Things to Consider When Appointing a Guardian for Your Children

Things to Consider When Appointing a Guardian for Your Children

One of the most difficult yet important decisions parents can make is choosing a guardian for their children in the event of their untimely death. Most of us do not like to imagine a time when we cannot take care of our families. However, choosing a guardian can give you peace of mind that someone you trust will protect your loved ones if the unthinkable happens.

If you fail to appoint a replacement guardian, the court will choose one for you if necessary who may not be the person you or your child would have preferred. An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help you understand your options for guardianship and assist with the necessary steps.

What is a Guardian

A guardian is an adult who is legally responsible for a child's well-being, including their physical, psychological, and emotional development and daily needs. This involves providing food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, as well as deciding where children will live, their spiritual upbringing, and what kind of education they receive.

Governed by the Family Law Act, guardians are entitled to be involved in any significant decisions regarding the child. They must also observe all laws related to a child's care, as parents would.

Choosing a Guardian

Most parents choose their child's guardian from their close family and friends. Ideally, this is someone with whom the child already has a close relationship. However, if the child is at least 12 years old, the court will ask the child's opinion before appointing or approving a guardianship order, so it is important to consider your child's wishes.

There are many considerations when choosing a suitable guardian for your children. First, you should think carefully about the care you would like your children to receive. For example:

  • What values and beliefs do you want to instill in your children?
  • Are there cultural or religious teachings and traditions that are important to you?
  • Do you have strong dietary or other health preferences for your children?

In some circumstances, appointing more than one guardian for a child's different needs might make sense. For example, this could involve a primary guardian to care for their day-to-day needs and a second guardian responsible for a specific aspect of the child's care, such as their finances or legal concerns.

Important First Steps

If you are married or have a co-parent, it's best to talk with them and ensure you are on the same page. Then, you can each list your top contenders and go through them together. Consider candidates with the following factors in mind:

  • Do they live nearby? It might be traumatic for your children to leave their community and all they know after your passing.
  • Are their financial circumstances adequate given your children's needs?
  • Are they healthy and fit enough to take on the responsibilities of guardianship? Is their age a factor, given the number of children you have and how old they are?
  • Do they already have or plan to have children of their own, and would a blended family work?
  • Can they provide a safe and stable lifestyle?

Once you have selected one or more candidates, it is wise to initiate a conversation about guardianship and whether they would consider taking on the responsibility. Explain why you have chosen them as potential guardians and have an honest and open discussion about your wishes for your children's future and upbringing.

While potential guardians may be flattered that you asked, guardianship is a serious and long-term responsibility, and they should not make the decision lightly. So, let them think about it. You may also choose more than one guardian as a backup should your top choice no longer be an option if the time comes.


Once you have chosen a guardian and they have agreed, it is time to make it official. The easiest way to document guardianship is by updating your will if you have one. If you are considering appointing a guardian for your children, an Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help you understand your options.

Contact our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today

Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation. Our Edmonton family lawyers will be pleased to assist you with all your family law proceedings.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

What Happens When Someone is Left Out of a Will?

What Happens When Someone is Left Out of a Will?

It is a familiar scene in a movie or TV show. A suspenseful "reading of the will" reveals that someone is unexpectedly included or left out, and drama ensues. But what if that happens in real life? Sometimes a family member is left out of a will, or there is no will at all. Do potential beneficiaries have any recourse? An Edmonton wills and estates lawyer may be able to help you understand your options if you are considering challenging a will.

Dying Without a Will

If someone dies in Alberta without a will, the Estate Administration Act outlines who can apply to become the estate administrator, typically a family member or, failing that, a Public Trustee. Once the court has appointed an administrator, Alberta's Wills and Succession Act governs the distribution of property. First is the payment of any outstanding debts, and then the remaining assets are distributed among the beneficiaries.

When there is no will, the most common beneficiaries are the spouse or partner, and any children. If the deceased (known in this context as the testator) has no spouse or children, the beneficiaries become, in order of priority, surviving parents, descendants of the parents (siblings, nieces, or nephews), grandparents or their descendants, and, finally, great grandparents or their descendants. The property eventually goes to the government if there is no spouse or living relatives.

