My Parents are Splitting Up

Read below for answers to frequently asked questions

What happens when your parents separate?

Separation and divorce are difficult experiences for most parents. The emotional pressures of going through a divorce can cause your parents to act differently, and while you can be supportive of your parents during their divorce, do not feel responsible for their emotional health or behaviours. Your parents may seek the help of counsellors, therapists, or other professionals in order to cope with the trauma of divorce, and you may want to talk to your mom or dad about participating or having your own counsellor if the divorce is difficult for you to deal with.

You are not alone. Almost 8,000 divorces occur in Alberta every year, and across Canada there are about 1.2 million separated or divorced parents with children younger than 18-years-old.

Other Resources:

Statistics Canada, Divorce: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/help/bb/info/divorce

Calgary Counselling Centre: http://www.calgarycounselling.com/counselling/parents-families/


What types of decisions have to be made?

When parents separate or divorce, they have to make a lot of decisions. This includes making a lot of decisions about taking care of you.

Upon separation, many things will change. There will be legal, financial, and emotional issues to deal with.

When a family is living together, usually both parents decide how their children will be brought up. This includes making decisions about your extracurricular activities, religion, health care, and holidays. Once parents separate, who makes decisions about the children will probably change.

The agreements parents make when they separate or divorce can be as flexible and creative as parents can devise. Separation agreements can be made whether or not parents are divorced. Some parents go to court to decide issues about their children (parenting, custody, access, residency and child support). Going to court can be costly and time-consuming. Conflict, including going to court, is very hard on the children in the family – much harder than the separation or divorce itself.


Is it my fault that my parents are fighting about me?

No. It is not your fault that your parents have decided to separate and are fighting about you. Many young people feel that their parents’ divorce is their fault but it is not. Nothing you have done has caused them to want to end their marriage. There is nothing you could have done to prevent your parents from separating or divorcing.

Divorce is between adults, not kids. Your parents still love you even if they do not want to live with each other anymore.


When my parents fight, do I have to choose a side?

No. You do not have to choose sides. Many kids feel that they’re caught in the middle. Even if your parents are fighting and want you “on their side”, you are allowed to love both of them.

You can’t fix your parents’ problems or make them happy.

  • It is not fair for either of your parents to ask you to take sides or to put pressure on you to be on their side.
  • Your parents should not say anything bad about your other parent in front of you.  If they do, try to tell them how that makes you feel and that it would be easier for you if they stopped.

Tip: Try to focus on helping yourself through the situation instead of helping your parents. As much as you may wish you could fix things, there is nothing that you can do for them and nothing you can do to get them back together. You are not responsible for solving your parents’ problems.


Why won’t they tell me what’s going on?

Parents are often uncomfortable talking to their kids about what’s going on in these types of situations. Sometimes they just don’t know what to say and there are no legal rules about what can be told or what you have a right to know. Also, parents in a divorce are often angry and saying bad things about each other.  If this is happening, they may want to shield you from these kinds of comments as it is personal to them and they don’t want to hurt your relationship with the other parent.

Your parents should be telling you about things that affect you but they should not be trying to convince you that their side of the story is the right one. Your parents shouldn’t be drawing you into their fight with each other, even if it is about you.

You have a right to information about what is happening but that is very different from a parent telling you about their problems with your other parent.

If you are able to, ask your parents questions if you have them.

  • Answering questions might actually make it easier for them to talk to you.
  • If they tell you that it is none of your business, you might try to tell them politely that you think it is, because many of the decisions and changes affect you. However, many of the issues that parents deal with in a divorce, such as money and property, should not be shared with you.
  • Your parents probably have an idea of what’s going on and might be able to help you understand what’s happening.

You might also want to tell them what you need and want from them. You probably have a lot of things to say to them. Your parents aren’t perfect and have a lot on their minds when they are going through a separation or divorce. If you are able, and it is safe for you, let them know how you are feeling and tell them how their actions affect you.


