Having a Child: Legal Considerations & Government Benefits for Parents and Guardians

Law

People who are about to have a child or parenting may have certain legal concerns. See the sections below for information about:

  • Choosing a name for a child
  • Maternity and parental leave from work
  • Human rights in the workplace during pregnancy and parenting
  • Rights and responsibilities of parents toward their children
  • Ways that having children impacts parents’ income tax
  • Government programs for low-income parents and children with disabilities

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for people who want to know about the legal issues related to being a parent (or guardian) in Alberta.

If you are a parent whose child is over 18 years old and is unable to care for themselves because of a disability or mental illness, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

See the Pregnancy and Birth Information Page for information about the legal issues around

  • pregnancy,
  • abortion,
  • the birth of a child, or
  • placing an infant for adoption.

If you are looking for information about becoming a parent through adoption, see the Adopting a Child Information Page.

In general, the law on this Information Page is for people who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta. For information on the process you need to follow to ask for what you want, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

federal law

Laws that are made by the Government of Canada and apply to all Canadians, no matter which province they live in. Examples include: the Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, and the Immigration Act.

provincial law

Laws that are made by a provincial or territorial government. In Alberta, provincial laws are made by the Government of Alberta and apply only in Alberta. Examples include: the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, the Alberta Family Law Act, and the Alberta Wills and Succession Act.

duty to accommodate

The responsibility of employers and service providers to make changes to rules or physical environments as needed to prevent discrimination. This is an important part of human rights law. It recognizes that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to be fair. For example, changing an office space to make room for a wheelchair, or changing a woman’s work schedule to allow breaks for breastfeeding.

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians. A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

best interests of the child

The factors that parents, guardians, and/or the Court must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s history of care;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • for older children, the wishes of the child.

capacity

The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions.

In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Legally, mental capacity is a clear concept: at any given moment, you either have capacity, or you do not. However, capacity can change from moment to moment. For example:

  • a person who is drunk or high may not have capacity, even if he or she otherwise would; and
  • a person can flip back and forth between having capacity and not having capacity, due to things such as the effect of medications (or forgetting to take them), or changing blood sugar levels.

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor's opinion or a judge's decision).

consent

To give permission for something to happen, or to agree to do something. Only people with capacity can consent.

minor

A person who is not yet an adult (has not reached the “age of majority”).

Be Aware

The age of majority is different across Canada. In Alberta, the age at which a person is considered an adult is 18.

to hold property in trust

A relationship where one person (a “trustee”) legally holds property for the benefit of another person (a “beneficiary”). The trustee manages the property and collects income from the property, and then passes the income on to the beneficiary.

This happens often with children, because children are too young to hold and manage property themselves.

Indian

A person who has “Indian status” under Canada’s Indian Act. This term was originally used by Europeans to identify indigenous people of South America, Central America, and North America. Although it is no longer commonly used to refer to Aboriginal people, it is still the “legal” term required by the Indian Act.

The laws that may apply to you

As you learn about the legal issues that affect you as a parent, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:


Web Canada Labour Code
Government of Canada
English


Web Canadian Human Rights Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English

Web Traffic Safety Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Minors' Property Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, including what they are and how they work, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

Naming your child

When a child is born, they must be registered with a first and last name. You have several choices for a last name and there are also rules about what can be included in a first name. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Choosing a last name for your child
Government of Alberta
English

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Naming Your Child.”
Changing the name of your child

A parent may form a relationship with a new partner or get remarried. They may want to change their child’s name to their new partner’s surname. To change a child’s name, you must be a parent or guardian of that child.

Generally, if you want to change your child’s surname to your new partner’s surname, you need the consent of your new partner and the consent of the other biological parent (unless you are the sole guardian). If consent is refused, you may be able to apply for a court order to change the name.

Be Aware

If your child is 12 years or older, the child must also consent to the name change.

For more information about the rules for changing a child’s name, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Changing Your Name
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web What’s in a Name? Legal Issues in Changing a Child’s Name
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For information about how to change a child’s name, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

If you are changing the parentage on a child’s Alberta birth record, you can change the child’s name at the same time if the child is younger than 12 years old. These situations can be complicated. For more information, contact Alberta Vital Statistics.

Web Vital Statistics Office
Government of Alberta
English
Employment rights and benefits: Maternity and parental leave

If you have a baby or adopt a child, you have the right to:

  • take a leave (time off) from work; and
  • return to the same or similar position at work.

This section has information about:

  • Who makes the rules about maternity and parental leave?
  • What are the rules for maternity and parental leave?
  • How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?

Who makes the rules about maternity and parental leave?

The right to maternity and parental leave comes from several places, including:

  • employment standards set by the government;
  • the terms of your employment contract. This contract may be with you as an individual, or with a group of employees (such as through a union); and
  • some workplace benefit plans.
     

Employment standards

Employment standards are laws that set the minimum requirements for employment contracts. The standards deal with working conditions such as:

  • payment of earnings, and the minimum wage;
  • hours of work and overtime;
  • general holidays and vacation time;
  • termination of employment; and
  • maternity and parental leave.

There are provincial and federal employment standards:

  • Alberta’s Employment Standards Code applies to almost all employees working in Alberta.
  • The Canada Labour Code applies to employees in federally regulated industries.

Industries covered by the Canada Labour Code include:

  • Inter-provincial trucking
  • Federal Crown corporations
  • Broadcasting (radio and TV)
  • Chartered banks
  • Feed, feed mills, and grain elevators
  • Air, rail, and water transport
  • Federal government employees
  • Inter-provincial pipelines
  • Working directly for or on behalf of First Nations
     

Employment contracts

An employment contract can be verbal, but most are written because then there is a record of what was agreed to. All the terms may be written into the contract for each employee. Or, only some terms may be in the contract and then the contract may refer to an employment policy that applies to all employees.

Employment contracts must follow the employment standards that apply to their particular industry. The standards set the minimum terms that a contract can have. However, sometimes the terms of employment contracts will provide more benefits to employees than are required by the standards. A contract may also deal with areas of employment that are not covered by the standards. For example: the standards say nothing about how employee expenses (such as travel expenses) will be paid, so the contract may set out those rules.

