Children are a couple’s primary worry throughout a separation or divorce. When it comes to child custody, Canada’s courts are focused on one thing: the children’s best interests. At RPB Family Law, our experienced family lawyers in Ottawa understand that a child custody dispute can be one of the most emotionally exhausting aspects of a divorce or separation for both parents, and thus we work hard to help you reach an agreement that makes you feel comfortable, and makes your child feel loved, supported, and above all safe.
Our team of lawyers proudly serves families in Ottawa and all nearby cities including Hull, Rockcliffe Park, Gloucester, Gatineau, Uplands, and Kanata. Reach out for us today and get the help you need!
What is Parenting Time and Decision-Making Responsibility?
Within family law, parenting time, also known as access, is the right to visit or be visited by your children. Parenting time includes the right to know about your child’s health, education and wellbeing. Decision-making responsibility, also known as child custody, is when a parent has the right to make decisions about how to care for their child.
Types of Parenting Arrangements
Parenting arrangements differ from one divorce situation to another, you can agree on these arrangements informally with the other parent and put together a parenting plan, or it can be part of your separation agreement.
In certain cases, when you cannot agree on a parenting time arrangement, you can go to court to have a judge decide and issue a parenting order. A parenting order is a legally enforceable order that determines the parenting time for each parent. Within a parenting order, a judge can decide things such as who will get the decision-making responsibility, who the children will live with, and what the parenting schedule is.
Below are the types of parenting arrangements you can adopt:
- Shared parenting time, under the Federal Child Support Guidelines (“Guidelines“), this is where a child lives at least 40% of the time with each parent.
- Split parenting time is when parents have more than one child and each parent has one or more children living with them for the majority of the time (more than 60% of the time). It is important to note that parenting arrangement will directly impact the child support calculation.
- Fixed (specified) parenting time is when parents follow a schedule with regular set times of visitation. The terms of parenting time can include holidays, long weekends, a child(ren)’s birthdays and religious occasions. It is important to note here that the schedule of access is determined based on the best interests of the child (see below for definition).
In contrast, reasonable parenting time allow parents, who are able to co-operate, to have the flexibility to make arrangements that can be changed depending on the situation. It is rare that a judge would order reasonable parenting time.
- Supervised parenting time may be ordered if there are issues of safety concerning the child. Supervision implies that visits with the child would occur in the presence of a 3rd party.
The Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a document that contains the elements relating to parenting time, decision-making responsibility, or contact to which the parties agree. It is a particularly useful tool for preventing conflict between parents. Pursuant to s. 16.6(1) of the Divorce Act as well as s. 28(7) of the Children’s Law Reform Act, a court will include a parenting plan submitted by the parties in a court order unless the court considers it is not in the best interest of the child to do so. In this case, a court can make the appropriate modifications to the parenting plan.
How is parenting time decided?
A court will use the “best interest of the child” test to determine parenting time. As explained by Justice Laws Website, the court will assess the following:
(a) the child’s needs, given the child’s age and stage of development, such as the child’s need for stability;
(b) the nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each parent, each of the child’s siblings and grandparents and any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;
(c) each parent’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent;
(d) the history of care of the child;
(e) the child’s views and preferences, giving due weight to the child’s age and maturity, unless they cannot be ascertained;
(f) the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including Indigenous upbringing and heritage;
(g) any plans for the child’s care;
(h) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to care for and meet the needs of the child;
(i) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to communicate and co-operate, in particular with one another, on matters affecting the child;
(j) any family violence and its impact on, among other things,
(i) the ability and willingness of any person who engaged in the family violence to care for and meet the needs of the child, and
(ii) the appropriateness of making an order that would require persons in respect of whom the order would apply to co-operate on issues affecting the child; and
(k) any civil or criminal proceeding, order, condition or measure that is relevant to the safety, security and well-being of the child. 2020, c. 25, Sched. 1, s. 6.
Let Our Experienced Ottawa Lawyers Represent You in Court
Arranging parenting time can be a stressful and complicated process. If you reside in Ottawa or nearby cities, you can consult our family lawyers, we can help you understand your options, go through the legal process, and represent you in court. We are happy to represent you in negotiation, mediation, or arbitration to find a solution that both parents can agree upon. Call us today and get the representation you deserve.