It can be very difficult to transition into a co-parenting role after a separation. The best way to navigate this new territory is to create a plan and stick to it. In terms of general advice for what to do and what to avoid regarding parenting children after separation and what should be addressed in a comprehensive parenting plan, we advise as follows:
Parents should never engage in a dispute in front of the children. If that is difficult, keep communication to a minimum (hello, how are you, have a nice day, goodbye). If necessary, do not speak at all and deal with exchanges through school, child care or curbside.
Parents should encourage children to love the other parent and reassure children that the other parent loves them. Parents should not speak negatively about the other to or in front of the children and should not allow third parties to do so. Children thrive with the love and support of both parents. When children sense negativity from one parent to another, it is natural for them to either defend the one being attacked (outright or internally) or for them to align with the attacking parent. Either way, they end up feeling caught in a loyalty bind, torn and as though there is something wrong with them. Depending on their age and stage of development, children view themselves as part of both of their parents so if one parent is dreadful or unlovable, the child (by extension) often feel dreadful or unlovable.
Children should never be used as a weapon. Both parents should encourage children to have a strong and meaningful relationship with the other parent. Parenting time should be encouraged and fostered, not withheld. The time children spend with another parent should be respected, not disrupted.
Parents should ensure they communicate directly with one another instead of using the children to impart messages back-and-forth or relay information. Even when children are relaying uncontentious information or messages between parents they end up feeling torn.
It is best for children if there is consistency between homes. Whether children are moving back and forth in a shared parenting regime or just spending every other weekend with their mother or father, it is preferable for them to be faced with similar schedules, rules, expectations, chores and discipline procedures from each parent. It is enough for children to adjust and transition between homes, parents, and belongings. Consistency in the central dealings at each home leads children to feel a sense of security, stability and unity as opposed to feeling as though they are living two completely separate lives.
If you are going through a separation let us help! Choose the dispute resolution process you prefer: mediation, mediation/arbitration or arbitration. Regardless of the process selected, we walk you through it step-by-step catering to people who choose not to retain lawyers.
If you are in a common law relationship, it’s important to know your rights, especially if you cohabitate. In Alberta, unmarried couples face unique legal challenges enforced by the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act. If you are in an adult interdependent relationship, we highly recommend executing a Cohabitation Agreement in order to ensure you are protected in the event of separation. Our skilled team knows the nuances of the law and the distinctive factors to focus on to ensure you are protected in the event of a relationship breakdown.
In order to qualify as an adult interdependent relationship, the onus is on the parties to establish three criteria set out by the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act. They must:
In addition to these criteria, case law determined in Henschel Estate sets out the following prerequisites which also must be met to qualify as an adult interdependent relationship:
In June 2017, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was asked to determine partner support for two parties who had a conjugal relationship from 2011 to 2015, but were never married and had no children. The main issue in this case came from determining if the parties lived together for a continuous period of at least three years. When the parties met Mr. Lemoine worked as a pipeline foreman and followed a one week on, one week off schedule. Due to Mr. Lemoine’s unique schedule the two lived together during his week off and often Ms. Wright would join him at his work location and stay with him in a hotel. During this time Ms. Wright left her job and relocated from Ontario to Alberta to be closer to Mr. Lemoine. Additionally, the two purchased a trailer with the intention of cohabitating in it and occasionally traveling together to Mr. Lemoine’s work locations. The couple spent holidays together and went on multiple vacations paid for by Mr. Lemoine. When Ms. Wright was not living with Mr. Lemoine she resided, rent free, with her mother in Alberta. This pattern of cohabitating continued from when the couple met in 2011 until the relationship breakdown in 2015.
It was found that the parties did meet all requirements to constitute an adult interdependent relationship. According to various case law, cohabitation does not require that parties live continuously under one roof, and that gaps in living in the same residence do not disqualify parties as interdependent partners. Additionally, the Court found that Ms. Wright was entitled to both compensatory and non-compensatory support. It was found that as she left her Ontario employment to pursue the relationship with Mr. Lemoine she had established an entitlement to support on a compensatory basis. The Court also awarded non-compensatory support based on the following factor: Ms. Wright moved to Alberta at Mr. Lemoine’s request and she had limited means to earn and income.
If you are in an adult interdependent relationship and want legal advice on how to execute a Cohabitation Agreement our team is extremely knowledgeable and are well versed in family legal matters.