The guardian of a child has the right and responsibility to make decisions for that child. Most biological or adoptive parents of children are guardians to those children but this is not always the case.

Alberta’s Family Law Act defines who is a child’s guardian. A child’s biological or adoptive parent is automatically their guardian if that parent:

  • has acknowledged that he or she is the child’s parent; and
  • has demonstrated an intention to assume the responsibility of a guardian for the child within one year of finding out about the pregnancy or, if the parent did not know about the pregnancy, and about the birth of the child.

A parent can demonstrate that they have the intention to assume the responsibility of a guardian by doing the following: 

  • being married to the other parent when the child is born, marrying the other parent after the child is born, or being previously married to the other parent but divorced within 300 days of the child being born;
  • being the adult interdependent partner of the other parent when the child is born or becoming one after the child is born;
  • entering into a signed and witnessed agreement with the other parent to be a guardian to the child;
  • living with the other parent for a year during the time the child is born; and
  • voluntarily providing financial support to the birth mother during or after her pregnancy or by providing financial support for the child.

If a parent does not do one of the things above to automatically be a guardian of a child, they can make an application to the court to be declared a guardian of the child.

Only a parent of a child can automatically become that child’s guardian. An adult who is not a child’s parent, but with whom the child has lived with for at least six months can make an application to the court to be declared a guardian of a child.

If only one parent fits the criteria to automatically become a child’s guardian, and no other person is added by court order as another guardian, then that child only has one guardian who has the sole responsibility for making decisions for that child.  Sometimes it may be necessary for a sole guardian to obtain a court order confirming they are, in fact, the sole guardian. In these cases the court will grant a parenting order (sole guardian).

 

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