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Vancouver and Edmonton Family Law Blog

Guardianship after divorce and beyond

If you and your spouse have a child, it may seem obvious that Alberta law considers you parents. This title gives you the rights and responsibilities you may associate with parenting, many of which you may not give a second thought to, such as feeding or disciplining your child according to your standards and beliefs. The law calls these the duties of guardianship

However, if you and your spouse separate or divorce, your role may go through an adjustment, not only practically but also in the eyes of the law. While you will remain a parent to your child, your guardianship responsibilities may change.

Children's issues: Children's rights when parents aren't married

The family dynamic looks very different today than it did decades ago. No longer is a family unit limited to a married man and woman who then have children. Many heterosexual couples are having children before they get married -- if they ever get married. As for children's issues -- what does that mean for the rights of children born out of wedlock? Under family law in British Columbia, as in the rest of the country, those rights the same as those of children whose parents are married.

Regardless of whether the child is born to married or unmarried parents, both parents have to sign the birth registration form in British Columbia unless one or both are incapable of doing so. If the father isn't known or doesn't acknowledge the child as his, the child's mother can sign alone. If the mother signs alone, she can decide the child's given and surnames. When the parents don't agree on the last name, the child's last name will be a combination of the parents' surnames hyphenated or combined in alphabetical order.

Family law: Some frequent flyer parents tying up family court

Parents who have the need to appear in family court for many issues are often referred to as frequent flyers. When it comes to children's issues in British Columbia, rules are instated under family law. Parents who want the court to intervene in the smallest details often take up valuable court time, which could be a problem for those parents who have more serious issues to iron out. 

Going to court to figure out if little Sally should take ballet lessons or if little Johnny should play soccer reduces available court time for issues that are really pressing like alleged parental abuse or parental alienation situations. When parents have joint custody of their children, there may be more insignificant points upon which they don't agree. These issues would be better worked out by other means, such as through mediation or via a parent coordinator.

Alberta family law: When it's all in a name

Decades ago, it was a given that, when a couple married, the wife would take her husband's last name. Fast forward to the 21st century, and that is not always the case with Alberta couples. Issues attached to marriage in the province fall under family law, and those include name changes. Women don't always change their surnames once married. Sometimes, a man takes his wife's surname, or the couple takes on a different name together, but whatever the case, they have to adhere to the rules.

People who choose to change their names after getting married must also have their identification changed. These are things like a driver's licence, provincial health card and other things like credit cards. Institutions will want to see the marriage licence before making any changes. In Alberta, an individual's name won't change on a birth certificate after the person marries.

Family law: Varying a child support order in British Columbia

When the need arises to make changes to child support payments, either the payor or the payee can ask for a support order to be varied. Under family law in British Columbia, the term variation is used when an increase or a decrease in child support payments is requested. A request to vary a support payment can be formally made when there is a change in life circumstances such as an increase or a decrease in parents' income, a change in parenting agreements or when the child turns 19 years of age.

When parents agree on those changes, they will have to update the current agreement in writing or create a new agreement. To make changes to a formal child support order, the request will have to be made in the same court that created the original order. If parents don't agree on the changes, an application can be made to the court that made the order in the first place and ask that court to grant a variance.

Understand your legal options. Make informed decisions. Contact the family law lawyers of Henderson Heinrichs LLP

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