Types of Wills

There are three types of wills in Alberta; a formal will, a holograph (handwritten) will, and a military will. To be valid, a testator and two witnesses must sign a formal will in each other's presence. A holograph will must be signed by the testator and does not require witnesses. Finally, active military service members may write and sign a military will without needing witnesses.

A well-constructed will typically includes a list of beneficiaries and their specific awards, names a guardian if there are children, and appoints a representative to oversee the execution of the testator's wishes. It will also revoke any earlier wills. While the law does not require it, the government recommends consulting a lawyer to help prepare a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Who Can Challenge a Will

Typically, the following parties may challenge a will:

  • A surviving spouse or interdependent (common law) partner of at least three years or if they have a child together
  • Children of the testator
  • A potential beneficiary named in an earlier will
  • Potential heirs if the testator died without a will
  • Lawyers operating under a power of attorney, the Public Trustee, or trustees of represented adults

Valid Reasons to Challenge a Will

Challenging a will can be a complex and expensive court process; therefore, there must be sufficient grounds for doing so. These can include the following:

  • The testator lacked the mental capacity to write a proper will
  • Someone inappropriately pressured or influenced the testator to include or exclude provisions within the will
  • The will does not adequately provide for dependent family members
  • The will was not properly executed and is therefore invalid
  • The will has been forged or is fraudulent.

If you suspect that any of these reasons apply to your situation, an Edmonton wills and estates lawyer may be able to help you understand your options and guide you through the necessary steps.

Insufficient Grounds to Challenge a Will

There is no legal requirement that a will be fair, so if you feel that you should have been included in the will, even if you are an adult child of the testator, this may not be sufficient grounds for a challenge.

A verbal promise that you would be a beneficiary may also not be sufficient to prove the testator's intentions.

While the government recommends the help of a lawyer when creating wills in Alberta, it is not legally required. So, if a testator made their own will, it could still stand up in court.

Contact our Edmonton Wills and Estates Lawyers Today

If you or someone you know is considering challenging a will and you want to explore your options, our Edmonton wills and estates lawyers may be able to help. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

What to Do if Your Former Spouse Disobeys Court Orders or Divorce Judgments

What to Do if Your Former Spouse Disobeys Court Orders or Divorce Judgments

Once a judgment has been granted in a divorce proceeding, it is natural to assume that the most challenging part of the legal proceedings is over. Unfortunately, sometimes an ex-spouse does not comply with a court order. However, you can take steps to ensure that your ex-spouse is held accountable. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you understand your enforcement options and advise you of your next steps when an ex-spouse breaches a court order.

In Alberta, divorce proceedings are governed by the Divorce Act and the provincial Family Law Act when determining orders for child and spousal support, parenting arrangements, child protection, and guardianship issues. These orders are enforceable by law.

Enforcing Parenting Time

If your ex-spouse is non-compliant with court-ordered parenting time, you must first advise the court of the breach. If your court order does not explicitly describe parenting time, you may need to amend your current court order. However, if it is clear on this matter, you must contact a family court counselor in your jurisdiction to make a court application to enforce parenting time.

An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you prepare and file the necessary paperwork, serve the other party with legal documents, and represent you in any necessary court proceedings.

Penalties for denying court-ordered parenting time can include a requirement for make-up visits, police enforcement of visitation, financial penalties, and even jail time. If your ex-spouse does not return your child after a visit, the police may get involved, and the non-compliant party may be responsible for financial penalties or incur jail time.

Enforcing Spousal and Child Support

Alberta's Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) allows individuals to collect court-ordered child support, spousal support, and partner support and enforce these as required. To register for the MEP, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. You or the other party must reside in Alberta
  2. You must either be a payor or recipient of partner support, child support, or spousal support
  3. A court order for support or Maintenance Order or Maintenance Agreement must be filed with the court

The MEP does not provide legal representation or advice to clients. We recommend that if you have not yet filed a court order, you contact an Alberta-based family lawyer to assist with this process and ensure your rights are protected. Our Edmonton divorce lawyers have many years of experience processing Maintenance Enforcement Program requests on behalf of our clients.

