Calgary Herald

April 15, 2000

"Non-custodial parents cautious"

By Gina Teel - Edmonton
Calgary Herald

Parents who fail to live up to the terms of their child custody and access orders now face fines up to $5,000.00 and jail terms of up to 90 days.

Failure to comply with the Family Laws Statutes Amendment Act, which came into effect Friday, can also result in bonds to ensure access is provided and police assistance in gaining access. It also provides greater court access through extending enforcement jurisdiction to the provincial court.

But non-custodial parents' groups say the act doesn't go far enough. "It is a start to recognizing that a child has a right to both parents and shouldn't be used as a power pawn between two parents," said Mike LaBerge, president of the Calgary chapter of the Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society. "But it doesn't go far enough in putting more money and emphasis on parenting plans." The act is consistent with recommendations made in the MLA Review of the Maintenance Enforcement Program and Child Access, which addressed Albertans' concerns about current remedies for breaches of child access to parents and other family members.

Marlene Graham, MLA for Calgary-Lougheed, led the review. She said the act provides the court with the tools to better address a breach in access order. Matters can now be heard in 38 of the 74 provincial court locations as well as the 13 Court of Queen's Bench locations.

Courts are now also required to give reasons for their decisions under the act. Prior to the act, in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench the only choice in breach of access orders was to file a contempt of court application, which led to a fine or imprisonment. The only choice in provincial court was to charge the non-complying parent.

Graham said that because neither action favored the welfare of the child, judges would usually just admonish the parent.

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