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Father’s Rights and Custody in Alberta
by Lorraine Mlambo – Family and Surrogacy Lawyer | Feb 14, 2019 | Father’s Rights, Child Custody.
When couples separate, they must now navigate a new parenting terrain that can be riddled with confusion, heartache, frustration, and anger. Historically, and statistics do show, that the mother has typically maintained primary parenting of the child after separation; leaving most fathers feeling helpless, as though they are fighting an uphill battle where ‘the system’ is unfair to them; and with a mother who will want to take as much time with their children as they can from them.
This is unfortunate, as fathers do matter, just as much as mothers do. The psychologist, Kelly J.B. (1993)¹ found that children with a father that remained involved with a child’s life following divorce or separation did better in peer relationships and had higher achievement in maths and spelling. A relationship was also found between positive behaviours in female children and the time they spend with their fathers.
While most mothers are wonderfully selfless and put their children first and are happy to share the children equally with the father; some mothers make it awfully difficult for fathers to enjoy a relationship with their children despite them being equally able and willing to meet the best interests of their child.
So Why the Drama?
The reason some mothers exhibit, what Dr. Ira Turkat (Psychologist), coined as the “Malicious Mother Syndrome” range anything from a genuine fear of losing their children to the father, loneliness, or filling a void that has been left by the relationship that has ended with the father. For some, it is a way of hitting the father ‘where it hurts’ and to make them pay the hurt they feel was caused to them; or simply a measure of power and control. Bear in mind, fathers too can be guilty of this, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on mothers.
Some of the signs of “Malicious Parent Syndrome”, according to Dr. Ira Turkat (Psychologist), include:
Thankfully, the courts are mandated to be guided only by the best interests of the children, and not the gender of the parent. I have also seen the courts move further towards granting shared parenting where it is in the child’s best interests.
Whatever a mother’s reasons are, there some pointers you can use to place yourself in a better place to achieve success in family court and have more time with your children.
There is ample research that shows that children thrive better where time is maximized with both parents. Though, in some instances shared parenting may not be in the children’s best interests. Every situation is unique and must be handled differently. Speak to a lawyer regarding your unique situation.
¹Kelly J.B., (1993); Family Court Review: Current Research on Children’s Postdivorce Adjustment
Should I Bring My Child to Court?
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Jul 11, 2018 | Family Court, Family Matters, Parenting Never.
Recently, I was shocked to see an individual bringing what looked like their nine (9) or ten year (10) old child to court; and sat them in the gallery inside the courtroom while they proceeded to go before the Judge and plead their case against that child’s other parent. Suffice to say, before she went any further other non-related counsel interjected and the child was directed out of the courtroom and looked after by another lawyer while this parent pled their case.
While we are at it, here is another list of things you should never ever do:
Parenting While Separated – 5 Tips For Success
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Jan 1, 2018 | Parenting |
Parenting while separated or divorced is not for the faint of heart. It can be filled with twists and turns of the complex emotional minefield that is relationships. In relationships that end with no children, you can usually walk away, free from having to deal with the person with whom you had a toxic relationship. When there are children involved, you are forced to see that person while trying to mend your broken heart or get over the disappointment of the failed relationship, something that is very difficult for most people. It is tragic that it is the children who end up suffering the most if parents do not actively manage their remaining parenting relationship in order to ensure they protect their children.
There are many things that you can do to increase your chances of successfully parenting while divorced or separated. Here are 5 tips for success:
1. Child centered parenting – In all instances, focus solely on what is in the best interests of your children. All of your discussions and decisions should be focused on your children’s well-being. Maturity is the key in helping you to separate your emotions about your ex and what is in your children’s best interests. It is no easy task, but with practice and persistence your children will benefit, and the ability to separate your emotions will hopefully become second nature.
The courts in Alberta simply do not care that your ex once cheated on you or wracked up a large credit card bill. The question before the court is always ‘what is in the best interests of the child?’ If that is not enough to convince you, remember that any behavior on your part that does not put your children’s interests first may be presented as evidence against you before a judge.
2. Do not badmouth the Other Parent – I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. However much you dislike the other parent, never speak badly about them to your children. This toxic behavior does more harm to your children than good. Attempting to divide a child’s love, affection or care for the other parent is simply cruel. It stops your child from building and maintaining an important relationship with their parent, and some research has shown that this reduces a child’s feeling of self-worth as it teaches them to dislike half of who they are. Unless you can do the impossible and physically change your child’s genetic makeup, what is the point of continuing to denigrate the other parent? If you need to vent, it is better to lean on your friends, family or a professional.
In a similar vein, please do not discuss court proceedings with your children. Children’s health experts believe that it is very wrong to do so, and the courts in Alberta maintain the same view. Please let your children be children. You and your ex-spouse chose each other, but your children did not choose either of you, and so it is not fair to include them in the negative aspects of your past union.
