What are parenting orders and contact orders under the Alberta Family Law Act?

The Family Law Act uses the term "parenting orders" instead of "custody or access orders" for guardians of the children. The "custody/access" terminology can create the perception of “winners and losers” in the family law process. To reduce conflict and help eliminate some of the emotional costs of family breakdown, the Family Law Act instead recognizes the responsibility of all guardians (usually parents) to parent the children and gives the ability to the court to distribute the powers, responsibilities and entitlements of guardianship when the guardians are not in agreement.

A parenting order may address parenting issues such as allocation of parenting time and parenting responsibilities between guardians, based on the best interests of the child. There is no reference to custody and access.

A contact order involves contact between the child and persons other than guardians who might be important to the child —such as grandparents. An application for in-person visitation or other contact, such as by telephone or e-mail, can be made if a guardian has denied contact with a child.