Legal assistants provide valuable administrative help to lawyers and legal teams working in many different fields. From assisting lawyers working in civil litigation to real estate, family law, corporate law, and more, legal administration assistants have a wide variety of career options to look forward to after graduation.
For those interested in a career as a legal administrative assistant, working within the field of family law can be a rewarding experience. It’s a field that includes many important aspects, such as divorce, common-law relationships, property rights, and child custody or guardianship. In family law, the ultimate goal is to reach a beneficial conclusion for all parties, but especially for the child or children involved.
If you want to become a legal assistant, read on to learn more!
1. There Are Several Different Acts Concerning Family Law
Professionals with a legal administrative assistant diploma may assist a lawyer with paperwork, help write out correspondences, and manage files—among many other duties. For this reason, a keen understanding of law and terminology is a terrific asset. Family law in Canada falls under provincial and federal jurisdiction. For example, the Divorce Act is a federal law that concerns the divorce of married couples, and does not apply to unmarried couples. The Divorce Act is used to help determine child custody and access after a couple’s separation, but also addresses child or spousal support.
The Family Law Act, on the other hand, concerns matters within Alberta between both married and unmarried couples. It works to assign legal guardianship, and outline rules for child support and visitation rights.
2. The Divorce Act Covers Custody and Several Other Matters
Students completing legal administration assistant courses may know that if a couple has a child and is going through the process of divorce, they can file under the federal Divorce Act. This involves establishing custody and access within the terms of the divorce.
Within the Divorce Act, ‘custody’ concerns the care and upbringing involved with the child, such as the ability to make both daily and major decisions about the child. ‘Access’ is not specifically defined, but rather designates the time a child spends with a parent who was not granted primary care.
3. The Family Law Act Covers Guardianship for Married and Unmarried Couples
While the federal government uses the terms ‘custody’ and ‘access’ concerning the care of children, the legislation in Alberta instead refers to ‘guardianship’ when addressing matters of parental rights and responsibilities.
Guardianship means there is a designated person (or people) responsible for the well-being of a child. As students in legal assistant training may know, both parents may act as a child’s guardian, but a guardian doesn’t necessarily have to be the parent of the child. There can even be multiple guardians responsible for their care.
4. Pros with Legal Assistant Training Know That the Child’s Best Interests Come First
In matters of parenting, the judge is instructed by law to only consider the best interests of the child before making a final decision. This helps ensure that their physical, psychological, and emotional safety is protected.
In order to do this, a judge must consider the emotional ties between a child, their guardian (or guardians), as well as the stability of the guardians’ home life, and the parenting plans proposed by the involved parties, among other factors. The judge may also consider the child’s viewpoint and opinions, especially if they are teenagers, although this may not affect the final ruling.
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