If the workplace has a union, the union will negotiate a contract that applies to all of the employees. This is called “collective bargaining.” Often union contracts have much better terms than the minimum requirements set by the employment standards.
 

Workplace benefit plans

Some employers arrange benefit plans for their employees. For example: medical, dental, or disability insurance. The cost of these plans may be paid entirely by the employer, or may be shared between the employer and the employees. Sometimes all employees must take part in the benefit plan. Sometimes you have a choice about whether or not you want to join the plan. Or, sometimes you can choose to just join part of the plan.

Some plans will have special terms for pregnant and parenting employees, such as extra sick time if needed, or payments that add to your maternity or parental Employment Insurance benefits. This is often called “topping up” EI benefits.

If you have a benefit plan at work, be sure to check your coverage for information about:

  • extra benefits during maternity and parental leave;
  • whether you can continue to claim other benefits (such as dental coverage) during your leave;
  • whether your employer will continue to pay your premiums during your leave; and
  • whether you will have to continue to contribute to the plan during your leave.

If there is a benefit plan, employers must ensure that it does not discriminate against pregnant employees. For example, if medical benefits would usually be open to employees who are on a leave (for example, a sabbatical), they must also be available to employees on leave for pregnancy. For more information, see the resources in the “Human rights in the workplace for pregnant women and parents” section below.

What are the rules for maternity and parental leave?

Maternity leave is time off work for mothers. You can choose to begin your maternity leave in the late stages of your pregnancy before your delivery date, or after the birth.

Parental leave is time off work for mothers or fathers, and for adoptive parents. Parental leave may be taken by either parent or may be shared between the 2 parents.

Be Aware

In many cases, surrogate mothers are entitled to leave and benefits. However, it may depend on the law and the benefits plan. To find out if you qualify, contact your human resources representative at work, and the appropriate employment standards department.

Web Employment Standards Inquiries
Government of Alberta
English

If a mother is taking some or all of the parental leave, she must take it immediately after her maternity leave. In other words, the mother cannot take time off work for maternity leave, then return to work for a period of time, and later take parental leave.

Be Aware

Maternity and parental “leave” refers to the time away from work. Your employer is not required to pay you during this time. However, parents who qualify can be paid by Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. And, in some cases, the employer or a workplace benefit plan might add to your EI benefits. This is often called “topping up” EI benefits. For more information, see “How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?” further down this section.

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and the Canada Labour Code have different rules about:

  • what you must do to qualify for a leave
  • the timing of your leave
  • how much notice you must give your employer to start and end your leave
  • how many weeks of leave you can take
  • whether you can extend your leave
  • what can happen when you return to your job, including any changes to your pay or benefits
Remember

Also check your employment contract or union agreement for any terms about maternity or parental leave.

For information about these issues, see the following resources.

Web Maternity and Parental Leave and Benefits
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Maternity & Parental Leave
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web Maternity Leave
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 20.

Web Maternity and Parental Leave
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Maternity and Parental Leave
Government of Alberta
English

Web Pregnancy and maternity leave
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Your Rights and Responsibilities at Work
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 23-24.


How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?

Your employer does not have to pay you while you are on leave. However, you may qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during this time.

You may be able to receive EI maternity benefits if you are a biological mother or surrogate mother, who cannot work because you are pregnant or have recently given birth.

You may be able to receive EI parental benefits if you are a parent who is caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children.

Tip

If you have a benefit plan at work, be sure to check your coverage. Some plans will have extra benefits for maternity and parental leaves.

There are many things to learn about Employment Insurance benefits, including:

  • whether you qualify;
  • how the amount of the benefit is calculated;
  • how long you can receive payments;
  • when you can apply;
  • how to apply;
  • the impact of any other income while you are receiving the benefit; and
  • how you can combine these benefits with other EI benefits, if necessary.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web EI Maternity and Parental Benefits - Overview
Government of Canada
English


Web Employment Insurance benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web Having a Baby
Government of Canada
English

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 34-43.

Web Maternity and parental leave benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web EI special benefits for self-employed people
Government of Canada
English

French resources:

Web Prestations d'assurance-emploi
Government of Canada
French

Web Avoir un enfant
Government of Canada
French






Human rights in the workplace for pregnant women and parents

Human rights laws in Canada protect against discrimination on the basis of gender and family status. This means that parents are protected from discrimination during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for children. These same protections apply to women who are pregnant as a surrogate.

For most workers in Alberta, these protections come from the Alberta Human Rights Act. However, workers in federally regulated industries are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. These industries are:

  • Inter-provincial trucking
  • Federal Crown corporations
  • Broadcasting (radio and TV)
  • Chartered banks
  • Feed, feed mills, and grain elevators
  • Air, rail, and water transport
  • Federal government employees
  • Inter-provincial pipelines
  • Working directly for or on behalf of First Nations

Many of these protections involve the “duty to accommodate.” This means that employers have a responsibility to make changes to rules or physical environments as needed to prevent discrimination. This is an important part of human rights law. It recognizes that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to be fair. For example, changing a woman’s work schedule to allow breaks for breastfeeding.

The employer must make changes to the point of “undue hardship.” This means that the employer must make the changes unless the costs become so high or the disruption to business so great that it is not bearable. To claim undue hardship, the employer must provide evidence of the hardship.

Situations involving the duty to accommodate must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, according to the person’s needs. Accommodation involves communication and cooperation between you and your employer. This can be a complicated process. For more detailed information, see the following resource.

Web Duty to accommodate
Government of Alberta
English
See “Rights and responsibilities in the accommodation process.”

Some examples of the human rights protections for pregnant women and parents are:

  • You cannot be fired, laid off, or demoted because you are pregnant or have pregnancy-related health issues.
  • Your employer must make changes to your workplace or responsibilities if this is needed to keep you safe and healthy during your pregnancy. This is a “duty to accommodate” as discussed above.
  • Your employer cannot refuse to let you breastfeed in public or in the workplace, and must accommodate breastfeeding. For example, by allowing you to time your breaks so you can breastfeed your child.
  • Your employer must ensure that you do not feel unwelcome in your workplace and are not harassed because you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Your employer can only ask for certain types of medical information from you at any time, including during pregnancy.
  • Your employer has a duty to accommodate your needs related to child care. For example: changing your work schedule to allow you to get child care.
  • In a job interview, an employer cannot ask questions about your child care arrangements or your plans to have children.

