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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic discusses contact rights of a non-guardian, which includes grandparents, relatives or friends to a child.
Many non-guardians, such as grandparents and extended family members, play important roles throughout a child’s life. However, when parents are separated or one of the parents is deceased, non-guardians may be denied access to the child.
Negotiation or mediation with the guardians should be the first option. If you do not wish to give up a relationship you had with a child, you should first speak to the parent of the child who has custody and try to reach some kind of agreement for contact. This is always the best alternative as arrangements for the visits can be made to suit you both.
Non-guardians can apply to Court for a Contact Order permitting the applicant to have “contact” with a child if an agreement cannot be reached with the guardians. A Contact Order is for non-guardians and addresses the ability of grandparents and others who are not guardians to spend time with a child.
According to the Family Law Act, grandparents have an unrestricted right to apply for contact with grandchildren. Parents who are non-guardians and persons standing in the place of parents (e.g., step parents) may also have such an unrestricted right to apply for a Contact Order. Other non-guardians must have permission from the Court before bringing an application. An application for permission to bring an application for a Contact Order must be served on the child’s guardians and the child, if he or she is over 16 years of age.
Before making the Contact Order, the Court must consider whether:
- Contact would be in the best interest of the child
- The child’s physical, mental or emotional health if contact is denied
- The guardians’ denial of contact is unreasonable
If you wish to apply for a Contact Order, please call the Family Law Information Centre to obtain the necessary forms. Their number in Calgary is 403-476-4744 and they are located on the main floor of the Courthouse. You can also obtain these forms online through the Alberta Courts website.
Grandparents may receive support from the Canadian Grandparent’s Rights Association. This is a support group that offers guidance to grandparents and families who are denied access to grandchildren in cases of family separation. You may call this support group located in Calgary at 403-284-3387.