may be an option if one parent is unable to parent or must permanently leave the country.
Joint custody: both parents make all major decisions about the child together, including education and health decisions, and both parents have parenting time with the child. Often parents specify where the child’s primary residence will be and how often the other parent will have parenting time with the child. The parent with whom the child lives most of the time is said to have “primary care”. The other parent has access (parenting time) which specifies the times that they have the child in their care. Parents with joint custody make day-to-day decisions about the child while the child is in their care.
Shared parenting: when the child lives, more or less, half the time with each parent. Both you and your ex‑spouse are equally involved in decisions related to your child’s health and education, as well as development of other important areas of their lives such as religion and extra-curricular activities. With shared parenting, both you and the other parent take turns having the child in your care, often on a week‑on/week‑off basis, meaning that the child spends alternating weeks living with each parent. Shared parenting works best when you and the other parent live relatively close to each other and your child’s daycare or school. For shared parenting to work, both parents have to be reasonable and cooperative with one another to negotiate and work out issues without confrontation.
Parents who share joint custody (decision‑making) are not required to share parenting of their child. In many cases, parents may share joint custody, but one parent has primary care of the child.
Split custody: occurs when there are two or more children, and some live primarily with one parent, while the rest live primarily with the other. In most cases, parents with split custody also have joint custody.
The details of your parenting agreement are often most effectively determined during mediation. Each family's situation is unique, and you and your ex-spouse must come to an arrangement that works with your schedules and allows you to best care for your children.
If a substantial change in the circumstances of either parent or of the child has occurred since the Court last granted a Parenting Order, a parent can pursue a variation application asking for a change to the last Court Order, regardless whether the Order dealt with child support or parenting time with the child. The parent applying for a Variation Order must explain to the Court why the previous Order should be changed and demonstrate why the proposed Variation Order would be in the best interests of the child.
Access & contact
In a divorce case, “access” or “parenting time” refers to the time the parent without custody (or primary care) has with the children. If your child lives primarily with one of you, the agreement or order will usually spell out the time your child spends with the other parent.
Access arrangements are generally flexible and encourage parents to work together to create a schedule both can accept. If an arrangement can’t be agreed to, the Court can specify access. Some access arrangements or orders may also contain restrictions or conditions, such as when a parent has an alcohol or drug problem, the child has health problems requiring specific care or conditions, if the parent is not set-up to properly care for the child, or if the access must be supervised.
A person who is not the child’s guardian, such as grandparent, is able to apply to Court for an order allowing them to spend time with the child whether in person, over the phone, by mail or e-mail. This is called “contact”.
The Court determines if contact is in the best interests of the child. It considers whether the child may be harmed if contact is denied, and also determines whether the guardian’s denial of contact is reasonable or unreasonable. A Contact Order only gives the person the right to spend time with the child, not the right to make any decisions regarding the child.