For information about making a human rights complaint, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more detailed information about human rights related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting, see the following resources.

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family status and marital status
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family leave
Government of Alberta
English

Web Pre-employment inquiries
Government of Alberta
English



Web Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Calgary Career Counselling
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


PDF Your Rights and Responsibilities at Work
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 11 and p. 23.
Legal rights & responsibilities of parents and guardians: Are you a parent? Are you a guardian?

If you are a woman who has given birth to a child, you could feel confident that you are a parent. However, in this modern age of assisted reproduction, there could be questions about your legal status. For fathers, there also may be questions about whether or not they are actually a parent. You need to know if you are the parent of a child. Every parent is responsible for the financial support of their child.

In general, parents have a legal role as guardians of their children, but not all parents are guardians. You need to know if you are a guardian of a child. Being a guardian automatically gives you certain rights and responsibilities.These issues of parentage and guardianship are discussed below.

Are you a parent?


Fathers

As a father, you may not be certain whether you are the biological parent. If you are unsure if you are the biological parent of the child, see the following resources to learn how parentage is determined.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 10.

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Who is a parent?”

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 5.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 11.

Audio/Web Paternity Rights
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Who Is a Parent?”

Sometimes people want or need a court order declaring that the biological father is a parent of a child, or not a parent of a child. For example, they may want to add or change information on a birth certificate. For information about getting a “Declaration of Parentage,” see the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page and see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section.

However, being a biological father does not necessarily mean that you are also a guardian. See the next section for more information about that.
 

Assisted reproduction

You may have used an assisted reproduction process where the child was made without sexual intercourse between the partners. Depending on the type of process that was used, you may or may not be the legal parent of the child. If you are not already a parent, you may may need to get a “Declaration of Parentage” from the court. Or, you may need to adopt the child. For more information, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page and the following resource.

Web Who is a Parent? Not a Simple Question!
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Be Aware

In Alberta and most other jurisdictions, only 2 parents can be listed on a child’s birth certificate. The law is beginning to change in some places.

Once you are recognized as a “parent,” you should have all the rights and responsibilities of guardianship (unless a court has taken them away from you). For more information about that, see just below.
 

Adoption

If you have adopted a child, you have gone through a formal adoption process. This will have involved applying to the Court of Queen’s Bench and attending a hearing at that Court. This process declares you to be a parent of the child just as if the child had been born to you.

Once you are declared a “parent,” you should have all the rights and responsibilities of guardianship (unless a court has taken them away from you). For more information about that see below.

Are you a guardian?


Biological and adoptive parents

Alberta’s Family Law Act sets out who is automatically the guardian of a child. This is called being a “guardian by statute.”

The starting point is that both parents (biological or adoptive) are guardians.

However, being a parent is not necessarily enough to be considered a guardian. For example, let’s say you are the biological parent of a six-year-old. However, you have had nothing to do with the child since before birth. Your claim to guardianship is not very strong. As another example, if a child is born as a result of a sexual assault, the biological father is not a guardian.
 

People who were appointed as guardians

People who are not the biological or adoptive parents of a child may be appointed as guardians. If you were appointed as a guardian of a child in the past, and you have never asked to end that guardianship, you are still a guardian of that child. A child may have more than 2 guardians.
 

Determining if you are a guardian

If you are unsure if you are a guardian, see the following resources to learn how the law determines guardianship.

PDF Families and the Law: Child Custody and Parenting
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 8.

PDF Families and the Law: Financial Support
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13.

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 6.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start at “Who Is a Guardian?”
 

Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English

Video Ontario Child Custody: Who is Considered a Parent? – video
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video In Loco Parentis: The Law Surrounding Parenting and Child Support in Alberta
Balbi and Company Legal Centre
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

 

If you are not already a guardian

If you determine that you are not a guardian, you may still be able to ask to become a guardian.

However, the Court does not automatically give a guardianship order. In general:

  • you must have had “care and control” of the child for more than 6 months, and
  • the judge must believe that appointing you as a guardian is in the best interests of the child.

For more information, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.

Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: An overview

Every parent has a financial responsibility for their child. Parents who are guardians have many more rights and responsibilities. If you don’t know for sure whether you are a parent or a guardian, see the “Legal rights & responsibilities of parents and guardians: Are you a parent? Are you a guardian?” section above.

Parents who are not guardians

It is not common to be a parent who is not a guardian, but it can happen. In such a case, you are still responsible to pay child support. This is true even if you do not see your child very much, or at all. The amount of child support will depend on various factors, including your income. This is determined by the Child Support Guidelines. For more information, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page or Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

You may also be allowed to spend time with the child. This is because the child has a right to spend time with a parent, if it is in the child’s best interest to do so. This is called “contact.”

You may be able to make an agreement with the guardians of the child about contact and child support (following the Child Support Guidelines). If you cannot come to an agreement, the court can be asked to decide. For more information about child support and contact, see the following Information Pages.

The role of guardians

Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities you have as the guardian of a child. Unless these rights have been limited by law or a court order, they include the following.

Major decisions. Guardians have the right to be informed of, and consulted about, all major decisions affecting the child, including:

  • education;
  • medical care;
  • cultural or religious upbringing; and
  • where the child will live.

Day-to-day decisions. Guardians have the right to make day-to-day decisions affecting the child, including:

  • daily care and supervision;
  • daily activities;
  • extracurricular activities;
  • who the child associates with;
  • if the child should work; and
  • medical, dental, and other health-related treatment for the child.

Giving care. Guardians are responsible for:

  • caring for the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional development; and
  • guiding the child toward independent adulthood.

You also have the right to receive information about the child from others. For example, from doctors, counsellors, or teachers. This includes the right to receive and respond to any notices required by law that may affect the child.