What information do I have a right to know?

There are no legal rules about how much and what information the children in the family have the right to know; however, you should be allowed to know what is happening in your family. Somebody should tell you.

Parents usually try not to worry their children with “adult” information so they might not tell you very much. Other parents involve their children too much in their own problems and emotions. Neither situation is fair.

If there is information you want to know, ask.

  • Many parents often don’t realize that it will probably be easier for you to deal with things if you have some idea of what is going on – you may have to help them figure that out.
  • Parents often don’t know how to talk to their children about these kinds of personal issues, but if you ask them some questions, they might have easier time figuring out how to tell you.

How do I tell my parents my opinion?

It can be hard to tell your parents what you really think and feel probably because you are afraid of hurting their feelings or that they might not love you anymore. But your parents should be able to understand how you feel. As long as you feel safe, try to be honest with them. They might be upset at first but they should be able to deal with what you have to say.

  • Try to tell your parents what you think or feel because you will have to live with the decisions that are made about you. If you want to have a say in those decisions, you will have to talk to your parents and tell them what you think and feel.
  • Maybe you could write them a letter or draw a picture.

Tip: Sometimes talking it through with someone other than a parent can help you figure things out: a family friend, a school counselor, or perhaps a lawyer might be able to help.


Do I have any say in the decisions my parents are making about me?

Your parents are responsible for making decisions about what happens in your family but your opinion about what should happen to you is important and should be considered. If nobody talks to you about what your parents are deciding about you, and you want to know, or you want to have some say, then talk to your parents – both of them, if you can.

While parents make the final decisions about what happens to the family, the child’s opinion about what should happen is important and should be considered.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives a child that is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views in matters that affect the child, taking into account the child’s age and maturity. However, children should not be responsible for making the decision about who will care for them.

Legal Authorities

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations, Treaty Series , vol. 1577, p. 3; depositary notifications C.N.147.1993.TREATIES-5 of 15 May 1993 [amendments to article 43 (2)]; and C.N.322.1995.TREATIES-7 of 7 November 1995 [amendment to article 43 (2)].

Is it my job to try and hold the family together?

It is not your job to hold your parents or the family together even though you might want to. What you do will not usually affect your parents’ decision to separate.

  • Getting better grades, helping around the house, or getting along with your brother or sister are nice things to do, but they will not get your parents back together.
  • Divorce and separation are decided by adults and are usually final decisions.

How can I keep my life the same? What is going to change? Where will I live?

Your life will not be the same and there probably isn’t a lot you can do to keep it the same.

  • The biggest changes will probably be where you live, with whom you live and how often you see each of your parents.
  • There are many possible living arrangements. Each situation is different. You might move, you might live only with one parent, you might spend equal or almost equal time with each parent or you might live mostly with one parent, you might spend the summer with one parent. Any parent you don’t live with is still your parent.
  • If there are some things you really care about, you should be allowed to tell your parents so they can think about your feeling and opinions too.

How do my parents decide where I am going to live? If I’m a boy do I have to live with my Dad? If I’m a girl do I have to live with my Mom?

No. The only rule about where you live is that the decision should be based on what would be best for you. One of the things that your parents should consider is where you would like to live and why, so you should be allowed to express your thoughts, feelings and opinions to your parents about where you would like to live.

Legal Authorities
Best Interests of the Child

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.18
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) ss. 16(8), 17(5)

Do I get to decide where I want to live?

This is a hard question to answer because it depends on many different things. Mostly the answer depends on how old you are and your level of maturity. The older and more mature you are, the more your thoughts and views should be considered. Your opinion is important.


At what age can I decide where I want to live?

There is no specific age when you can decide where you want to live. The answer to this question depends on your situation.

