What You Should Know About Adopting Your Stepchildren in Alberta

What You Should Know About Adopting Your Stepchildren in Alberta

Whether you are signing your life insurance documents, organizing a trust, or preparing to write a will, you will need to decide on a beneficiary or beneficiaries. This is a key part of planning for the future, and ensuring that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. For those looking to streamline the process of settling an estate, naming beneficiaries often features on lists of tips on how to avoid probate in Alberta.

The field of estate law involves the management of a person’s property and assets after their death, and it includes the areas of estate planning and administration, as well as the resolution of conflicts that may arise. Our Edmonton probates and wills lawyers would be happy to discuss your particular needs and see how we may be of service in helping to structure your trust, will, or more.

What is a Beneficiary?

A beneficiary is somebody who receives assets and property originally owned by somebody else. In the case of the last will and testament left by an individual who has passed away, the beneficiaries are often the person’s close family members, such as a surviving spouse, children, and/or siblings.

People have the freedom to name who they wish as a beneficiary. This can be a friend or colleague, or even a charity or other organization. What you need to provide is a means for the executor of your estate to contact the beneficiaries. 

When you name beneficiaries in your life insurance policy, RRSP, or other registered assets, those assets may go directly to your beneficiaries after your death, without ever becoming part of your estate, or being subject to probate.

What is a Contingent Beneficiary?

A contingent beneficiary is “second in line” to receive your assets after your death, or after the triggering event in the case of a trust. If the primary beneficiary is unable to receive the assets because they have died, are unreachable, or have explicitly refused the inheritance.

It is often a good idea to name a contingent beneficiary, to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes. Often, people will name their spouse as their primary beneficiary, and their children as their contingent beneficiaries. That way, if the spouse passes away before the assets are to be distributed, the funds will go to the children.

Considerations for Choosing Your Contingent Beneficiary

Just as you can choose whomever you like as your primary beneficiaries, so too can you choose anyone - or any entity - as your contingent beneficiary. However, there are some considerations you may wish to keep in mind.

If you choose a contingent beneficiary who is a minor, they will require a trustee to look after any funds they inherit, until they turn 18. 

You may choose a contingent beneficiary that is not a person. Some people choose to give their money to a charitable organization, for example, should their primary beneficiary not be available to receive the assets.


If you are excluding a potentially obvious choice of beneficiary from your will, you may wish to consult with an Edmonton probates and wills lawyer. In order to minimize the potential that your will might be challenged, it may help to include an explanation of your decision.

Another consideration is the structure of your family. If one of your children passes away before you, would you prefer their spouse to receive the inheritance, or for your remaining children to split it equally? These questions can be challenging to address on your own, but being well-informed about the possibilities of estate planning can help reduce your and your loved ones’ stress in the future. Contact our Edmonton probates and wills lawyers today to discuss your case.

What Happens if I Don’t Name a Contingent Beneficiary?

If you do not name a contingent beneficiary, and your primary beneficiary is unable to receive your assets, then your registered assets become a part of your estate and are subject to probate. If you do not name a contingent beneficiary in your will and the primary beneficiary is unavailable, then your estate may be distributed according to the Alberta Intestate Succession Act.

Contact Our Edmonton Probates and Wills Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Working with a dedicated Edmonton probates and wills lawyer can be essential to ensuring your documents are in order, and your beneficiaries clearly chosen. Whether it is the preparation of a trust or the forming of your last will and testament, or more, our team at Verhaeghe Law would be pleased to discuss your circumstances and see how we may be of service to you. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of estate law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta probates and wills lawyer.

What Does “In the Child’s Best Interests” Really Mean?

What Does In the Child’s Best Interests Really Mean?

Children are among the most vulnerable members of society. Dependent on the care of the adults around them, they are unable to make most decisions for themselves. If their parents separate or divorce, young children may not even have a say in which parent raises them. For this reason, Alberta’s Family Law Act stipulates that decisions involving a child must be made in the child’s “best interests.”

What does a child’s “best interests” mean, and how is this determined? When it comes to making decisions as to parenting time or who holds decision-making responsibility, a judge is required to consider a range of factors impacting a child’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. This information then influences how a court may rule in a dispute over how a child will be raised.

If you have questions regarding your child’s best interests and what to consider when making a parenting plan following a separation or divorce, contact us today. Our Edmonton family lawyers would be happy to address your questions and discuss the particulars of your case.

Parenting Plan Disagreements

In Alberta, decisions concerning a child are required to be made in the child’s “best interests.” This means that the choices made regarding parenting time and decision-making responsibility are to be guided only by what will provide the child with the best possible safety. 

Parenting time, formerly known as access, refers to the time the child will spend with each parent. Decision-making responsibility, formerly known as custody, refers to a parent’s rights to make important decisions on behalf of their child. These are typically life-forming choices such as where they go to school and what medical care they receive.

Under ideal circumstances, the parents agree to collaborate in prioritizing their child’s well-being, putting their interpersonal conflict aside when it comes to child-rearing choices. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to navigate a separation or divorce with such grace.

In instances where the parents cannot agree on how - and with whom - their child will be raised, a judge may need to step in and make a ruling in an effort to protect the child’s best interests.