When a child has more than one guardian, decisions about the child must be made jointly (unless a legal agreement or court decision says otherwise). This means that a couple will have to make these decisions for their children together. One guardian cannot shut out the other guardian from the decision-making process.

In addition to Alberta’s Family Law Act, there are other laws and court decisions that describe in more detail some of the rights and responsibilities of guardians. For more information, see the sections below that start with “Legal rights & responsibilities of parents.”

Be Aware

In Alberta, once a child is 18 years old they are considered to be an adult. This means that they are responsible for their own decisions and must provide for their own needs. Sometimes an adult may be unable to do this because of a disability or mental illness. In this case, a parent or other family member may have to apply to be their Guardian under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act. For more information, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Balancing the rights of guardians and children

Alberta’s Family Law Act says that a guardian must respect the developing capacity of children as they grow up (see the definition of “capacity” in the “What the words mean” section above). This means that, in normal circumstances, as children grow and mature, they should get to have some say in decisions that affect them. Eventually they get the legal power to make decisions themselves.

The concept that children can have a say in decisions that affect them is not just determined by age. It is also affected by the intelligence and maturity of the child.

In law, the age of 12 is often used as a general indication that a child should have say in decisions that affect them. Many courts begin considering children’s opinions by 12 years of age. In some cases, where the child is thought to be mature enough, a court can consider the views of children younger than 12. In general, the older the child is, the more seriously the judge will consider the child’s wishes. However, even if a child does provide an opinion, this does not mean that opinion will determine the issue (no matter the child’s age). Judges must make their decisions based on the legal test of what is in the “best interests of the child.”

Some laws specifically allow children to make decisions. For example, once a child is 12 years old, they have the right to consent (or refuse to consent) to:

  • an application to change the child’s legal name; or
  • an application to adopt the child.

However, even in such situations, the court still has the power to decide that a child’s consent is not needed.

For more information, see the Children’s Rights Information Page and the following resources.

Web How old do I have to be?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Law Topics
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Failing to provide proper care

The law protects children in situations where the guardians do not fulfill their responsibilities or make unwise decisions for their children.

Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act says that a child may need protection if the guardian of that child is not able or willing to:

  • provide the necessities of life for the child;
  • get or allow needed medical treatment for the child;
  • keep the child safe from physical injury or sexual abuse;
  • protect the child from emotional injury; or
  • properly care for the child.

Also, the Criminal Code of Canada has specific protections for children.

  • Section 172 protects children from activities that would make the home an unfit place for them or would put their morals in danger. It is a criminal offence for anyone in the home to engage in “adultery, sexual immorality, habitual drunkenness,” or any other "morally offensive" acts.
  • Section 215 requires parents, foster parents, guardians, or heads of a family to provide the necessaries of life for a child under 16 years old.

For more information, see the Child Welfare Information Page and the following resource.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Separation and divorce

Even if the guardians separate, the responsibility for children usually remains shared. This only changes if the guardians agree to other arrangements, or a court makes an order stating otherwise. One of the major issues in a separation is deciding what the parenting arrangements will be.

To learn more about making these arrangements in a separation or divorce, see the following Information Pages:

More information

For more information about guardians’ rights and responsibilities, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Parents' obligations to their children
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Parenting
Government of Alberta
English


Web Apply for child guardianship
Government of Alberta
English
Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: Medical care and other legally required consent

Medical care

Alberta’s Family Law Act gives guardians the right to make decisions about medical treatment, but this is balanced by the responsibility to care for the child. In some cases, parents or guardians may try to make medical decisions that are not in the “best interests of the child.” This is not allowed. For example, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act says that it is a form of neglect if you do not get the child appropriate medical treatment, or if you refuse treatment that is needed for the child’s well-being.

There may sometimes be disagreements between medical professionals and guardians about whether certain treatments should be given or should be stopped. If these issues cannot be resolved, the courts may be asked to decide.

As children mature, they often take a more active role in decisions that affect their bodies. Sometimes the courts have been asked to rule on whether a child has the right to make a medical decision.

A minor who is mature enough to make their own medical decisions is called a “mature minor.” There is no set age for mature minors. It depends on the individual child and the seriousness of the medical treatment.

For more information, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Giving medical consent
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Medical Care and Children: Law, Ethics and Emotions Collide
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Case Update: Aboriginal right to traditional medicine does not trump best interests of the child
Lisa Feldstein Law Office
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Should parents be allowed to stunt the growth of and sterilize their disabled child?
Lisa Feldstein Law Office
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Legally required consent

Certain laws say that children must have the consent of their guardians to do certain things. Below are are some common examples of where a guardian’s consent may be legally required.
 

Signing an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement

“Adult Interdependent Partner” is the term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” partner. A minor must be at least 16 years old to be an Adult Interdependent Partner. If a minor does not have a child with their partner and wants to be in an Adult Interdependent Relationship, they will need the consent of their guardian to sign an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement.

For more information, see the following resource and the Living Together: Common-law Partnerships & Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

Web Adult Interdependent Relationships FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

 

Getting married

Alberta’s Marriage Act says that guardians must consent to the marriage of children between the ages of 16 and 18 years old. Anyone under 16 years old cannot marry.

For more information, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Young persons getting married
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Youth FAQs – Family
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “How old do I have to be to get married?”

 

Getting a driver’s licence

Alberta’s Operator Licensing and Vehicle Control Regulation (part of the Traffic Safety Act) says that a parent or guardian must consent for anyone under 18 years old to get a driver’s licence.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Driver's licence
Government of Alberta
English

Web Driver Licensing
Government of Alberta
English
Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: Supervision, discipline, and safety

Supervision and discipline

Your responsibility to care for your child includes supervising them and teaching them appropriate behaviour.
 

Supervision

You have a duty to control your child. Depending on the circumstances, you could be responsible for damage or injuries caused by your child.

For more information, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Your liability to your children
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Has your child been charged with a crime? (Fact sheet)
Community Legal Education Ontario
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

Discipline

You are allowed to use “reasonable force” to discipline a child. This is set out in Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada has set guidelines to describe force that is “reasonable” in disciplining a child between the ages of 2 and 12.