  • Usually around 14, 15 or 16, your opinion about where you want to live will probably be the most important or one of the most important factors in the decision about where you will live when your parents separate.
  • There is no law that says when you are 12 you get to decide where you want to live.
  • If you want to live with your other parent, and you feel safe in doing so, you need to discuss this with both of your parents. If you don’t feel safe talking to you parents, try to find another adult you can trust to talk to.

What if I want to change my living or visiting arrangements?

If it is possible and safe for you, talk with your parents and explain what you want and why. You might be able to change your arrangements by making a plan with your parents. If that seems impossible, is there a friend of the family that everyone trusts who can help?

  • You might be able to talk to a counselor or a children’s lawyer for some help.
  • If you and your parents can’t agree, the parent with whom you want to live or visit might have to go to court.
  • Sometimes with outside help, change can be made without having to go to court. A mediator or a lawyer may be able to assist you in reaching an agreement with you parents.
  • If an arrangement can’t be worked out, the parents with whom the child wants to live or visit might have to go to court. Although no decisions are final when children are involved, usually there needs to be a “substantial change” in the parent’s or child’s circumstances in order for an application to be made to vary an existing court order or agreement.

“Substantial change” could include:

  • One of the parents moves or wishes to leave the geographic area
  • There is new information affecting the child that was previously not available
  • Family violence or abuse
  • A significant passage of time such that the child is much older

Generally speaking, it is difficult to make changes in living arrangements if the parents do not agree.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s. 34
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) s. 17(5)

How do I deal with step-parents?

A STEP-PARENT is usually not supposed to replace a BIOLOGICAL PARENT

  • Your step-parents should support your relationship with your parent(s).
  • Sometimes, if your step-parent(s) has a good relationship with each of your parents, he or she can help sort out issues between you and your parents and might be a good person to talk to.

What are the rights of step-parents?

Generally speaking, your step-parent has no rights or legal authority over you unless he or she had adopted you or been given some authority over you in a COURT ORDER. If no one has talked to you about the role of your step-parent you could try asking for a family discussion on the subject.

There may be some good reasons why you might want to try to accept your step-parent having some authority over you – such as just surviving in this new reality of a BLENDED FAMILY!

Everyone in a family needs to know and understand the role of a step-parent. Have a family discussion about it so everyone can have input and so that everyone has the same information and understanding.


What do all these legal words mean?

There are quite a few legal words that are used that deal with children’s issues when parents separate and divorce.

  • This area of law is called FAMILY LAW. Family law in Alberta is always changing. New words are being used. We will try to explain both the old and the new words that you might hear.

For example, your parents might make a PARENTING or SEPARATION AGREEMENT.

  • An AGREEMENT (parenting or separation) is a contract between your parents. In addition to other information it may describe where you will live, how much time you will spend with each parent and the rights and duties of your parents to you and to each other.
  • If your parents go to court to get decisions made, the judge might make an ORDER or a JUDGMENT that says or decides the same kinds of things that might otherwise be in an agreement.
  • You might hear your parents talking about PARENTING ORDERS or CONSENT ORDERS.
  • A PARENTING ORDER is made when your parents cannot agree themselves and a judge decides where you will live, how often you will see your parents, whether child support will be paid, how much, and other similar issues.
  • A CONSENT ORDER means that your parents agreed on these issues but they decided to put their agreement into a court order and have a judge sign it.

You will probably also hear words like JOINT and SOLE CUSTODY, ACCESS, CONTACT, VISITATION, and AFFIDAVIT.

JOINT and SOLE CUSTODY are types of PARENTING ORDERS. There are very few sole custody orders made now. Joint and sole custody refer more to decision-making responsibilities rather than time spent with children. Joint custody means that both parents have equal say in the important decisions in a child’s life. While the children are in their care, each parent will usually have authority to make day-to-day decisions without the involvement of the other parent.

