The team at Merchant Law is fully prepared to help you protect your relationship with your children during the course of your divorce. Our job is to help you look out for the best interests of your children throughout the process.
The first thing you should know is that British Columbia no longer speaks about child custody and access. Instead, they develop parenting orders and address two key issues: decision-making responsibility, and parenting time. In most cases, the courts want to see parents working together to foster a relationship between the child and both parents.
In British Columbia family law, each parent is considered to be a “guardian,” and that guardianship conveys certain responsibilities. A person can also become a “guardian” through other legal processes; if that is the case they would have the same rights as parents would in these proceedings.
Understanding where the courts are coming from can help you have realistic expectations about what is possible during the divorce process.
Decision Making Responsibility
Both guardians typically start with the responsibility to make certain decisions for their children. These include:
- Medical decisions
- Educational decisions
- Decisions about religious and cultural training
During a divorce, this decision making power can be divided up several ways. The most common way is for both parents to retain 50% decision-making responsibility. This means the parents must consult with each other on any of these major issues.
Another method is to assign each parent a specific area of responsibility. For example, one parent may be the sole decision maker on education while the other may be the sole decision maker on health care decisions.
What about the day-to-day decisions such as what the child eats, what time the child goes to bed, when the child must do homework, and what rules the child must follow? Guardians may always make these decisions while the child is staying with them. If you have unsupervised parenting time, you can generally assume that you have the right and responsibility to be a parent while your child is with you.
Parenting time is the time that the child is physically with either parent. It covers the time that the child is staying at the parent’s house.
In cases where neither parent presents a clear and present danger to the child the courts generally prefer for children to receive something close to 50% time with each parent. Thus “custody” is a bit anachronistic. However, there are cases where the balance of parenting time does turn one parent into the “primary residential parent.”
In cases where there has been a history of neglect, abuse, drug, or alcohol use the courts may reduce the dangerous parent’s time a great deal. The court will usually order supervised parenting time in these cases. A parent with supervised parenting time usually will not have any overnight time with the child, and the courts will require that all visits take place under the watchful eye of a professional monitor who is paid to supervise visits while fostering a relationship between a child and their most problematic parent.
In all cases, parenting time is awareded based upon the best interests of the child, not the convenience or the wishes of either parent. The research is very clear that most children do better when they get the opportunity to form strong bonds with each parent. When crafting your divorce settlement it is very important to keep this in mind. Attempts to unfairly reduce the amount of time that your child gets with the other parent can even backfire, as family court judges look hard at whether a parent is ready and willing to foster a relationship between their child and their ex.
Most children have people in their lives, besides their parents, who are important to them. Examples could include grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
“Contact” refers to a portion of a parenting order that makes provisions for the child to see these people. Guardians cannot, generally, demand that the ex’s grandparents be cut out of the child’s life, for example, without a pressing and provable reason to do so.
Parenting orders are the orders that will result when your divorce decree is finalized. These orders will cover all of the major issues of co-parenting your child, including:
- Decision-making responsibility
- Parenting time
- Pick up and drop off procedures
- Provisions for holidays, birthdays, and other special days
- Information about who pays for travel
- Any other guidelines or requirements which might help the parents see to the child’s needs or co-parent better.
As your family law lawyers we will work hard to ensure that your parenting orders are thorough, fair, and workable. We encourage most of our clients to negotiate the terms of these orders whenever possible, as only you and your ex truly understand the needs of your family and your children. If parents are unable to come to an agreement, then the family court judge will decide how the parenting orders are drafted.
Why trust Merchant Law with your parenting orders?
Founding partner Anthony Merchant is the Associate Editor of the Carswell Reports of Family Law. He’s also been published extensively in the Canadian Family Law Quarterly. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Canadian Journal of Family Law, as well as of The Family Law Journal.
Many of our member lawyers have also been published in all of these prestigious journals.
Anthony Merchant combines this background with thousands of hours of practical case experience, as do all of our lawyers. In addition, most of our divorce lawyers have also worked in our real estate and business law divisions.
Most of our lawyers have 20 to 30 years of experience. And we work as a team, which means even our youngest family lawyers will have access to a wealth of experience and understanding that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other law firm.
We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and some of her toughest litigators. We also provide ongoing legal support and court order modifications for families who have to return to court multiple times to address long-standing co-parenting issues.
Call (604) 394-2777 to schedule your case review and to get paired with your own dedicated family law lawyer.