Although spousal and child support is enforceable by law, you may not prevent a parent from seeing their child based on a failure to meet support obligations unless the court finds otherwise. If this creates a hostile environment when transferring the children, you may wish to consider doing the exchange in a public location or through a neutral third party.

Child Protection

If a party disobeys a "no-contact" order, such as a restraining or protection order, arrest and criminal charges may apply. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you understand your rights and responsibilities. If you have immediate concerns for your or someone else's safety, please call the police.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If your ex-spouse has breached the terms of a court order, our Edmonton law firm ;may be able to help. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

Possible Lasting Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

Possible Lasting Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

According to the World Health Organization, between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world sustain a spinal cord injury each year. The consequences of such an injury can be severe, with many accident victims suffering increased risks of infection and premature death, as well as an overall reduction in quality of life.

Some of the most common causes of a spinal cord injury are preventable accidents such as motor vehicle collisions and slip and falls. The financial burden of recovery can be immense. Individuals living spinal cord injuries often need the support of attendant care. Rehabilitative therapy and assistive technologies can also be costly. Incurring significant financial losses while being unable to return to work can contribute to severe stress, depression, and anxiety.

Financial support may be available to individuals who have sustained spinal cord injuries in an accident. Contact our Edmonton personal injury lawyers today to learn more.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord injury is a long structure of nervous tissue that runs from the brainstem to the lumbar spine. Its primary function is to transmit nerve signals from the brain to the body. The spinal cord is the centre for coordination, reflexes, and many kinds of movement.

Traumatic impact, such as sudden impact in a car accident or a slip and fall, can damage the spinal cord. Nearly 90% of spinal cord injuries are caused by traumatic damage. Depending on the severity of the injury, this damage to the spinal cord could prevent the transmissions of nerve signals and impulses to other areas of the body, causing paralysis.

Immediate Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

Not every spinal cord injury is immediately apparent. For this reason, any person who has sustained significant trauma to the head or neck should receive immediate medical attention.

While each case is different and the symptoms may depend on the location and severity of the injury, these are some common signs of a spinal cord injury:

  • A change in, or loss of, movement
  • A change in or loss of sensation
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Spasms and exaggerated reflexive moments
  • A change in, or loss of, sexual function, sensitivity, and/or fertility
  • Pain or intense stinging along the spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing
  • And possibly more

Following an accident, you should seek emergency treatment if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme pain or pressure in your back, neck, or head
  • Paralysis, weakness, or lack of coordination in any body part
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty balancing
  • A twisted or oddly positioned neck or back

If you are assisting a person you suspect might have a spinal cord injury, do not move them. Call 911 immediately and perform basic first aid without moving the injured person's head or neck.

Ongoing Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

There are several different kinds of spinal cord injuries, all of which have different effects on the body. If the spinal cord has been severed, the body may lose mobility and sensation below the severed point. If it is not completely severed, the body may still have some feeling and ability to move.

Damage to the lower parts of the spine, in the sacral and lumbar regions, may affect the hips and legs, as well as the bowel, bladder, and genitalia. Damage to the thoracic spine may also affect the torso, and frequently leads to paraplegia. Damage to the cervical spine - in the neck - may result in quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia. This form of paralysis impairs the use of all four limbs, and can impact an individual's ability to breathe on their own. It can also affect a person's ability to speak.

A spinal cord injury is among the most severe consequences of a traumatic accident. It is irreversible and life-altering. Its profound, lasting effects include lack of bowel and bladder control, chronic pain, and the inability to breathe without the aid of a medical assistive device.

Contact Our Edmonton Personal Injury Lawyers Today For a Consultation

The financial burden of a spinal cord injury can be profound. At Verhaeghe Law, we are committed to providing support to injured accident victims. If you or someone you love have sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of another person's negligence, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Edmonton personal injury lawyers. Learn what compensation may be available to you.