Provincial legislation in Alberta (The Family Law Act) does not use the terms JOINT or SOLE CUSTODY. Instead, PARENTING ORDERS are set out stating:

  • The amount of time each parent has with the child
  • The division or powers and responsibilities in regard to the child

However, the best interests of the child is still the basis upon which decisions about children are to be made. The Divorce Act, which applies across Canada, still uses the words “custody” and “access.” You should talk to a lawyer to find out if this makes any difference for you.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.)

Can I read court documents?

There are really no legal rules about whether you can read court documents. Most court documents are about disagreements between adults although they might include information about you.

  • Every situation is different, but there are times when you have a right to know what is in court documents such as when a court order sets out visiting times or where you will live.
  • Your parents should not ask you to read court documents or ask you to help them with their court documents.

Reading court documents to get information may not be the best way to get it.

  • Sometimes your parents will be able to answer questions for you; sometimes not. They will each have their own point of view and might try to get you to see things the way they do.
  • Some court documents just tell one side of the story, so it can be hard to get accurate information about what is happening.

Tip: You might need someone independent from each of your parents to help you get correct information. To find out about these kinds of issues you might need to talk to a lawyer who is not your Mom’s or Dad’s lawyer.


Can I have my own lawyer?

If you feel that you need legal help, it is important to talk to someone who knows about the law. There are not many places for young people to go for legal support in this area of law, but your school counselor might be able to help you find the right person to talk to. You can also contact Youth Law if you have a legal question or need legal advice or information.

Youth Law provides assistance in a limited number of cases to young people who would not otherwise have access to a lawyer. The children must reside in Calgary, and the legal action must be in Calgary. Sometimes the Legal Aid Society of Alberta might assist by paying for a lawyer for a young person.


Am I allowed to know the results of court applications?

You should be allowed to know the results of court applications if the decisions affect you. Sometimes the only way to find out is to ask your parent(s) what was decided.

  • You can ask to read court documents but you might not be allowed to.
  • You may need some outside help to be allowed to read court documents that apply to you and to understand them. This could include talking to a lawyer, a counselor, or an adult you trust.

Will I have to go to court?

Most judges will think you should not be there and might require you to leave. Your parents should not be taking you to court with them unless arrangements have been made ahead of time.


Do I have to sign court papers?

You should not have to sign papers even if you are asked to do so by either of your parents. You should not be asked to prepare anything for court for either of your parents. Your parents lawyers should not ask you to sign papers. You should not have to meet with either of your parent’s lawyers and no one should ask you to do that.

  • If anything like this is happening, it is time for you to have your own lawyer.
  • You should be able to talk to your own lawyer before you help with, sign, create or have anything to do with any papers that either of your parents or their lawyers ask you to sign or make.

Can I talk to the judge? Can I write the judge a letter? 

Some judges will talk to children and teenagers and others will not. If you really want to talk to a judge, it is a good idea to have your own lawyer to help you and to figure out what is possible.

Some judges will read letters written to them by young people, others will not.You should not write a letter to a judge because somebody tells you to. If you want to write the judge a letter, it is best to do that with the help of a lawyer.


How does a judge decide where I should live or when I see my parent(s)?

The judge’s decision is to be based on what is best for you. One of the things that should be considered is what you think should happen. But the judge will consider many other things including:

  • the type of relationship you have with each of your parents any other significant person in your life
  • your physical and emotional needs
  • the ability of your parents to care for you and make good decisions
  • your culture, language and religion
  • lots of other information

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.18
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) ss. 16(8),(9)(10)

What if I don’t like what is in a court order, like having to visit one of my parents?

Usually, if there is a court order, it has to be followed.
But, if both your parents and you agree, you can probably make arrangements that are different from the court order or have the court order changed.

If your parents cannot agree to make changes, then getting changes made can be difficult and might mean you will need your own lawyer (if you can get one) and might mean that your parents, your parent’s lawyers (if they have them) and your lawyer (if you have one) have to go to court.

