Ask a Lawyer: Legal challenges when co-parenting during the summer

Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Sunaina Kakkar joined Global News Morning Edmonton to talk about the challenges co-parents face during the summer and how overseas travel works when parents are in conflict.

Legal Aid AB
July 04, 2023

Summer is officially here: For kids, this is a time for fun activities with friends and family, to try new and exciting experiences and even take a trip or two. On the other hand, parents going through divorce or separation may experience added stress to their summer schedules, like summer vacations and overseas travel.

This month on Ask a Lawyer, Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Sunaina Kakkar joined Global News Morning Edmonton to talk about the challenges co-parents face during the summer, how overseas travel works when parents are in conflict and how they can ensure their children get to enjoy the summer break.

Please view the video on Microsoft Edge web browser.

Transcript of the program:

Vinesh Pratap: School’s out and it is officially the summer holiday for kids. As much fun as it can be, there can also be real challenges for parents who are separated or divorced when it comes to things like summer vacation, especially when it involves child safety and overseas travel. With us today to talk about how co-parents can keep their children safe and happy is Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer, Sunaina Kakkar. Thank you so much for being here.

Sunaina Kakkar: Thank you.

Vinesh: So obviously we think of summer and fun, but for co-parenting and people who are divorced with kids there can be a lot of tension out there, right? So what are the challenges, legal challenges that you encounter commonly?

Sunaina: So some the legal challenges we deal with are a parent wanting to travel with their children to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention with respect to child abduction, and that’s an international law that deals with, or that uses a right of custody to ensure that a child is returned to Canada.

Vinesh: So if that happens, can one parent who does not want the trip do anything? Are they simply left to throw their hands up in the air?

Sunaina: If one parent is opposed to that travel, the other parent has a right to bring the matter before a judge and have the judge make a decision. Of course, that parent who wants to travel has to ensure that they can show to the judge that they have every intention of returning back to, for example, Edmonton. They do so by providing evidence with respect to their place of employment, their residence, do they own that residence? Are they school-registered here in Edmonton? It’s the ability to show that substantial connection, and then providing a full itinerary of details on that travel, like when are they going, where they are going, accommodation, emergency contact, and maybe throwing in how the other parent can contact the child or the children during the holidays.

Vinesh: Is it less complicated if the travel, for example, is domestic or even to the states like Disneyland?

Sunaina: Definitely, it’s a bit more simple. I think that everyone needs to understand and realize that children take priority. So it’s the right of the child to visit grandparents and experience these vacations like camping trips or Disneyland. Sometimes parents are in conflict forget that.

Vinesh: Even though it’s the start of summer now, how important is to plan in advance? So not to have these discussions in July, but perhaps several months prior to that?

Sunaina: it is ideal to have these discussions three or four months in advance. It gives an ample amount of time to negotiate, as well if the matter needs to go to court, the parties have the ability to do so, and Legal Aid Alberta can help with that as well.

Vinesh: Unfortunately, do you find that lawyers, family lawyers get quite busy when it comes to dealing with issues during the summer months like this?

Sunaina: Absolutely. It’s not about summer holidays anymore, it’s also about conflict on where children will be going to school commencing September.

Vinesh: So what’s your advice to parents out there? I mean obviously, everyone wants to keep the kids kind of off to the side and not to see that kind of tension boil through to the parents. What’s your advice? How do we make sure that we deal with these issues before things kind of boil over?

Sunaina: I think it really is circumstantial, based on the parenting arrangement between the parties, but I think everyone needs to look at what’s in the best interest of the children and it’s their right to travel, to vacation, to hang out with their grandparents and they’re only young once.

Vinesh: Yeah, and they should have memories that are good memories, being young only once. Sunaina, thank you so much for your time this morning, it’s greatly appreciated, some important advice for some potentially stressful times the summer. Thank you, again.

Sunaina: Thank you.

Vinesh: Legal Aid Alberta lawyers specialize in family law, child welfare, domestic violence, immigration, and youth and adult criminal defence. If you have a question for a lawyer, send it to: [email protected].

Stay Informed

The latest news from LAA delivered straight to your inbox.