*Please note that the information in this article is not intended legal advice. It is a general overview on the subject of spinal cord injuries. For specific legal advice, please contact a lawyer.

Cunningham v Seveny: Disclosure of Income in Child Support Cases

Cunningham v Seveny: Disclosure of Income in Child Support Cases

Financial obligations do not end when a relationship dissolves. Following a divorce or separation, former spouses or common-law partners often embark on the process of dividing property and assets, as well as negotiating spousal and/or child support. In an ideal situation, both former spouses collaborate on the terms of their separation, and provide accurate disclosures of their financial situations. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

If there is contention as to the accuracy of the payor parent’s declared finances, the question arises - who is obligated to provide the proof? The short answer, as discussed in Cunningham v Seveny: the payor parent.

Misrepresentation of Income

A payor parent’s income, for the purposes of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, is established based on the amount declared on Line 150 of their annual tax return. If the payor parent wishes to evade their child support obligations, they may strive to reduce this number. In situations where the payor parent receives income from self-employed sources, or through a partnership or corporation that they control, they may claim business expenses that contribute to reducing their Line 150 income.

Business expenses such as the use of a corporate vehicle, cell phone, or computer, as well as costs associated with entertainment, travel, and more, may be deducted for income tax purposes. However, these business expenses may also result in a personal benefit to the parent, which may therefore render them relevant in child support calculations. 

Imputation of Income

Where a payor parent is found to be dishonest about their finances, the court may enact an imputation of income. This means that a new amount, deemed appropriate by new calculations, may be imputed - or, attributed - to the payor parent. They will then be required to pay child support based on the imputed amount, not the amount they initially claimed.

Burden of Proof

In Cunningham v Seveny, the payor parent claimed he had provided all relevant financial information for the calculation of the support he owed. He contended that his ex-wife was responsible for engaging an external assessor to examine the reasonableness of his claims, since she was the one bringing their accuracy into question. The court, however, ruled his contention to be incorrect.

The rights of children are the priority in child support cases. If the recipient parent must hire a lawyer or external assessor to investigate the payor parent’s finances, these costs may reduce the amount of financial support the children receive in the meantime, potentially impacting their quality of life.

The payor parent must therefore disclose their deductions from the outset. If they wish to claim that the deductions had no personal benefit to them, then they must provide the court with reasonable explanations. In the case of Cunningham v Seveny, the court ordered the payor parent to provide adequate disclosure of his income, with explanations where required. Any recalculations of child support would then be based on this amount.

Contact Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you have questions regarding a matter of child support, spousal support, divorce, or more, our Alberta family lawyers may be able to help. Contact us today through our online booking form or over the phone to schedule a consultation with Verhaeghe Law and discuss what may be possible in your case.

* Note that the information in this article is intended as a general overview on a legal subject. It does not constitute legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please speak with a lawyer.

Alberta Court of Appeal Reconsiders Smolis-Hunt Imputation of Income Test

Alberta Court of Appeal Reconsiders Smolis-Hunt Imputation of Income Test

In a recent decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA), The Honourable Justice Pentelechuk drew on case law from jurisdictions across Canada to reconsider the court’s approach to matters of income imputation in child support law. 

This decision comes on the heels of years of debate regarding the interpretation of Federal Child Support Guidelines in Alberta, and is welcomed by many of the province’s practitioners of family law.

Child Support in Alberta

In Alberta, child support regulations are geared to provide the children of separating or divorcing couples with a fair standard of living. Both parents are financially responsible for their children, whatever the custody arrangements. In circumstances where one parent has full custody of the children, the caregiving parent is considered to be providing child support in the form of day-to-day expenses. The other parent, in turn, owes a monthly payment.

The amount the payor parent owes in child support is calculated based on their declared income in Line 150 on their tax return. Ideally, this is an accurate representation of the parent’s financial circumstances. However, in some cases, the accuracy of that amount may come into question.