  • If you really feel strongly about not wanting to visit one of your parents, and you feel safe doing so, talk to somebody about it. You have a right to have your views considered.
  • A good reason for changing visitation would be that something serious has happened to you, like physical or emotional abuse. If you think anything like that is happening to you it is very important that you find an adult you trust to talk to about it.
  • If you feel uncomfortable visiting a parent by yourself, but you still want to see that parent, it is sometimes possible to have an adult with you when you visit that parent. This is called ‘supervised access’ or ‘supervised visitation’. Visits are supervised to make sure that you are safe with the parent you are visiting.
  • It is very hard to stop all visits with a parent.

My parents are getting divorced. Does the judge care what I think?

Usually young people are not in court when their parents are fighting about them. There is not a specific age when a judge will listen to what children and teenages think and want.

  • Most judges think that children and teenagers should not be the ones to make decisions but judges still often want to know what young people want to have happen.
  • If you want a judge to know what you think then it is important to tell an adult you trust.

Sometimes you will need to get your own lawyer so everyone can know what you want to have happen and so your parents hear what you think. A child can have a say about who they want to live with. The older you are the more likely it is that what you think should happen will be what a judge decides.

  • Judges usually will not order 16 year olds to do things or to live where they do not want to.
  • Quite often judges will not order 14 year olds either, but sometimes they will order them to do things even if the young person wants something different to happen.
  • Sometimes if you are more than about 12 years old, your opinion will be more important to the judge than if you were younger but you still will not be allowed to decide what happens.
  • Every situation is different.

Usually your individual circumstances and what the judge thinks is good for you will be as important as what you think should happen. However, most judges will want to know your opinion before they make their decision even if they do not agree with you.


What if one of my parents won’t let me visit my other parent?

If there is a court order, your parents have to obey it. If you are not being allowed to visit a parent, the parent that you are supposed to visit will probably have to go to court to enforce the order.

  • If it is possible and safe, talk to your parents about how you feel. It is always better if your parents can sort things out without going to court.
  • If you feel you cannot talk to your parents maybe you can talk to an adult who understands your situation but doesn’t take sides and see if they can help you talk to your parents.
  • If you are old enough and mature enough you might be able to get your own lawyer to help but most court matters are considered adult responsibilities, not yours.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s. 40
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) s. 20(3)

Can I be forced to change where I live? Do I have to move or change cities?

Usually your parents will try not to move you from your house but there are situations when a move cannot be helped or might be good for everyone. You might have to change schools as well. Your parents should talk to you about these decisions and your opinions should be considered.

Sometimes one of your parents may want you to move with them to another city.

Your parent may need permission from your other parent or the court if they want to move to another city.

What is most important is what is best for you. Some of the things that should be thought about are:

  • What is your relationship like with each of your parents?
  • Will it be good for your life if you move (good schools, activities, and health care)?
  • Will your relationship with your other parent be affected and will you still be able to have a good relationship or visit as much?
  • How long have you lived in your present neighbourhood and how happy are you there?
  • Will you have friends or relatives in the new city or will you be leaving most of them behind?
  • Are there good reasons for your parent wanting to move?

If you and your parents don’t agree on whether you should move, they will probably go to mediation or court. It is really difficult to know what a judge will decide, but the judge’s decision is to be based on what would be best for you. Everyone should know what you think. If you have an opinion that you want them to consider you should tell an adult.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.33(2)
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) s. 16(7)
  • Gordon v. Goertz (1996), 134 D.L.R. (4th) 321 (S.C.C)

What if I want to change custody/access (parenting) and one (or both) of my parents doesn’t agree with me?

It is not easy to change CUSTODY and ACCESS arrangements if your parents don’t agree but it can be done. Changes will usually require going to court.