  • The impact of the force must be only “transitory and trifling.” This means that the effect must be brief and not serious.
  • The force used must not be degrading, inhumane, or harmful.
  • The person must not use an object, such as a ruler or belt, when applying the force.
  • The person must not hit or slap the child’s head.
  • No matter how serious the child’s action or behaviour was, the force must still be reasonable.
  • The force must not be used in anger or to get back at the child. It must only be used to help the child learn.
Be Aware

Section 43 can never be a defence against using force on a child under age 2, a child who is suffering from a disability, or a teenager.

If you use force that is not “reasonable” in disciplining your child, you could be charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Also, your actions could be considered physical abuse. Child and Family Services may step in to protect your child under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Discipline.”
 

Web Corporal Punishment & "Spanking"
Justice for Children and Youth
English

Web The "Spanking" Law: Section 43 of the Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web What's wrong with spanking?
Government of Canada
English

PDF Information Sheets
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
See “Guiding Children’s Behaviour.”

PDF Parenting & Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Parenting and Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

French resources:


Web Châtiments corporels et la fessée
Justice for Children and Youth
French

Web La loi et le châtiment corporel : L'article 43 du Code criminel
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Pourquoi faut-il éviter de donner la fessée?
Government of Canada
French

Safety

Part of providing proper care for children is keeping them safe. In general, this means that guardians must have good sense and pay attention to their children. But there are particular laws about safety in vehicles and on bicycles that affect children.

In Alberta, these rules are in the Traffic Safety Act and Regulations.

  • Vehicle drivers are required to make sure that anyone under 16 years old is properly secured in the vehicle. Children under 6 years old must be fastened in a child safety seat. The driver must make children 6-16 years old wear seat belts. Once the child is 16, they must still wear a seatbelt, but the driver is no longer responsible.
  • All bicycles must have certain equipment, and anyone under 18 years old must wear a helmet while cycling.
Be Aware

Such laws differ from province to province. For example, in other provinces, children must be in a booster seat until a certain age, weight, or height.

For more information about child safety requirements in vehicles, see the following resources.

Web Seat Belt Legislation
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English


Web Child Safety Seats
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Alberta Child Safety Seat Guidelines
Government of Alberta
English

Web Seat Belts & Safety Seats
Government of Alberta
English



PDF Car Seat and Booster Seat Legislation Chart
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about child safety requirements when bicycling, see the following resources.

Web Cycling - Laws and Safety
City of Edmonton
English

Web Required cycling equipment
City of Calgary
English
Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: Education, language, culture, and religion

Education

Guardians have the right to make decisions about schooling for their children. However, Alberta’s School Act says that all children between 6 and 16 years of age must attend school. The policies of your local school board will determine whether or not you have a choice about which school your children attend. Also, guardians may apply to the school board to educate their children at home.

Even if your children do not have legal immigration status in Canada, they can still attend school. For more information, see the following resources.


For information about Francophone education rights, continue reading under “Language, culture, and religion” just below.

For more information about education, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Parents' obligations to their children
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


Web School boards
Alberta School Boards Association
English

Language, culture, and religion

Guardians have the right to make decisions about language, culture, and religion. There are 2 areas of law that may impact this: human rights and minority language rights.
 

Human rights

In the Alberta Human Rights Act, some of the protected grounds are related to language, culture, and religion. For example:

  • race;
  • colour;
  • ancestry;
  • place of origin; and
  • religious beliefs.

Anyone who provides goods, services, accommodation, or facilities must not discriminate based on any of the protected grounds in the Act. If necessary, you may make an inquiry or a complaint about discrimination on behalf of your child.

For more information, see the following resources.



 

Minority language rights

In Canada there are protections for French and English minority language rights. In Alberta, French is the minority language. There are language rights in the areas of:

  • education;
  • government services and communications;
  • access to legislation and government publications; and
  • the judicial system.

Francophone guardians may be particularly interested in the area of French language education rights. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Constitutional Language Rights
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Education Rights.”

Web Les droits des minorités linguistiques à l’extérieur du Québec protégés par la Constitution
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French
Voir : “Droits à l’instruction.”


Web Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Government of Canada
English

Web Commissariat aux langues officielles
Government of Canada
French
Legal rights & responsibilities of parents: Children’s property, child care, and travel

Children’s property

Technically, a child can own property. However, guardians must hold property in trust for the child until the child is 18 years old. The property cannot be used by anyone else.

Sometimes, a child may be awarded a large asset (money or other property). For example, this could happen as the result of a lawsuit. In such a case, the property would have to be handled by a trustee until the child reaches the age of majority. In some cases, the Public Trustee may become involved in helping to manage the asset.

People may leave gifts to minors in their Wills. Often, the Will names a trustee. If the Will does not name a trustee, a parent may become the trustee. How it is treated will depend on the amount. It is also possible to ask the Court to appoint a trustee.

For more information, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Children and their property
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Assets of a minor
Government of Alberta
English

Web Windfalls
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Young Persons and the Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Can a minor inherit money or property?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web At what age should children inherit money?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Should Your Children be Life Insurance Beneficiaries?
Kanetix Ltd.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The Importance of Trusts in Wills for Minor Beneficiaries
Kahane Law Office
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Child care

The guardians’ duty to provide care includes choosing suitable child care when the guardians can’t be there. In this case, the law helps by setting standards and a licensing system for child care providers.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Child Care Resources for Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Care Licensing
Government of Alberta
English

Travel

Whether you take children on a trip, or you allow them to travel alone, there are certain legal considerations to keep in mind.
 

Travelling with children

To travel outside of Canada, each child needs their own passport, even newborns. To get a passport, each legal guardian must sign the passport application.

If a child is travelling with both parents/guardians, there are generally no special requirements. However, if the child is travelling with only one guardian, an extra document is usually needed.

  • If the child has more than one guardian and is crossing a border with only one guardian, a notarized Letter of Consent from the absent guardian(s) must accompany the child. This is true even if the parents are married or living together.
  • If you are the sole guardian, you do not require a letter from the other parent (as he or she is not a guardian). In general, however, you must travel with a notarized copy of the court order that appointed you sole guardian.