If a court determines that “a spouse is intentionally under-employed or unemployed,” as stipulated under section 19(1) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, then it may attribute, or “impute,” a certain amount of income to the payor parent. The imputed amount is based on the parent’s earning capacity, rather than their declared income. This parent may then be required to pay child support based on the imputed income amount.

The interpretation of “intentionally under-employed or unemployed” varies across Canadian jurisdictions. Most provinces interpret this guideline under a reasonableness standard, which allows for flexibility in determining whether or not to impute income.

In Alberta, the interpretation has been more stringent, requiring evidence that the payor parent deliberately chose to become or remain “under-employed or unemployed” for the purpose of avoiding child support payments. The discrepancy between the provinces’ interpretations of this guideline have been the source of debate.

The Smolis-Hunt Imputation of Income Test

The landmark case on imputation of income in Alberta was Smolis-Hunt in 2001. In this case, the payor parent was the father, who, following the divorce, continued working in an unsuccessful legal practice that yielded no substantial prospect of improvement. The trial judge imputed income to him, in accordance with the above-mentioned guideline 19(1)(a).

The payor-father appealed this decision, requesting a recalculation of the amount he owed. His appeal was granted on the grounds that he did not deliberately seek to evade child support by choosing to continue with a line of work less lucrative than his earning potential. With this, Alberta courts established an interpretation that required proof of “deliberate evasion” in order to provide grounds to impute income.

The Problem With Deliberate Evasion

Several problems have been highlighted with the Smolis-Hunt test. The recipient parent bears the burden of proof that the payor parent is deliberately choosing to minimize their income in order to avoid child support. Intent is a subjective notion, and can be challenging to prove. A payor parent may take on a less lucrative career in search of self-fulfillment, for instance. Their financial decisions may not be directly tied to their children - yet the children may nonetheless feel the impacts of those decisions.

Peters v Atchooay: A Test of Reasonableness

In 2022, another case involving a payor-father applying to retroactively reduce his imputed child support obligations came before the Alberta Court of Appeal. Drawing on other provinces’ interpretations of section 19(1) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, The Honourable Justice Pentelechuk decided in favour of the mother’s appeal that the imputed income stand. 

This decision was made based on a test of reasonableness, meaning that instead of requiring evidence of the payor’s deliberate evasion of child support, the court considered whether his employment choices were made within a reasonable framework.

A parent is not required to maximize their income at the expense of self-actualization. However, as Hon. Justice Pentelechuk underlined in the case summary for Peters v Atchooay, “[a] parent’s personal goals and life-style choices do not take priority over their obligation to financially support their children.” There is leeway within a payor-parent’s responsibilities, and the court may deem a range of employment options as reasonable when the question of imputation arises. Ultimately, it is the well-being of the child that takes primacy.

Contact Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you have questions or require support regarding a child support matter, reach out to our Alberta family lawyers today to discuss the specifics of your case. Contact us online or by phone to schedule a consultation and see how we may be of service to you.

* Please note, the information in this article does not constitute legal advice. It is intended as a general overview of an area of family law. For legal advice, please consult with a lawyer. 

How is Cruelty Defined in an Alberta Divorce?

How is Cruelty Defined in an Alberta Divorce?

With over 40,000 divorces in Canada each year, couples end their marriages for various reasons. However, under Canada's Divorce Act, there are only three legal "grounds" on which Canadians may file for divorce. These are separation, adultery, and cruelty. If you are considering divorce and are unsure on which grounds you should file, an Alberta divorce lawyer may be able to help you decide what is best for your situation.


You and your spouse must have been separated and have lived apart for at least one year to be eligible for divorce on the grounds of separation. If you cannot live apart during this time for practical reasons, you will need to prove the separation through other means. Filing on the grounds of separation is typically the most straightforward and inexpensive way to obtain a divorce and is the most common in Canada.


