Contact orders for Alberta grandparents

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Monday, May 16, 2016.

The grandparent-grandchild relationship is unique and can be very important in a child’s life. KidsHealth reports that the benefits of such a bond to the grandchild are many: 

  • A grandparent’s attention in playtime and reading can boost the child’s development.
  • A grandchild can learn special skills or hobbies from the grandparent.
  • The grandparent can teach about family history and culture.
  • A grandparent can be a strong role model.
  • A grandchild experiencing love from a grandparent may feel safer.

When parents divorce, sometimes grandparent-grandchild relationships are interrupted. One of the parents may move away with the children or deterioration of the parental relationship can spill over to the connections the parents are no longer allowing between grandparents and grandchildren, especially when the new custody arrangement places the children largely with one parent or there is great animosity between the families. 

Alberta is one of the provinces with a legal proceeding that can result in a court order that allows contact between a grandparent and grandchild in certain circumstances. This is called a contact order, available to people who are not guardians (usually the parents are the legal guardians). 

Normally to apply to provincial court for a contact order, a third party must get court permission to apply after notice to the guardians. However, a grandparent does not need court permission to request a contact order when the parents are the child’s guardians, the parents are living apart or one of them has died and the parental separation or death of one of them has interrupted the child’s contact with his or her grandparent.

To grant a contact order, the court must find that contact with the grandparent is in the child’s best interests, considering the significance of the child’s relationship with the grandparent and need for a court order to facilitate contact between them. In addition, the must consider whether the child’s “physical, psychological or emotional health” could be in jeopardy without grandparent contact and whether the parental denial of contact has been unreasonable. 

If a contact order is granted, the contact between the child and grandparent may be in person or in phone, electronic or written communication. The court also has discretion to “provide for any related matter” it “considers appropriate.”

Any Alberta grandparent with questions about contact orders should seek legal advice from a lawyer.

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