  • If it is safe for you to do so, talk with your parents and explain what you want and why.
  • Sometimes a lawyer or a counselor can help you talk to your parents.
  • It might be possible to make a plan. In general, there needs to be a good reason before a change can be made.
  • If you and your parents can’t agree, the parent with whom you want to live or visit might have to go to court. If your parents have to go to court, then the judge will look at your whole situation and make the decisions that he or she thinks would be best for you.
  • If things have changed between your parents in a way that affects you or if there are serious problems between you and one of your parents, the judge might consider changing the arrangement to make sure that you are happy, safe and doing and feeling well.
  • But even if things are not going well with one of your parents, it can still be difficult to convince a judge that things should be changed. Sometimes, if you are old enough and mature enough, you can make the changes you want without anyone going to court.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.34
  • Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.3 (2nd Supp.) ss. 17

What if I want to see a grandparent and my parent(s) won’t let me?

There are no special rules about visiting relatives or friends that you want to see. Usually you will see the relatives and friends of the parent you are with when you are with that parent.

  • Usually it is not one parent’s responsibility to make sure that you visit the other parent’s relatives.
  • If there are people that you want to visit, make sure your parents know. You should be able to make plans to see the people you want to see as long as you will be safe there.
  • Grandparents and sometimes other relatives or people who are important in your life may be able to get a court order allowing them to visit you. This is sometimes called a CONTACT ORDER.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.35

Can my parent ask me to lie or keep secrets from my other parent?

No. Neither of your parents should ask you to lie or keep secrets from your other parent. This is not fair. If you are feeling caught in the middle and you feel safe in doing it, you could say it makes you uncomfortable when your parent:

  • asks you to carry messages to your other parent
  • asks you a lot of questions about your other parent*
  • asks you to keep secrets from your other parent*
  • expects you to listen to him or her saying mean things or lies about your other parent or your other parent’s family and friends*

If you can, and it is safe, tell your parents how you feel. If you possibly can, tell them they need to work out their problems themselves – that is not your job.

*Sometimes this kind of behaviour by a parent can be a form of abuse and you should talk to an adult you trust about it.


When can I leave home?

There is no specific age when you can leave home. The main issue is whether you are and will be safe if you leave. It can take some planning to leave home so it’s probably a good idea to talk to someone you trust about it.


Do I have to go to counselling? 

Sometimes a judge will order that the children in the family should go to counselling.

  • If a judge makes this order, then you are supposed to go to counselling.
  • Sometimes your parents will want you to go to counselling.

Tip: It is often good to go to counselling and sometimes it can be a way to have information that you think is important brought to the attention of people who are making decisions about you.


Can my parents or one of my parents stop me from going to counselling? 

In some situations, parents do have the right to refuse counselling services for their children. If you would like to go to counselling, tell your parents. If your parents have a joint custody order and one of them does not want you to go to counselling, the other parent will have to get the permission of a judge so that you can go.

  • If your parents do not allow you to attend counselling, there may be other resources available to you.

What is Child Support?

Child support is a legal term for money paid by one parent to the parent with whom you live most of the time to help with the costs of things like food, housing, clothing, education and activities for the children in a family. Child support is also sometimes called child maintenance. Child support is not money paid by one parent so they can see or visit their child.

  • Child support is an adult problem for your parents to sort out themselves without involving you.
  • You should not have to be involved in or have to worry about child support.
  • There is no choice about paying child support.
  • The law requires that if you live with one parent, the other parent has to pay child support.
  • Parents should not be arguing about child support and neither parent should be complaining to you about child support or their money problems. They should not be making you feel responsible for any financial problems they might be experiencing.
  • Both of your parents are responsible for paying a share of the costs of raising you no matter which parent you live with.

Child support is not decided by whether you are seeing both of your parents. The law says that payment of child support is separate from access or visitation.

  • Some parents are tempted to stop paying their child support to punish the other parent for not allowing access. They should not do that.
  • Some parents try to force the other parent to pay child support before they will allow that parent to see his or her child. They should not do that either.
  • Some parents just don’t pay but that is not your fault and it is not right.
  • If one of your parents is not paying child support, you should still be allowed to see that parent.
  • It is your parents, not your responsibility to try to get your other parent to pay the child support.