A spouse must provide the court with credible evidence that their partner had sexual relations with someone outside of the relationship to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. You could not file for divorce on the grounds of adultery if you were the adulterer. Filing on these grounds allows you to circumvent the one-year waiting period and initiate divorce proceedings immediately.

Cruelty: Family and Domestic Violence

To file for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, you must provide the court with evidence of at least one act of domestic or family violence and demonstrate that its severity makes living together untenable.

Alberta defines family and domestic violence as an abuse of power within a family or intimate relationship. The abuse can undermine the family's or an individual's physical, emotional, and psychological security and safety, whether they are direct victims, witnesses, or simply know it is happening.

Recent amendments to the Divorce Act describe family violence as any violent, threatening, coercive, or controlling behavior that causes a family member concern for their safety or that of someone else. Family violence can include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Threats or violence against people, animals, or property
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect, or failing to provide the necessities of life
  • Excessive intoxication from drugs or alcohol

Providing Evidence of Cruelty

Proving cruelty in a marriage can be challenging because the abuse often occurs in a private setting. Examples of evidence that a court may find credible include:

  • 911 calls
  • Photographs or recordings of abuse or related injuries
  • Hospital or medical records
  • Written statements or court testimony by those who have experience or knowledge of the abuse or have witnessed its effects

As with adultery, applying for divorce on the grounds of cruelty allows you to circumvent the one-year waiting period. However, typical courtroom waiting times can often delay divorce proceedings for a year or more. Additionally, going to court to prove adultery or cruelty can be expensive and emotionally harrowing.

Applying on the grounds of adultery or cruelty can shift focus away from resolving the practical matters of divorce like support and access to shared children and toward a cycle of he-said-she-said. Filing on these grounds will also have no impact on spousal or child support.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you are considering divorce, our Edmonton divorce lawyers or Edmonton family lawyers may be able to help you understand your options. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

Your First Christmas Divorced: Tips For Making It Seamless For Your Kids

Your First Christmas Divorced: Tips For Making It Seamless For Your Kids

Christmas is a cherished family holiday for those who celebrate. It is a time when families come together in celebrations to share food and gifts, observe traditions, and create memories. However, celebrating Christmas during or shortly after a divorce can present complex challenges for families, particularly those with children.

Hurt feelings and power struggles between divorced parents can make holidays a tense time, and children often get caught in the middle. However, divorced parents can take steps to help their children adapt to the new family arrangements and have an enjoyable celebration despite their current circumstances. Here are some tips for helping your children enjoy what might be a difficult holiday season:

Plan Ahead

Parents should initiate open communication with each other and their children well before the holidays. Give yourself ample time to negotiate a schedule with your ex-spouse, so there are no upsetting surprises or hurt feelings on the big day. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you create a holiday parenting plan that works best for your family.

There are various creative ways to ensure that both parents get to spend time with their children during the holidays. Some families take turns spending every other Christmas with their kids, especially if they are separated by large physical distances. In these cases, the other parent may get Thanksgiving or another holiday with the children that year in exchange.

Others divide the holidays in half each year. For example, one parent might spend time with their children on Christmas Eve and morning, while the other parent has the children for the remainder of the day and Christmas dinner. Occasionally, families come together for major events like holidays, especially when they occur close to the divorce.

Be Flexible

Many impromptu celebrations and family gatherings can occur throughout the season. Therefore, both parents need to be adaptable to changes in their children's schedules and accommodate last-minute changes in plans. This give-and-take approach can take practice, but it could benefit both parents and children in the long run.

Coordinate Gift-Giving

Setting boundaries around the gifts you buy your children can also help the holidays go smoothly. It is natural to want to make your kids happy, and if they have recently experienced a divorce, you may feel compelled to compensate with lavish gifts. Often, this can turn into a competition between parents.

Engaging in competition for your children's affection can set an expensive precedent for future holidays and celebrations. Doing so will ultimately fail to fulfill your children's most intimate holiday wish: to feel loved and supported by both of their parents. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your ex about what gifts each of you intends to give your children. Consider setting a budget so that neither of you feels the need to compete with one another.