3. Separate a ‘bad spouse’ from a ‘bad parent’ – Remember, a bad spouse does not necessarily mean a bad parent. A spouse who may have cheated on you or gambled their way through your relationship may very well be a loving parent that your children love and adore. Separating these two facets of their personality may be very difficult for you, but part of being child-focused means setting those feelings aside and allowing your child to continue a loving relationship with their other parent.
I have been fortunate to have clients who, despite experiencing broken hearts and feeling intense anger toward their spouse, have still been able to say how great a parent their spouse was and continues to be. These are the clients who have experienced the most success, as their maturity has shown through in their conduct to the extent that in some cases the opposing party simply had nothing to use against them. Most importantly, their children have done better throughout the process.
4. Do not argue in front of your children – This should go without saying. Imagine how arguing in front of your children must make them feel. Your job as a parent is to shield your children from things that hurt them, and fighting with the other parent in front of the children hurts them badly. Would it be so hard to refrain from instigating a fight with the other parent (or choosing not to rise to the other parent’s attempts to instigate a fight) simply for the duration of your pickups and drop-offs?
Not only does this behavior harm your children, it risks further complicating the co-parenting process where you may find yourself with a condition on your parenting order that makes exchanges possible only in the presence of a third party; or even worse, at a third-party location (such as a police station). The courts do not view parents who argue in front of their children favorably. In fact, abusive verbal exchanges in front of children are considered a form of child abuse. Not only will you risk harming your children or getting an unfavorable ruling in a court battle, but you may very well end up inviting children’s welfare services into an already complicated matter.
5. Separate money issues from custody matters – I have known some individuals who have withheld access from the other parent who had not paid child support (or the right amount of child support). I have also known those who have not paid child support because they have been denied access. Both scenarios are simply wrong and will create a negative impression on the offending parent. Child support and access should be dealt with separately.
Please stay tuned in for Part 2 of this series, which will provide further tips for success for parenting while separated.
Guiding the Self-Rep Through Family Court Proceeding
RM Law Group Launches Legal Coaching Service to Address Access to Justice Challenge
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Oct 25, 2017 | News
Families struggling to access the legal representation that they need are being offered an alternative thanks to the launch of a much-needed service from RM Law Group. The access to justice challenge has been much debated within the legal sector, with some going as far as labelling it a crisis. Seeking to address the current difficulties around accessing knowledgeable support and utilizing a vast array of in-house skills, RM Law Group will now be offering legal coaching to self-representing litigants.
Procedures and rules within the legal system are often viewed as complicated by the public and financial barriers can prevent victims from seeking the justice they deserve. Unnecessary delays and high costs have led to certain groups being failed by the current system. It is an area that the Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Justice Beverly McLachlin, has been committed to. In a speech at a Canadian Bar Association conference last year, Chief Justice McLachlin stated, “Access to justice in Canada remains a serious problem that imperils the public’s confidence in the justice system.”
Recognizing the demand and immediate need for an alternative, RM Law Group is now offering self-representing litigants the option to seek legal coaching. Legal coaching connects individuals needing legal guidance with a lawyer who can provide behind the scenes guidance, allowing individuals to take control of their own case. Combining tips, strategies, and knowledgeable insights, it’s an affordable option for those that are struggling to access justice through the traditional routes.
Lorraine Mlambo, a Lawyer and former accredited Legal Training Consultant, said, “There’s a huge problem in Canada when it comes to accessing justice and it’s essential that this issue is addressed swiftly. Everyone should have the right to the legal justice that they deserve but unfortunately that is not always the case. RM Law Group has combined its legal and training skills to deliver a new service that it knows its clients can really benefit from. Legal coaching is bridging a vital gap in the current legal system.”
RM Law Group is a family law firm based in Edmonton, Alberta and its latest offering of legal coaching will match the expectations and standards it has already set throughout its cases. Whether in court or outside of court, RM Law Group represents the interests of its clients, delivering knowledgeable advice and guidance that’s backed by industry experience with the aim of achieving practicable, amicable resolutions.
How Much Child Support Should I Be Paying or Receiving in Alberta?
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Sep 1, 2017 | Child Support |
Did you know that child support is the right of the child and that it does not belong to either parent? Parents are legally obligated to support their child/children and this duty continues after separation. Child support improves the standard of living of the child/children and gives them a better chance of thriving. Your children are your greatest legacy, and it is only right! The important question is, how much should you be receiving or paying.
What is child support?
Child support is money paid by one parent to the other parent to provide for the child/children following separation or divorce. Child support payments include fixed amounts for basic support as well as amounts to cover certain types of expenses such as daycare, healthcare and extra-curricular activities.
Alberta’s child support law is based on the principle that even though parents may no longer be together, children should continue to benefit from the financial support of both parents, just like they would if their parents were still together.
Whether you are in opposite or same-sex common-law and married families’ child support is essential and can be resolved through negotiated or mediated agreement between you and your spouse, or by court order.
So How Much Child Support Should I Be Paying?
The amount of child support you pay or receive depends on any individual circumstances. The amount you pay or receive in child support is determined by Federal and Provincial guidelines as well as specific rules, criteria, and formulas.