What Are the Child’s Best Interests?

There is no single set rule for a judge to follow in determining which decision will be best for a given child. Each family, and each case, is unique. However, factors a judge typically consider include:

  • The child’s current circumstances, including age, health status, and any specific needs.
  • The child’s history of care - who has been responsible for their care up until now?
  • The child’s cultural, spiritual, linguistic upbringing and heritage.
  • Where appropriate (eg. due to age and maturity), the child’s own preferences as to their future.
  • Plans currently being proposed (i.e. by parents) for the child’s future.
  • Whether there has been any form of domestic abuse in the child’s life.
  • The specific nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as other significant parties that would be involved in their life.
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to appropriately care for the child.
  • Whether there have been any relevant civil or criminal proceedings that may influence the child’s safety and well-being.

Contact Our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Decisions made in relation to the lives of children in Alberta are guided by the principle of being “in the child’s best interests.” What the child’s best interests are may vary depending on the specific circumstances of their life. If you would like to address questions particular to your unique situation, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Edmonton family lawyers.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta family lawyer.

What is Parental Alienation?

What is Parental Alienation?

Many people report their separation from a spouse or partner is one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Whether it is the end of a marriage or an adult interdependent relationship, it is a life-altering change that often comes with highly charged emotions and the stress of disentangling two interconnected lives. When there are children involved, a separation is often even more complicated. Decisions must be made about the children’s futures, including where they will live and who will hold decision-making responsibility for them.

Under ideal circumstances, both parents act with integrity and mutual respect even as they navigate the end of their relationship. However, there are situations where a parent turns to bad faith measures in order to gain leverage in the course of a separation. For example, they may use manipulative tactics to tarnish the relationship between the children and their other parent. This is known as parental alienation.

If you believe your current or former spouse is trying to alienate your children from you, our Edmonton family lawyers would be happy to discuss the particulars of your situation and overview your legal rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Parental Alienation: Manipulation of the Children

Parental alienation is a tactic that some parents may attempt to use in order to turn the children against the other parent. This is a manipulative approach that may involve speaking negatively about the other parent, preventing the child from seeing the other parent, making the child feel the divorce is their fault, and more. 

Depending on the child’s age, they may have a say in the parenting plan and allocation of decision-making responsibility. When can a child decide which parent to live with in Alberta? A person is considered a child until they reach the age of 18, but typically a child’s wishes may be considered as part of a court’s decision, so long as they display signs of understanding the circumstances. 

If a child has been manipulated to harbour unfounded biases against one of the parents, the preferences they voice in a decision-making process may be unduly influenced. Not only might this have a profoundly negative effect in the short term, with the possibility of the manipulating parent gaining full decision-making responsibility, but the effects of parental alienation can be lifelong.

The relationship between a child and their parent is profoundly important. While there are times when this relationship must be severed, in the interest of physical and/or psychological safety, a severing caused by parental alienation is founded on a deeply damaging lie.

The Consequences of Parental Alienation

Manipulating a child into rejecting one of their parents is profoundly harmful to the child, with consequences for both their short-term and long-term relationships to both themselves and others. 

The emotional scars of being used as a weapon in their parents’ separation may contribute to the development of conduct disorders as well as other forms of mental health concerns such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and more. Low self-esteem and a higher likelihood of substance abuse have likewise been reported in adults who have been the targets of parental alienation as children.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation often manifests itself in changes in the child’s behaviour. Pay attention to how your child speaks to you and others, and notice any unwarranted actions or words. Possible signs of parental alienation include:

  • A total refusal to be in contact with you.
  • A change in your child’s willingness to engage with your extended family.
  • A rejection of your affection, including gifts.
  • Using the same language as your ex when criticizing you.
  • Always siding with the other parent, quickly and without much evidence.
  • Your child exhibiting greater than expected amounts of fear, anxiety, or other forms of upset when you interact with them.
  • Uncharacteristic levels of rudeness, criticism, cruel remarks, etc. towards you.
  • An absence of remorse as to damage to your relationship.
  • And more.

Remember that a child is a human in development. It is important for children to understand the consequences of their actions, and the behaviours listed above are almost certainly devastating to the parent who receives them, but in cases of parental alienation the core cause of the problem typically lies with the other parent. 

If you are unable to safely or effectively communicate with your former partner and find a mutually satisfactory solution to your disagreements, you may wish to consider the support of an Edmonton family lawyer.

How an Edmonton Family Lawyer May Be Able to Help

A key part of separation and divorce when you have children is setting down clear provisions for how the children will be raised. An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to illuminate you on what you should know about changes to the Divorce Act, and help guide you through the process of setting up a parenting plan that encompasses parenting time and decision-making responsibility.

An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help ensure you receive the time you deserve with your child, which may help heal fractures in your relationship. If your former partner refuses to comply with court orders, your family lawyer may help ensure the orders are enforced. 

Contact Our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Parental alienation is a serious issue that can have life lasting effects on the relationships within a family. If your former partner is attempting to force distance between you and your children, there may be legal support available to prevent further damage. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our Edmonton family lawyers, and learn how we may be of service to you.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta family lawyer.