Set Expectations

Talk to your kids in advance about the ways in which the holiday season will be different this year so that they know what to expect. Setting expectations could spare your children from disappointment when the holidays go differently than they had imagined. Your children may express sadness that this year's holidays will be different than those in the past. Let them share their feelings. Doing so can help them process complex emotions. You can reassure your kids that it is natural to be sad after a divorce and affirm that your family will make it through this challenging time. Children often look to their parents for emotional cues, so appearing calm and confident might help them overcome their sadness.

Be the Adult

Children are sensitive to their parent's emotions. They often worry about hurting their parents' feelings, especially when they see them living through the emotional challenges of a divorce. Asking your children questions about their holiday preferences, including which parent they would like to celebrate with, can be stressful. Let your kids express their wishes , and work with them to find a solution that will appeal to all members of the family.

Embrace New Traditions

Divorces can present families with the opportunity to create new holiday traditions. While you may not be able to reprise every activity you previously enjoyed as a family, you can use the holiday season to develop new, creative, and meaningful traditions that your kids will enjoy for years to come. Even small gestures can help your children feel connected to you if you are apart during the holidays.

Practice Self-Care

Divorces can be emotionally challenging. Sometimes, feelings of loneliness and anxiety can be exacerbated by the holiday season, especially if you are apart from your children. It is important to surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible. Practice self-care in ways that are meaningful to you. Consider seeking out self-help books, psychotherapy, or other forms of counseling to take care of your mental health.

Take the High Road

The Christmas season encourages families to set aside their anger and ill-will. During this busy time of year, consider how your behaviour impacts your children's emotional well-being. Instead of squabbling over petty issues, think about how your actions can help your children feel cherished and safe. If you and your ex can put aside your differences and focus on your children's happiness, in time, the new holiday traditions you create can lead to happy, precious memories – the best gift of all.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you need help creating a parenting schedule this holiday season, Verhaeghe family lawyers may be able to assist you. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

Grandparents' Rights During a Divorce

Grandparents' Rights During a Divorce

Grandparents can play an integral role in a child's life, providing love, support, and physical care. As a result, the close emotional bonds they form with their grandchildren can be similar to those between a parent and child. With over 40,000 divorces in Canada each year, grandparents can provide valuable emotional support and stability for children during a family transition.

However, during the divorce process, grandparents are sometimes denied access to their grandchildren by one or both parents, typically due to a family dispute. Alberta's Family Law Act does not give grandparents the explicit right to have contact with their grandchildren. However, there might be options available for grandparents who wish to preserve their connections with grandchildren after divorce amidst disputes about access.

Depending on the circumstances, grandparents may apply for a contact order. If granted, a contact order can outline rules for visitation schedules and acceptable methods of communication. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you understand your options and assist you with the steps necessary to apply for a contact order.

Applying For a Contact Order

Grandparents can apply directly for a contact order with a grandchild if their situation meets the following criteria:

  1. The guardians are the parents of the children
  2. The guardians are living separate and apart, or one of the guardians has died
  3. The grandparent's regular contact with the child has been interrupted by the separation or death

The court's primary objective is to ensure that enforcing grandparental access is in the child's best interests. They will consider why the parents have denied access and whether the interruption of contact negatively affects the grandchild. They will also consider the potential for conflict between the grandparents and the parents should contact be resumed.

The court will also consider:

  • The history of grandparental care and the strength of the child's existing relationship with the applicant
  • The child's cultural/language/religious upbringing and heritage and the benefit to the child of maintaining a relationship with the applicant
  • The child's wishes (especially if over 12 years of age)
  • Any history of family violence or civil or criminal proceedings relevant to the child's safety and well being
  • And possibly more

If Both Parents Deny Access

If both parents deny access to the grandchildren, the courts will generally assume the parents know what is best for their children and defer to their wishes. It can be challenging for grandparents to gain access in these circumstances.

However, even in these scenarios, grandparents may be allowed to ask the court's permission to apply for a contact order. This request for permission is a preliminary step to making an application for the contact order itself.