If the guardians are not living together, it is always best to let the other guardian(s) know about travel plans even when you are not crossing borders. That way no one will think that you have abducted the child.

Be Aware

You cannot get a single Letter of Consent to Travel to allow all future travel. You must have a new Letter of Consent every time you travel. The letter must contain very detailed and specific information. For instructions and an example, see the resources listed at the end of this section.

If the other parent will not consent to the travel, you can go to court to ask a judge for a court order allowing the travel. See the Process tab of this Information Page for more information about this.

For more information about travelling with children, see the resources at the end of this section.
 

Allowing children to travel alone

Guardians may give children permission to travel alone or with other friends or family members. This decision must be made with attention to the safety and well-being of the child. When minors travel without a guardian, it is often called travel by “unaccompanied minors.”

In these situations, the child will usually need to carry a consent letter signed by all their guardians. This will make it clear that the child is not running away or being taken away illegally.
 

More information

For more information about children and travel, see the following resources.

Web Passports – Children FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Passports for children
Government of Canada
English

PDF Travelling with Children
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Travelling With Children
Government of Canada
English


Web Travelling with Children FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Legal requirements when travelling abroad with a minor
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Travelling with kids? 4 Regulations you Need to Know
Family Fun Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Children and travel
Government of Canada
English

French resources:

Web Passeports pour enfants
Government of Canada
French

Web Voyager avec des enfants
Government of Canada
French


Web Enfants et voyage
Government of Canada
French

Most companies (airlines, trains, buses) have rules about how to arrange travel for children who do not have an adult travelling with them. For information about specific companies’ policies about children travelling, see the following resources.

Web Children and Travel
Air Canada
English

Web Unaccompanied minors
WestJet
English

Web Unaccompanied minors
VIA Rail Canada
English

Web Children Traveling
Greyhound Canada
English
Planning for a guardian’s death or loss of capacity

You may want to plan for situations where you become unable to make decisions or care for your child. This could happen if you become seriously ill, are in an accident, or die.

If there is more than one guardian, and one of them becomes unable to care for the children, the others can simply continue in their role as guardians.

But, if there is only one guardian, or if all the guardians die at the same time, things can become more complicated. That is because the law does not say who should automatically take over. You must have legal documents that appoint someone to manage your affairs. Otherwise, someone will have to apply to the court for this authority.

The 3 main legal documents that you can use to plan ahead for illness and death are:

  • a Personal Directive;
  • a Power of Attorney; and
  • a Will.

In these documents, you can leave instructions about who you want to take over as guardians of your children, and how your assets can be used to support your children.

For more information about planning for your children’s future care, see the following resources.

Web Where Are Your Children Going to Go?
Huffington Post Canada
English

PDF Making a Will
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 7.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 17.

Audio/Web Guardianship rights to a child
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

If you already have these documents, you may want to check if they need to be updated when a new child is born or adopted. For detailed information about making or updating these documents, see the Planning for Illness Information Page and the Planning for Death Information Page.

Parenting and taxes: Benefits, tax credits, and tax deductions

Having a child will often have a positive effect on your income taxes. There are specific benefits, tax credits, and tax deductions for parents.

  • A benefit is a payment by the government to the parent. For example: The Canada Child Benefit.
  • A tax credit is an expense is that is subtracted from tax owed. It does not lower your taxable income. For example: claiming an “eligible dependant” (which in certain situations can be your child) reduces the amount of tax you owe.
  • A tax deduction is an expense you can claim to lower your taxable income. For example: The amount you claim for child care expenses can be deducted from your gross income when calculating taxes.

Tax benefits

For information about tax benefits for parents, see the following resources.

Web Child and family benefits
Government of Canada
English

Interactive Child and family benefits calculator
Government of Canada
English

Web Canada child benefit - Overview
Government of Canada
English

Web Province of Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Child disability benefit
Government of Canada
English

French resources:

Web Prestations pour enfants et familles
Government of Canada
French

Interactive Calculateur de prestations pour enfants et familles
Government of Canada
French

Web Allocation canadienne pour enfants – Aperçu
Government of Canada
French

Web Province de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Web Prestation pour enfants handicapés (PEH)
Government of Canada
French

Tax credits

For information about tax credits for parents, see the following resources.


Web Province of Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Child Benefit (ACB)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Tax and Credits
Government of Canada
English

Web Line 305 - Amount for an eligible dependant
Government of Canada
English

French resources:


Web Province de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Web Impôt et crédits de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Tax deductions

For information about tax deductions for parents, see the following resources.


Web Line 214 - Child care expenses
Government of Canada
English

Interactive What you can deduct
Government of Canada
English

French resources:


Web Ligne 214 - Frais de garde d'enfants
Government of Canada
French

Interactive Quels montants déduire
Government of Canada
French

More information

For more information about taxes in general, see the CRA online “Learning About Taxes” course.

Web Learning About Taxes
Government of Canada
English

Web Apprenons l'impôt
Government of Canada
French
Other benefits and help for low-income families

Both the federal government and the Alberta government have programs to help families. Some of these apply to all families, and some are only available to families with low incomes. For more information, see the following resources.

Interactive myAlbertaSupports
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Care Subsidy
Government of Alberta
English

Web Other child care subsidy options
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Child Health Benefit
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Kin Child Care Funding Program
Government of Alberta
English
Supports for children with disabilities

Being a parent or guardian of a child with a disability is challenging. Both the federal government and the Alberta government have programs to help. Some provide financial support, some provide services.

For general information about supports available in Alberta, see the following resources.


PDF Family Support for Children with Disabilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English



Web Disability Services: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Interactive Local FSCD Offices
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child care for children with disabilities
Government of Alberta
English



Web Triple P, Positive Parenting Program
Government of Alberta
English

For information about tax benefits if you have a child with a disability, see the following resource.

Web Child disability benefit
Government of Canada
English

Web Prestation pour enfants handicapés (PEH)
Government of Canada
French

For information about specific supports available if your child has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), see the following resources.

