NEED HELP? CALL US TODAY AT (780) 757-6400

When it comes to family dynamics, custody arrangements carry significant weight in determining how parents share responsibilities and time with their children after separation or divorce.  Alberta, Canada, offers various custody options, each with its own distinct features and implications.  This article aims to elucidate the differences between sole or full custody, joint custody, shared custody, and split custody arrangements prevalent in Alberta, providing clarity on the diverse choices available to families navigating these intricate situations.


1. Sole or Full Custody: Who Holds the Decision-Making Reins?


Sole Custody:

What is sole custody, and how does it work?

Sole custody designates one parent as the primary decision-maker and custodial parent.  In this scenario, the custodial parent holds the authority to make major life decisions, such as education, healthcare, and religion.  While the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights, the custodial parent’s decisions typically prevail in matters pertaining to the child’s upbringing.


When is sole custody considered?

Courts often consider sole custody when concerns arise about the non-custodial parent’s capacity to provide a stable and secure environment for the child.  Factors like a history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse play a pivotal role in determining whether sole custody is appropriate.  However, visitation rights for the non-custodial parent may still be granted under these circumstances.


Full Custody:


Is there a difference between full custody and sole custody?

Full custody is often used interchangeably with sole custody, yet nuances exist between the two. In a full custody arrangement, the custodial parent retains all decision-making authority and primary responsibilities for the child.  The non-custodial parent’s role is often limited to visitation rights, unless otherwise specified.

In Alberta, the distinction between sole and full custody might not be of utmost significance, as both arrangements emphasize the custodial parent’s authority and responsibilities.


2. Joint Custody: Finding Harmony in Shared Responsibilities


What does joint custody entail?

Joint custody involves both parents sharing decision-making responsibilities and authority for their child’s upbringing.  However, this arrangement does not necessarily entail equal time-sharing between parents.  Joint custody emphasizes collaborative decision-making for significant life choices, fostering a balanced role for both parents.

joint custody Alberta


When is joint custody an option?

Joint custody thrives when parents can effectively communicate and cooperate with one another.  This arrangement upholds the value of involving both parents in the child’s life and promoting stable transitions between households.  Tailoring the arrangement to the family’s unique dynamics ensures the child’s best interests remain paramount.


3. Shared Custody: Balancing Time and Responsibilities


What sets shared custody apart?

Shared custody surpasses joint custody by incorporating an equal or nearly equal distribution of time and responsibilities between both parents.  Children in shared custody arrangements spend substantial time with each parent, often following a schedule that alternates between households at regular intervals.  Shared custody aims to provide a balanced distribution of parental duties and presence in the child’s life.


When does shared custody thrive?

Shared custody is contingent upon a high level of parental cooperation and communication.  The shared nature of responsibilities requires parents to work together harmoniously, ensuring equal participation in decisions and parenting duties.  This arrangement prioritizes consistency and meaningful relationships with both parents to support the child’s emotional well-being and overall development.


4. Split Custody: Recognizing Individual Needs


What defines split custody?

Split custody is an arrangement designed for families with multiple children, where each parent has primary custody of at least one child.  This approach acknowledges that each child has unique needs and relationships with both parents.  Consequently, split custody recognizes that the best arrangement for one child may differ for another.


When is split custody considered?

Split custody is most relevant when children’s individual needs diverge significantly.  While this approach allows children to maintain strong relationships with both parents, it can lead to siblings being separated.  Courts weigh individual child’s needs and relationships when assessing the feasibility of a split custody arrangement.


5. Legal Factors: The Best Interests of the Child

In Alberta, custody decisions are guided by the “best interests of the child” standard. This legal principle places the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being at the forefront.  Courts consider factors such as the child’s age, relationship with each parent, parental ability to create a stable environment, and willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent.


Kolinsky Law for Child Custody 

Selecting an appropriate custody arrangement is a consequential decision that shapes the post-separation dynamics of families. Alberta presents a spectrum of custody options: sole custody, full custody, joint custody, shared custody, and split custody. Ascertaining the right fit involves prioritizing open communication, cooperation, and, above all, the child’s best interests.

Navigating the complexities of custody arrangements requires careful consideration of family dynamics and legal implications. Seeking advice from our lawyer well-versed in Alberta’s family law ensures that the chosen custody arrangement aligns with the unique needs and priorities of each family.