Grandparents will need to demonstrate that interrupting their relationship with their grandchild is unreasonable and that resuming the relationship will be in the grandchild's best interests. Then, if the court grants permission, they may proceed with the contact order application process.

The court will consider the child's best interests when deciding if an application for a contact order may proceed. In addition, the court will assess the significance of the relationship and whether all parties can resolve their issues out of court through mediated discussions.

If the court denies the application for permission, grandparents may be able to appeal the decision within a strict limitation period. An Edmonton divorce lawyer may be able to help you determine whether you would benefit from requesting permission to apply for a contact order and could also help you navigate the necessary steps should you choose to proceed.

If grandparents have serious concerns about their grandchildren's health and safety within the parents' households, they may wish to consider an application for kinship care or guardianship. These agreements might allow the children to live with their grandparents. To learn more about applying for kinship care or guardianship, schedule a consultation with Verhaeghe family lawyers.

Contact Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you have been denied access to your grandchildren and wish to apply for a contact order, Verhaeghe family lawyers may be able to help. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

How Can a Lawyer Help With Adoption in Alberta?

How Can a Lawyer Help With Adoption in Alberta?

Adoption is a meaningful way to provide children with the love, security, and sense of belonging that comes with being a permanent family member. It also allows hopeful parents to realize their dreams of raising a child. Adoption also establishes a legal framework that protects the rights and obligations of children and their adoptive parents.

The prospect of adoption is exciting, but the process of adoption in Canada can be confusing, lengthy, and expensive. Having an experienced Edmonton family lawyer by your side to explain your options and guide you through the complex process could help you avoid unnecessary costs and delays and increase your chances of a successful adoption.

Why Adopt?

There are countless personal reasons why individuals and couples choose to adopt. Struggles with infertility or other medical issues that could increase the risks of complications during pregnancy lead many people to pursue adoption to fulfil their dream of raising a child.Many same-sex couples and single parents who are ready to start a family might wish to adopt a child.

Step-parents often adopt their stepchildren. And certain families may choose to adopt a relative whose natural parents can no longer care for them.

Many people simply want to give a child a permanent and loving home where they can thrive. But, no matter the reason for adoption, its rewards can be immeasurable for both children and parents.

Types of Adoption in Alberta

When considering adoption, it is essential to understand your options. There are three types of adoption in Alberta: private, international, and public adoption.

Private Adoption

When you adopt the child of a spouse or relative, or if a child is placed in your care by either their parents or a licensed adoption agency, it is considered a private adoption. In these cases, the biological parents or family and the adoptive parents must come to a legal agreement.

An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help you by preparing and filing the necessary documentation on your behalf, negotiating the adoption agreement's terms and conditions, attending any required court appearances, and managing disputes, should they arise.

The private adoption process in Alberta can take up to six months (or longer). The cost of private adoption can vary based on the situation. It might be beneficial to consult with an Edmonton family lawyer throughout the process to offer advice on your specific case and let you know what to expect.

International Adoption

International adoption is highly complex. The many rules and regulations designed to protect children vary by country and are subject to change. International adoptions tend to be very expensive and can take years to complete.

When considering international adoption, it is important to understand that there are two processes to navigate: the adoption process and the immigration or citizenship process. Adoptive parents must comply with the 1993 Hague Convention, a multilateral treaty that regulates adoptions between participating countries, as well as with Alberta's Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help you review the different legal processes for different countries of origin, find a reputable international placement agency, and navigate the Canadian immigration laws to which you must adhere.

Public Adoption: Children in Government Care

When children cannot be cared for by their biological parents and families, they might be placed in the care of Alberta Children's Services. When you adopt a child in government care, you must meet specific eligibility criteria to ensure that you can meet your child's unique needs. You do not always require a lawyer for public adoption.

Contact our Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

Adoption should be a joyous and exciting experience. If you or your family wish to proceed with an adoption, our Verhaeghe family lawyers may be able to help. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.