Web Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Government of Alberta
English


Video What is FASD?
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

PDF FASD: Strategies not solutions
Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Network
English

Video Invisible - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the Justice System
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Aboriginal matters & on-reserve considerations

In general, Aboriginal parents and guardians have the same legal rights and responsibilities as non-Aboriginal parents and guardians.

However, there are certain concerns that Aboriginal families may have including:

  • registering a child for “Indian status” under the Indian Act;
  • adoption of Aboriginal children; and
  • culturally sensitive parenting resources.

Indian Status

Children with registered Indian Status are entitled to additional government services and recognition of certain cultural practices. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 8-9.

Web Indian Status
University of British Columbia
English

Web Are You Eligible?: Registration of the Indian Act
Government of Canada
English



Web First Nation Agencies: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Adoption of Aboriginal children

Much of the law around adoption in Alberta is the same for Aboriginal families as for other families.

However, there are concerns that Aboriginal children should stay connected to their culture. As a result, Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act has some specific rules about the adoption of Aboriginal children. These include:

  • adoptive parents are required to include a “cultural connection plan” if they are not members of the child’s band; and
  • an assigned member of the child’s band may need to be involved with the adoption process.

For more detailed information about this, see the Adopting a Child Information Page.

Culturally sensitive parenting resources

Several organizations create resource materials and offer programs for parents and children that are based on Aboriginal culture and traditions. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Parenting & Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Parenting and Discipline
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Parenting and the Law
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Video Traditional Parenting
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Parenting & Discipline: Where to draw the line.”

Audio/Web 


Blended family considerations

When people start relationships with new partners, they might form what is called a “blended family.” A blended family is a family that has children from previous relationships, and may even include children from the current relationship.

For example, if a person with children from a previous relationship becomes the partner of someone else who also has a child from his or her own previous relationship, they would create a “blended family.” This can include step-parents and step-children. The new couple may also have children of their own, which means some of the children would be half-siblings.

In general, the law related to parenting is no different for blended families than for any other families. However, the legal concerns of blended families are generally more complicated. Some issues that may arise include:

  • Estate planning issues (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Personal Directives, and Designation of Beneficiary forms)
  • Changing the children’s names
  • Adopting or becoming the guardian of your new partner’s children

For more information about these issues, see the “Blended family considerations” section of one of the following Information Pages:

LGBTQ considerations

LGBTQ parents and guardians have all the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as any other parents and guardians in Alberta.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ families sometimes still face social stigmas and battles that non-LGBTQ partners may not. Some legal issues that may be of particular concern are:

  • dealing with discrimination;
  • additional concerns when planning for future illness or death; and
  • being legally recognized as a parent (parentage).

Discrimination

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gender identity and gender expression were recently added as protected grounds under this law. Anyone who provides goods, services, accommodation, or facilities must not discriminate based on any of the protected grounds in the Act. If necessary, you may make an inquiry or a complaint about discrimination on behalf of your child.

For more information, see the following resources.


Planning for future illness or death

When a person becomes seriously ill or dies, it is common for family members to disagree about who should have the right to make decisions and who should care for children. Such conflicts and misunderstandings can be even more complicated if the person is LGBTQ. Additional issues could arise if the individual or couple are not “out” to extended family members.

As a result, it is especially important to have legal documents that identify the nature of the relationship and that these documents be clear and specific.

One document you can use to clearly show that you are legal partners is an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement. For more information, see the following resource, and the Living Together: Common-law Partnerships & Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

PDF Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation
Government of Alberta
English

The 3 main legal documents that you can use to plan ahead for illness and death are:

  • a Personal Directive;
  • a Power of Attorney; and
  • a Will.

For detailed information about making these documents, see the Planning for Illness Information Page and the Planning for Death Information Page.

Being legally recognized as a parent

People who are LGBTQ generally become parents either through adoption or by using some form of assisted reproduction.

Adoption is a formal process that declares you to be a parent of the child, just as if the child had been born to you. Therefore, there are rarely parentage issues with adoption. For more information, see the Adopting a Child Information Page.

However, assisted reproduction is more complicated. Often you will have to apply for a “Declaration of Parentage” from the courts. For more information, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page.

Also, people who are LGBTQ and use a known donor or surrogate to make a child sometimes wish to include that person as the third parent of the child. In Alberta and most other jurisdictions, only 2 parents can be listed on a child’s birth certificate. The law is beginning to change in some places.

For more information on LGBTQ parentage issues, see the following resources.


Web Families Parented by Same-Sex Couples
Government of Canada
English

More information

For more information on legal issues faced by LGBTQ families, see the following resources.


Web LGBTQ Parenting Connection Resource Database
LGBTQ Parenting Network
English
Choose the topic that applies to you.

PDF Same-Sex Families Raising Children
Vanier Institute of the Family
English

Video Episode 208 Same-Sex Parenting: Web Extra with Kelly Jordan
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English

Video Episode 208- Same-Sex Parenting - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
Polyamorous relationships

When a woman in a polyamorous relationship becomes pregnant, she may wonder about having more than 2 people legally recognized as parents of her child. Right now, most provinces only allow 2 parents to be listed on a birth certificate. However, some provinces are changing their laws in response to changing relationship structures in Canada.

Polyamorous families may also wonder about legal issues such as “standing in the place of parent” (also called being “in loco parentis”). For example:

For more information about how polyamory is treated and recognized across Canada, see the following resources.





Web Three official parents? Legal developments
Polyamory in the News
English

For more information about parenting in polyamorous situations, see the following resources.

Web And Baby Makes Four: Raising a Baby with Three Parents
The Walt Disney Company
English

Web Checklist for Polyamorous People Contemplating Parenthood
Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund
English
Concerns for immigrants and non-citizens

One or both parents may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • conditional permanent residents;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

In these situations, you must follow all of the laws that govern the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians as discussed above.

Whether or not you are entitled to maternity or parental leave or benefits will depend on the details of your situation. See the resources in the “Employment rights and benefits: Maternity and parental leave” section for contact information to ask about this.

