‘Parenting time’ is the time a person spends with a child without the other parent or guardian. In court orders, it may be called ‘access’. If you’re not a guardian, your time with the child is called ‘contact’.
To enforce your parenting time for in-person visits, phone calls or electronic communication, you must have a court order that describes when your parenting time is to take place.
An example of how parenting time could be divided is that one parent has parenting time with the child every Wednesday from 5 to 9 pm, and then every second weekend from Friday at 6 pm to Monday at 7 am.
Parenting-time orders made in any court in Alberta, including those made under the Divorce Act, are enforced with the processes described in the How to enforce parenting time through the court section below.
No court order
If you don’t have a court order and the other parent or guardian isn’t allowing you to visit the child:
- first consider the out-of-court solutions to problems with parenting time
- if necessary, apply for the court order that best meets your situation:
Enforcing parenting time can be a complex process. We encourage you to speak with a lawyer.
If you want a lawyer but can’t afford one, you may be able to access legal assistance.
For general information about family law and help with court processes, contact an information coordinator.
The Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS) group provides a range of services that can help you and the other parent or guardian find a solution to your situation.
- Parenting After Separation (PAS)
- Parenting After Separation for Families in High Conflict (PASHC)
- Focus on Communication in Separation (FOCIS)
If your court order does not describe parenting time
Apply to change your current court order:
If your court order describes parenting time
Before you apply
Provincial Court order: If you have an order from Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie or Red Deer, contact a family court counsellor for help in making a court application.
Court of Queen's Bench order: If you have an order from Calgary or Red Deer, contact a family court counsellor for help in making a court application.
For an order from any other city, follow the steps below.
Step 1. Fill out the forms
Forms help: Download our fillable forms to enter your data in them. To get help with filling out a specific form, speak with a court forms information coordinator.
Fill out both of these forms:
Attach a copy of the court order that gives you parenting time.
Step 2. Swear or affirm the forms
Make 2 copies each of your claim and statement, including all the attachments.
Step 3. File your forms
File the forms at the same court, in the same location, where your parenting-time order was granted.
Step 4. Serve the other parent or guardian
The other parent or guardian must be served with your claim and statement in person. They can’t be served by mail.
- serve them yourself
- have a friend or process server serve them
Step 5. Fill out and swear an affidavit
Fill out the Affidavit of Service - Applicant form (0.1 MB).
The person who served the documents must swear or affirm the affidavit before a commissioner for oaths. A court clerk or an information coordinator at a resolution support centre can help with this.
Step 6. File the affidavit
Make one copy of the affidavit and file it at the same court where you filed your claim and statement.
After you file your order
Give a copy of your parenting-time order to the police if the order directs you to do this.
Penalties for denying parenting time
The Family Law Act sets out serious penalties for a person who refuses to follow a court order for parenting time. However, it is up to you to apply to the court to have those penalties applied.
If a child isn’t allowed to visit
The court can order the:
- police to help enforce a visit
- parent or guardian who didn’t allow a visit to:
- provide make-up visits
- post security (often called a deposit) and then lose it if future parenting time is denied
- pay money to you for expenses that you’ve had relating to the visit
- pay a penalty of up to $100 per day of denied parenting time
- go to jail
If a child isn’t returned after a visit
The court can order the:
- police to find and return the child to you
- person who didn’t return the child to:
- post security (often called a deposit) and then lose it if they refuse to return the child in the future
- pay money to you for expenses that you’ve had because the child was not returned
- pay a penalty of up to $100 per day that the child was not returned
- go to jail
Safe child exchanges
If you and the other parent or guardian argue when you exchange a child for a visit, do the exchange:
- in a child-friendly, public place like a fast-food restaurant or public library
- at a childcare facility, with one of you dropping the child off and other picking them up
- outside a home, with one of you staying in the car and the other staying in the home as the child walks between you
To help make child exchanges easier, use any of the free services listed in the Out-of-court solutions to problems with parenting time section above.
If your court order allows you to have only supervised visits with a child, these organizations may be able to arrange a visit.
The Children’s Services ministry oversees safe visitation pilot sites in these communities:
- Fort McMurray
- Grande Prairie
- Red Deer
You can’t contact Children’s Services to arrange a supervised visit. The ministry only coordinates these visits through its community partners:
- justice programs
- family violence programs like emergency women’s shelters
The following are some organizations in Alberta you can contact to arrange a supervised visit: