Legal Studies 1030

Section 2 - The Law and the Best Interests of Children

Lesson 9 - Guardianship and Adoption

Sometimes biological parents are unable to adequately provide for their children, and if this is the case, there are options. Once such option is putting their child up for adoption. Those who choose to adopt a child must go through a legal process so that they can raise the child as their own.

In an adoption, the relationship between the biological parents and the child is legally terminated. The biological parents are no longer required to provide financial support, nor do they have any other rights and responsibilities regarding the child.

A guardian is a person or persons who have legal authority over a child. A parent is considered a guardian. However, there are other types of guardians as well. For example, guardianships are appropriate in cases where a child needs temporary supervision until a more permanent placement can be established. This type of guardian can range from a friend or family member to a foster home or orphanage.

Guardianships are also common when the parents pass away unexpectedly and leave behind minor children that must be cared for. In this instance, the guardians have usually been pre-chosen by the parents and are designated in the will.

In Alberta, Alberta's Family Law Act enables a non-parent to apply for a court order that makes the non-parent a child's legal guardian. The court does not give a guardianship order automatically. The court will only give that order if the non-parent is an adult and has had the care and control of the child for more than six months, unless that requirement is waived. Even if the non-parent passes that six month test, the court has the power to not grant a guardianship order. The judge must consider other things, especially the child's best interests. If it is not in the child's best interests to have the non-parent as guardian, the judge will not grant the guardianship order.

Under Alberta's Family Law Act, a guardian has these responsibilities:

  • To support the child using the guardian(s) own money;
  • To make sure the child has all the necessary things of life including medical care, food, clothing and housing;
  • To help the child grow - physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and to guide the child towards becoming an independent adult.