For information about whether you are eligible for income tax benefits or deductions, see the following resource.

Web Telephone numbers
Government of Canada
English

Web Numéros de téléphone
Government of Canada
English

Even if your children do not have legal status in Canada, they can still attend school. For more information, see the following resources.


For more information about parenting as a newcomer to Canada, see the following resources.

Web Children
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Do you want to sponsor your family to join you in Canada? (Fact sheet)
Community Legal Education Ontario
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Five tax tips for new Canadians
The Globe and Mail
English

For information about sponsoring your partner and children to come to Canada, see the New Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Process

Learn more about the steps to take when dealing with legal issues related to parenting. See the sections below for information about:

  • Naming your child or changing your child’s name
  • Applying for maternity or parental benefits
  • Making a human rights complaint
  • Getting a court order to travel with children
  • Applying for supports for low-income families or for children with disabilities
  • Applying for registered Indian Status

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about processes and steps to take when dealing with legal issues related to parenting. In general, the processes on this Information Page are for families who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page. For information about the law that affects parents in Alberta, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Naming your child

Your child’s name will be officially recorded when you register the birth of your child. This will generally be done shortly after the child is born. If your child is born in the hospital or with a registered midwife, they will help with the registration forms. If your child is born at home without a registered midwife, you must request a “home birth package.” If the registration is not done within a year, there are additional requirements and an extra fee.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Register a Birth
Government of Alberta
English
Also see “Choose a name” on the right of the page for rules about naming your child.
Changing your child’s name

A parent may want to change their child’s name to their new partner’s surname. To change a child’s name, you must be a parent or guardian of that child.

Generally, if you want to change your child’s surname to your new partner’s surname, you need the consent of your new partner and the consent of the other biological parent (unless you are the sole guardian). If consent is refused, you may be able to apply for a court order to change the name.

Be Aware

If your child is 12 years or older, the child must also consent to the name change.

For more information about the rules for changing a child’s name, see the following resources.

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Changing Your Child’s Name.”

Audio/Web Changing Your Name
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web What’s in a Name? Legal Issues in Changing a Child’s Name
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Changing a Name | How it works
Government of Alberta
English
Also see “How to apply” on the right of the page.

A registry agent can provide forms and explain the steps. To find a registry agent near you, see the following resource.

Web Find a registry agent
Government of Alberta
English
Applying for maternity or parental benefits

Employment Insurance provides:

  • maternity benefits if you are a biological mother or surrogate mother, who cannot work because you are pregnant or have recently given birth; and
  • parental benefits if you are a parent who is caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children.

For information about how to apply for these benefits, see the following resources.

Web EI Maternity and Parental Benefits - Apply
Government of Canada
English

Making a human rights complaint

You may be protected from discrimination in the workplace by either the Alberta Human Rights Act or the Canadian Human Rights Act. For more information about which law applies to your situation, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

For information about how to make a complaint about discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act, see the following resources.

Web Information for complainants
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how to make a complaint about discrimination under the Canada Human Rights Act, see the following resource.

Web How do I file a complaint?
Government of Canada
English

Web Étapes à suivre pour déposer une plainte
Government of Canada
French
Getting consent to travel with children

If a child is travelling alone or with only one guardian, a notarized Letter of Consent from the absent guardian(s) must accompany the child. This is true even if the parents are married or living together.

You cannot get a single Letter of Consent to Travel to allow all future travel. You must have a new Letter of Consent every time you travel. The letter must contain very detailed and specific information.

For a sample letter of consent and an interactive form for creating your own letter of consent, see the following resource.


Getting a court order to travel with children

Generally, to travel with children, you must have the consent of the other guardians. If the other guardians will not consent to the travel, you can go to court to ask a judge for a court order allowing the travel.

There are many steps in making a court application, but there is also some help available. Choose the process below depending on which Act you are using for your separation-related issues.

Divorce Act applications

If you were married and already have a file in the Court of Queen’s Bench for your divorce-related issues, see the Process tab of the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page and read the following sections.

  • “Before you go to court: Get to know the court system”
  • “Filing the paperwork for a first-time application”
  • “Going to and being in chambers”

All of the application kits include an application to travel without consent.

Family Law Act applications

If you were not married, you will be using the Family Law Act.

If you were married and you do not want to start a divorce action at this time, you can also use the Family Law Act.

Tip

If you think you may want a divorce in the future, it is a good idea to learn about the Divorce Act processes before starting any action under the Family Law Act. This can make your separation-related matters simpler, because all of your case can be dealt with in the same court and under the same law. For more information, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

You can make an application under the Family Law Act in either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. Which court you use depends on your circumstances. See the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Information Page for detailed information about:

  • the differences between the 2 courts;
  • if you have a choice of courts; and
  • what to consider when choosing a court to hear your matter.

To apply under the Family Law Act you will follow the processes described on the Process tab of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page. Begin by choosing the level of court, then see the following sections.

  • “Help from Resolution and Court Administration Services”
  • “Before you go to court: Get to know the court system”
  • “Filing court paperwork for the first time”
  • “Going to and being in docket court” (Provincial Court), or “Going to and being in chambers” (Queen’s Bench)
Be Aware

You will need to file both a Claim form and a Statement form. Watch for the instruction about which Statement form to use for “an order allowing the travel.”

Applying for supports for low-income families

For information about applying for the various supports, services, and programs available to low-income families, see the following resources.

Interactive myAlbertaSupports
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child Care Subsidy
Government of Alberta
English

Web Other child care subsidy options
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Child Health Benefit
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Kin Child Care Funding Program
Government of Alberta
English
Applying for supports for children with disabilities

For information about applying for the various supports, services, and programs available to families of children with disabilities, see the following resources.

Interactive myAlbertaSupports
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Family Support for Children with Disabilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English



Web Disability Services: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Interactive Local FSCD Offices
Government of Alberta
English

Web Child care for children with disabilities
Government of Alberta
English

For information about tax benefits if you have a child with a disability, see the following resource.

Web Child disability benefit
Government of Canada
English

Web Prestation pour enfants handicapés (PEH)
Government of Canada
French

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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