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When parents of minors are separating or divorcing, one of the most challenging yet important goals the parents have will be to maintain a positive and productive dynamic for the sake of the children. The focus of all family law litigation, court decisions, and alternative dispute resolution proceedings when there are children involved is to prioritize the best interests of the children in order to minimize trauma or other negative impacts of separation on the kids at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. 

One of the steps the province of Alberta has taken to help in this effort is to create a parenting seminar available to all parents who plan to share parenting duties post-separation. The course, Parenting After Separation, is offered online to reduce barriers for those unable to attend in person. It is aimed at providing parents with the information and tools they need to work together as parents to their children. For those who are unable to even communicate with one another due to strong negative emotions, the province offers a follow-up course called Parenting After Separation for High Conflict Families. Below, we’ll provide an overview of what parents can expect from both courses.

What is Alberta’s Parenting After Separation Course?

The Parenting After Separation Course is made available by Alberta Justice and Alberta Court Systems to provide parents with the tools and skills to co-parent their children after a separation effectively. The course is free and available online for anyone to take at their convenience; however, it is mandatory in certain situations. The course must be completed by parents before they file a divorce application or any parenting application under the Family Law Act in the Alberta Court of King’s Bench (formerly the Court of Queen’s Bench), or if they are ordered to complete it by a judge. 

The course can be completed entirely online (see here) and takes approximately 3 hours from start to finish. Once completed, the parent will be provided with a digital badge to indicate their participation. 

The course is divided into four sections, as follows:

  1. Relationship Building Blocks
  2. Children Can Cope with Separation and Divorce
  3. Learning Your Way Around the Legal System
  4. Parenting Plans That Work for Your Family

The course is aimed at helping co-parents provide a stable and consistent environment for their children as the family adjusts to the new circumstances of living apart and beyond. The goals of the program are to: 

  • Help parents better understand what their children are going through and their needs throughout the divorce or separation process.
  • Help each parent maintain a strong relationship with their children during and post-divorce or separation.
  • Help parents understand the various emotional, financial, and legal challenges presented by co-parenting.
  • Guide parents on how to prepare a comprehensive parenting plan that works for their family.
  • Provide an overview of the various alternatives to litigation in court, including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law. 

Of course, each party’s family lawyer can also address much of this information, especially the topics relating to the legal aspects of co-parenting and managing a divorce or separation. However, the course will help provide a solid big-picture overview of the various issues parents must contemplate as they move through the separation process. 

Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict Course & Parallel Parenting

Ideally, parents will be able to remain at least amicable or civil throughout a separation; however, this is unfortunately not always the case. The nature of separation, and the factors which may lead up to it, mean that there are often strong emotions on all sides. With the understanding that the Parenting After Separation course may not adequately address these circumstances, the province also offers second-course parents can take called Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict (PASHC). This course would be taken after completing the original course, and as with the first one, it is available for free and online

The PASHC course is aimed at addressing co-parenting needs unique to situations where parents have intense or long-lasting conflict, which impacts their ability to effectively communicate with one another, which is a necessity when co-parenting children. 

The goals of the PASCH course are as follows:

  • Helping parents understand how a high-conflict separation can impact their children and the benefits of reducing conflict for each member of the family.
  • Reviewing how specific types of conflict can be particularly toxic and stressful for children.
  • Understanding the importance of managing emotions, disengaging when necessary, and setting personal boundaries.
  • Helping parents in high conflict situations create a parallel parenting plan. 

What is a Parallel Parenting Plan?

Parallel parenting is an approach which allows parents who are unable to communicate or spend time with one another to share involvement in their children’s lives while allowing for minimal interaction between the parents. Unlike co-parenting, where the parents will regularly communicate about their children and make decisions together, parallel parenting enables each parent to maintain a healthy and strong relationship with their child while maintaining distance from one another. This means that parents will often not attend the same functions, make decisions on their own when the children are in their care, and only communicate with the other parent when necessary. For parents unable to communicate without heated emotions, this can be the most effective way to move forward and maintain a stable environment for the children. 

When Should Parents Take the Course?

As mentioned earlier, some parents may be required to take the course as part of their family litigation. However, since it is available at any time, parents should consider taking one or both of these courses early in the separation process or even before they make the separation official. The seminar can help raise awareness around issues the parents had not previously contemplated, allowing them to discuss how they plan to approach co-parenting from an emotional standpoint and ways they work together to help provide consistency and security for their children. It can also help identify issues that will need to be considered from a legal standpoint, which can be useful in creating a list of issues to discuss with each party’s respective lawyers once they move into the legal process.  

Contact the Family Lawyers at Mincher Koeman for Skilled Representation in Parenting Matters

At Mincher Koeman, we practice family law exclusively. Our divorce lawyers have represented clients in all types of matters regarding decision-making ability and parenting time, ranging from amicable to high conflict. We will provide each client with a full picture of their rights and obligations with respect to the care of their child or children and provide experienced advocacy in court if necessary. We have built our practice to ensure that each client receives first-rate client service and will always be sure to steer clients towards the most efficient resolution of their matter, keeping costs down whenever possible. To discuss your matter with a family lawyer, contact our firm by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.

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Calgary, AB T2P 3H6

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