Most people want to do what’s right for their children, but not everyone agrees on what that is. And nobody wants to lose access to their kids, or find themselves in a situation where their every interaction is monitored by a third party.
It’s important to understand that while sole custody arrangements are getting rarer, every custody case still needs to be taken seriously. There are no guarantees.
The family law team at Merchant Law’s Surrey office is adept at handling child custody cases. Let us help you protect your kids.
Child Custody Terms
In 2013, British Columbia changed many of the terms most of us are familiar with when discussing these issues. The courts felt “custody” and “access” were more about “winning” or “losing” and were less about the best interests of the child. They also felt the terms put too much focus on parental rights and not enough focus on parental responsibilities.
So when we talk about guardianship we’re talking about the responsibilities both parents have, short of a court order, to care for the child, as well as the abilities to make financial, medical, legal, religious, and educational decisions for that child. Both parents start with guardianship even if they’ve never lived together.
Parenting time is the time both parents spend with the child, under parenting arrangements. This says where the child lives, when they see the other parent, and the circumstances under which the parents may each communicate with and spend time with their child.
But all of this is only true if parents are using the British Columbia Family Law Act to make arrangements. If you are unmarried the BC Family Law act will automatically apply. If you are married, you could address custody issues either under the Family Law act or the Federal Divorce Act. The Federal Divorce act continues to use terms like “custody” and “access” to describe the child’s relationship with parents.
In either case, the judge will be making decisions based on his or her best estimate of the best interests of the child. In either case, unless there is a clear and present danger to the child, the judge will favour arrangements which allow for “reasonable and generous” contact between both parents and their children.
Creating Parenting Plans
The federal government maintains a parenting plan resource. You can use this to help you start developing parenting plans, instead of having to start from scratch. Plans developed by keeping both federal and provincial guidelines at the forefront of your mind are more likely to result in a plan the courts will accept.
You should also remember no two families are alike. 50/50 time may make a lot of sense if you live 10 minutes away and are still within the child’s school district. It may make a lot less sense if one of you lives in Surrey and the other lives in Vancouver. In that case, you might need to let one parent provide the primary home while the other spends time with the child on summer vacations or on holidays.
It’s also worth noting that both parents should probably be given a little time with the child on his or her birthday, and that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day should be left for the appropriate parent. It’s also important to try to navigate transitions at a time that’s not disruptive to either child.
When Safety is an Issue
If you’re getting a divorce because your spouse has been violent or abusive, none of this advice applies. You’ll need protection orders and a strong custody case to protect both you and your children.
You may also need this kind of top notch help when the other parent is engaged with alcohol or drug abuse, or when you know the other parent has the best intentions in the world but he or she has a mental health problem that would impact his or her ability to parent the child.
In these cases, working with a Surrey child custody lawyer is absolutely vital. You need to make sure the judge understands you’re not being malicious. That you are trying to do what’s in your child’s best interests. You need to be able to present evidence that supports your case, knowing these are the cases where the other spouse is likely to fight you every step of the way.
How to Get in Touch With Merchant Law
Our experienced family law team is ready to help you protect your children. If you need help with your child custody case, don’t delay. (604) 609-7777, or stop by 303-304 15127 100th Avenue Vancouver, Surrey, BC V3R 0N9. There’s no cost for your initial consultation.