Different things will affect or determine child support, as well as a number of time limitations. Some examples of circumstances that impact child support payments include whether either party owns a business, holds substantial capital, investments, or trust interests, or is a professional with a ‘book of business.’ Child support payments can also be affected by the type of parenting arrangement you have in place, due to potentially increased childcare costs.
Use this helpful ALBERTA CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATOR as a first step towards estimating the payable child support applicable in your family situation.
Do remember that no two cases are the same, and it is always best to speak with a family lawyer to ensure you are paying or receiving the correct amount of child support. Book a free call with a family lawyer using the form on the right or call us at 780-851-7624 to set up a consultation.
5 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Lawyer For Your Family Matter
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Aug 28, 2017 | Family Court |
In an ideal world, no one would need a lawyer. But unfortunately, as life has it, it is not an ideal world. Family law proceedings are particularly not for the faint-hearted. The truth is, if you find yourself in the midst of a relationship or marriage breakdown, you do need a lawyer and here are 5 reasons why:
Chances are if you have found yourself in the middle of family legal proceedings, you may be feeling hurt, disappointed, angry and frustrated at the breakdown of your relationship or the way your spouse has behaved since the separation. If there are children, fear may have also set in that you may lose your children to your spouse and that you will no longer have a close bond with your child/children. It is likely going to be difficult to be objective in such instances and approach your matter with the level head and strategy it requires in order to get the best outcome. A lawyer is there to provide that objective voice and help you navigate through your matter in the best way possible.
Cases where at least one party is self-represented will typically be more complicated, take longer and be more stressful than a case where both parties are represented by a lawyer. While perceived costs savings may be your initial motivator, as your case proceeds you may find that the time and effort you spend navigating through the legal system and the stress you experience may not be worth it after all.
Court is just not like TV and often requires steps and procedures that are not presented on TV. It is often the case that self-represented litigants find themselves surprised at the background steps required before a case finds itself in front of a judge. A lawyer will know the process from point a to z, which will save time and the associated feelings of frustration and disappointment when a self-represented litigant misses a step and has to repeat the same process.
As long as your story may be, and as much as you may know it better than anyone else, not everything will be relevant to the matters before the court and the evidence required by the judge in order to make a decision on your case. A lawyer, through knowledge and experience, will help you funnel the information you provide so that the only information and evidence that finds itself before a Judge is relevant and material to your case. If self-representing, you may very well find yourself seeking to rely on evidence you believe is crucial, only to be told that it is legally inadmissible. A lawyer will be knowledgeable on what is and what is not legally admissible.
While I do not doubt there are some incredibly smart and capable people out there, who despite not being legally trained, are well vested in their rights and obligations, the majority of individuals are not as aware. A lawyer will be able to advise you of your legal rights and obligations at the beginning of your matter and throughout, as different situations arise that you may not have anticipated.
If you do decide to represent yourself, a lawyer may still be able to help you by providing you with advice and guidance, or help you with aspects of your case as opposed to the whole matter. You are welcome to book a FREE 15-minute call with a lawyer to find out if RM Law Group can help you with your matter. You may book online using the link on the right-hand side of this page or call RM Law Group on 780-851-7624.
6 Reasons Why You Should Resolve Your Matter Outside of Family Court
by Lorraine Mlambo- Family Lawyer | Aug 28, 2017 | Family Court |
In the event of a disagreement between you and your former spouse, going to court to resolve your family matter should be a last resort. Here are 6 reasons why you should resolve your matter out of court:
Lawyer fees are expensive. You do not want to spend money on lawyers you would otherwise spend on that long-awaited vacation to Disneyland with your child/children.
The party that loses may be required to pay some or all of the legal fees of the winning party, in addition to his or her own legal fees.
Unfortunately, the litigation process may not run as expeditiously as one would hope and delays are common.
Once your matter goes before a judge, you lose any degree of control over the outcome. For instance, in custody cases, you run the risk that neither your proposed plan nor that of your spouse is accepted by the judge. The judge has absolute authority to decide what is in your child’s best interests. Therefore, in settling your matter in court, you are entrusting a third party who does not know your children as well as you do, to make a decision about how they get to live.
You are less likely to be satisfied with an outcome following a court decision, than if you came to a resolution having taken part in the process.
As an old Swahili proverb goes, ‘war has no eyes’. Court proceedings are akin to a battlefield and have a way of damaging relationships and burning bridges. In the early part of a custody battle you may not feel as such, but as long as you have children the road ahead is a long one. Think about events and occurrences to come, first day at school, sports days, graduations, music recitals and perhaps even weddings and mutual acquaintances. The bottom line is there is life after divorce or separation, and mutual resolution paves way for better parenting relationships.
Remember, no two cases are the same. For more information on the best strategy for your family matter, please click on the link located on the right-hand side to book a free 15-minute call with Lorraine Mlambo to find out if We can help you with your matter; or call RM Law Group on 780-851-7624 to book your initial consultation.
Lorraine Mlambo is a Barrister & Solicitor and founder of RM Law Group, practising family law in Alberta.