Common Misconceptions about Family Law.

AuthorDargatz, Sarah
PositionFeature Family Break-ups & the Law

It's not unusual for someone to come see me and have some misconceptions about how the law or the legal process works.

Previous articles and columns in LawNow have addressed many of these misconceptions. In this article, I'll address a few others.

1.1 can trade "parental rights" for the obligation to pay child support.

Some parents suggest that the other parent give up their "parental rights" in exchange for not having to pay child support. By "parental rights", they usually mean the rights, responsibilities and entitlements of guardianship and parenting time with the child. This exchange might seem practical in some cases, but it is not in line with the law.

A child has a right to benefit from child support regardless of their relationship with their parents. Even if the child does not have a relationship with one parent, or if that parent is no longer a guardian, the parent should still financially support the child based on the parent's income.

And a child has the right to have a relationship with both of their parents, along as it is in their best interests and regardless of whether or not that parent pays child support.

Parents cannot bargain away their child support or purchase their relationships. Some parents agree to this. However, it's very unlikely that a judge would enforce this kind of agreement.

For more information related to child support, see Part One and Part Two of LawNow's "Brief Primer on Child Support".

  1. My child can decide where they want to live when they are 12 years old.

    Often parents what to know when their child can decide which parent they want to live with. Many have heard that this happens when the child reaches the age of 12. Family lawyers often refer to this as the "Myth of 12".

    Children do not have the legal authority to decide where they live until they are adults. In Alberta, this occurs when they are 18 years old. Children do not have the ability to decide if they go to school, if they can eat their vegetables, if they can go on dates or if they can wear make-up. In the same way, they do not get to make such a major life-changing decision as who they want to live with.

    As children get older, they develop the ability to make better decisions for themselves. Parents start to give children more independence and decision-making powers in line with their level of maturity. In the same way, children's views have more weight as they age. If they have strong views, a judge may want to know what those views are...

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