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What is shared parenting?

As a divorce and family lawyer in Calgary, I am frequently asked: What is meant by shared parenting and how may it affect me?

From my experience, people want to know how shared parenting will affect custody and access, parenting and child support. They usually do so when they are involved in a separation or a divorce.

Both the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines make reference to either shared access/physical custody or shared parenting. To avoid any confusion, I shall simply refer to shared parenting.

Shared parenting occurs when each parent has at least 40% of the time with a child. This is calculated over the course of a year. Some cases have stated that hours are to be counted, other cases have stated that days are to be counted.

In either case, it affects the amount of base child support that the parents are liable for. If there is no shared parenting, only one parent is responsible for the payment of base child support to the other. If there is shared parenting, both parents are responsible for the payment of base child support to the other, although agreements and orders are frequently drafted so that only the "offset" amount is paid by one parent to the other.

The parents' liabilities for section 7 expenses are not normally affected by shared parenting.

Clearly, shared parenting will also have a bearing on how much time each parent spends with a child, but that is the case irrespective of whether the parents exercise a shared parenting regime, or a non-shared parenting regime.

Because of the effect upon child support, many Courts are suspicious of a parent that seeks to change a previous parenting regime when the result of the change is shared parenting, and it can be difficult to persuade the Court that the reason for the change is anything other than to reduce the base child support payable.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact me on 403-538-2105, or via email here.

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