Legal Authorities

Family Law Act

      S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5

 

  • s. 49 – Obligation
  • s. 50 – Child Support Order
  • s. 53 – Child Suppor Agreement

Divorce Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.)

  • s. 15.1
  • s. 15.3

Federal Child Support Guidelines SOR/97-175


Can money be paid directly to me? 

When you are living with one of your parents, child support is paid to your parent, not to you. Child support is meant to pay for your housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc. It is unusual but you might be able to get child support directly from a parent if you are living on your own.

Legal Authorities

    • In Landymore v. Landymore [1995] CarswellAlta 709 (Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench), child support was ordered to be paid directly to a 19 year old who was living independently until the completion of her first University degree.

See also:

  • O.C. v. A.C., 2011 ABPC 24 (CanLII)

Can I have a say in how my child support is spent?

Generally, neither you nor the parent who pays the support has a right to decide how the child support is spent. If you feel that the support is not being put toward important expenses for you (food, clothing, shelter), talk to your parent who receives the money.

  • There may be reasons why the money is being spent the way it is.
  • Your parent receiving the money has the right to decide how the money is going to be spent.
  • Your basic needs should be met. If they are not, child support might need to be increased or the way it is spent might need to be changed.

Tip: Money is often a very difficult subject for your parents so you may want to get some advice from some other adult you trust before you start talking to your parents about how child support is being spent.


What happens to child support if I go to live with my other parent? 

Generally speaking, child support is affected if there is a change in your life, or in one or both of your parent’s lives. Both of your parents always have a legal responsibility to make sure that you are looked after.

  • If you move to live with your other parent, child support and which parent is required to pay it, will almost always change.
  • Child support can also change if the income of either of your parents changes or if there are some extra expenses in your life.
  • This is a complicated issue. Your parents should be working it out without involving you.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s. 52
  • Divorce Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) s.17
  • Federal Child Support Guidelines SOR/97-175 s.14

Who decides how much child support is paid?

There are rules that set out how much child support is to be paid. The amount of child support to be paid is almost always decided using rules called the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Most parents do not have to go to court to sort this out.

Legal Authorities

  • Federal Child Support Guidelines SOR/97-175
  • Divorce Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) s. 26.1
  • Alberta Child Support Guidelines Alta. Reg. 147/2005

Is there anything I can do if one of my parents is not paying child support?

The collection of child support is not your responsibility. The collection of child support is not easy and is not something with which you should have to be involved.

  • It is the responsibility of the parent with whom you do not live to pay child support and the responsibility of the parent with whom you live to try to make sure it is paid, not yours. Your parents should not be involving you in these arrangements.
  • The provincial government has a program called the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP), that can help parents collect child support.

Legal Authorities

  • Maintenance Enforcement Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. M-1

Can I change my parents’ custody order?

You cannot change your parents’ custody order and are not responsible for doing so.

A custody order is a court order between your parents so one of them has to apply to the court to change it. A parent can ask his/her lawyer to apply for a change or can do this himself/herself if self-represented (we suggest going to the Family Law Information Centre for help).

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act S.A. 2003, c. F-4.5 s.34
  • Divorce Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) s. 17

When my parents separate I am going to live with my mom. Can I still see my grandparents and cousins from my dad’s side of the family?

Yes, but it depends on the situation. If your mom has sole custody, she will decide who you spend time with. It is important for you to tell your mom how you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your mom try talking to another adult that you trust, like a teacher or counselor at school.

If your mom refuses to let you see relatives from your dad’s side of the family, your relatives may have to apply to the court to get an order saying that they can spend time with you, otherwise guardians with sole custody have full decision making power.

Legal Authorities

  • Family Law Act, SA 2003, c. F-4.5, s.35 – contact orders

Reviewed 09/16