What is the best parenting arrangement for my children?
At Herr Law Group, the primary focus is on your child’s right to grow up in the best environment possible. Our lawyers know that the BC Family Law Act reiterates the best interest of children test as the sole consideration in deciding the care, parenting time and responsibilities, guardianship and access and contact for the children. When parents and the court decide what’s in the child’s best interest, the following criteria will be considered:
- The child’s health and emotional well-being;
- The child’s views, unless it’s inappropriate to consider them;
- The love and affection between the child and other important people in the child’s life;
- The child’s need for stability at his or her age and stage of development;
- The history of the child’s care;
- The ability of parents or others who want guardianship, parenting time, or contact to look after the child;
- The effect of any family violence on the child’s safety, security, and well-being;
- Whether arrangements that require the child’s guardians to cooperate with each other are appropriate.
Recently, the courts have focused on the right of the child to have a “voice but not the sole choice” in parenting time disputes. The weight given to the voice of the child depends on age and maturity; and whether the child has been improperly influenced. Listening to the child is expected to help provide a better outcome.
Parents arranging the best parenting plans for their children should focus on both the environment and the opportunities for the children. Parents must ask themselves:
- Does my home or my ex-partner’s home provide the best living condition for our children?
- What are some activities or schools in my area that would benefit our children?
- Why would my children benefit from living with me more than living with my ex-partner?
- Who has more time to spend with the children?
- Who can provide more support and stability?
- Who can be a better role model and why?
- What can parents do to be better parents so their children thrive?
Parents are advised to be specific and to give specific examples of the above. They are also advised not to talk about their ideas or beliefs, and instead, talk about facts and instances. In BC child custody and parenting arrangements, parents have to show the judge that they have thought about their children’s future and have a concrete plan for their children’s upbringing which is child focused. A key factor is to ensure the child’s needs come first.
What are the different types of child parenting plans (custody) in BC?
The Family Law Act in British Columbia revised terminology as a way to reduce conflict between separating and divorcing parents. One of those terms, “custody”, is no longer used. It is now referred to as parenting time, parenting responsibilities or parenting arrangements. There is currently a bill before Parliament to change the custody and access terms under the Divorce Act to match the Family Law Act wording. There are several types of parenting arrangements in BC:
Primary parenting time (Sole custody) — one parent has the legal responsibility for caring for and making all decisions about a child. The child lives primarily with that parent.
Shared parenting time (Joint custody) — both parents share the rights and responsibilities for their children. The children can live with both parents or mostly with one parent, and both parents make decisions about the children. A form of joint custody is shared custody, where each parent is responsible for the child or children for at least 40 percent of the time.
Split parenting time (split custody) — There are at least two children, and one or more of them live with one parent, and one or more of the other children live with the other parent (that is, the children are split up).
Our Family Law Act states in longer relationships both parents are presumed guardians on separation. In brief relationships, the father is not automatically entitled to be a guardian until they can apply to become one.
Having joint parental responsibilities means that you should consult the other parent about major decisions that affect your child. These types of decisions may include the child’s education, extracurricular activities, including the nature, extent and location; religion, culture, healthcare decisions and exercising any other responsibilities reasonably necessary to nurture the child’s development.
When disagreements arise, the court may make a decision on your behalf or you may have to seek the assistance of a parenting coordinator.
How can I get primary control of parenting time for my children?
It is one thing to say you are a great parent. However, it is imperative that you, as a parent, are able to show it. Family court judges want to see concrete evidence that a parent has significant involvement in their child’s life.
This can be accomplished by attending all parent/teacher conferences and by volunteering in your child’s activities. Do you know your child’s doctor, dentist and teachers? Using a journal or calendar, document the quality time spent with your child. Keep track of parenting time for both you and your soon to be ex. As an example; your children’s school report cards and attendance records will show if the other parent is not getting the child to school on time, or if there are too many absentee days, or if grades are slipping.
Do not throw away Father’s day, Mother’s day and birthday greeting cards from your children, as those are indicators of how the child feels about you. Keep a record of any missed or denied access dates. If one parent skips parenting time with the child, it shows disinterest, or a lack of caring. Also, if one parent denies access, it shows that parent is not caring for the child’s well-being by denying the child quality time with the other parent.
What if there are safety concerns?
The Family Law Act requires the court to focus on preventing family violence. For children, having and maintaining a relationship with both parents is vital to their development. However, it is also important that all family members feel safe in their environments. Children must be protected from physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse. Neglect is also considered a form of abuse. Supervised parenting time or access and use of the court may be required to protect to your child from harm.
Supervised child access cases often involve high conflict and hotly disputed allegations on both sides. Cases may involve drug and alcohol abuse, physical and mental abuse, family violence issues, mental health issues, borderline personality disorders and sexual abuse allegations. When a judge hears these allegations they err on the side of caution until a more thorough investigation has been completed.
Herr Law Group has experience in obtaining protection orders, including a rare lifetime protection order. Our lawyers understand the complexities of all forms of child/spousal abuse as well as the other side of the coin: false accusations. BC child custody cases that involve abuse are extremely difficult for the victims and children. Our lawyers screen for family violence and have zero tolerance for it. Do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced legal team for help and protection.
If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 911.
What’s the difference between parenting time and access?
Herr Law Group’s expert lawyers handle hundreds of child parenting time, child parenting responsibilities and child access and contact cases. It’s important for both parents to understand the legal definitions for two of the more prevalent terms: “parenting time” and “access.”
Parenting time is defined as the time a parent is entitled to have with the child under an order or an agreement. In BC, only a guardian can have parenting time. During parenting time, a guardian is responsible for the care and supervision of the child and makes day-to-day decisions about the child. Parenting time must be decided on the basis of the best interests of the child. This could mean that parenting time is equally shared, that the child lives only with one guardian, or anything in between.
Under the Divorce Act, access is the word used to describe the time a parent without custody spends with the children who live with the other parent. Access can also apply to other people who do not have custody such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives. If you’re not a guardian, you don’t have parenting time, you have contact.
Contact can be further broken down into “specified” or “supervised” or “conditional” access. Specified access describes a specific amount, i.e., access, every other weekend, from 3pm Friday to 5pm Sunday, or Christmas Eve access with Dad, Christmas Day with Mom.
A court may order, or parents may agree to supervised access when the well-being of the child is a concern. Parents can agree or a court will order a person to act as supervisor, whether it be a trusted mutual contact or an agency appointed supervisor.
What is a fertility agreement?
Whether you are LGBTQ, heterosexual, wanting to have children on your own or with more than one person, people have many reasons for choosing to use assisted reproductive technologies (ART), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and the assistance of a surrogate. However, this can create issues revolving around the embryo and the offspring.
We will prepare any enforceable agreements that you require for:
- Ova/egg donor agreements;
- Sperm donor agreements;
- Gamete donor agreements;
- Frozen embryo donations;
- Multi-parent arrangements;
- Traditional surrogacy;
- Gestational surrogacy.
Do I need a legal agreement before ART or IVF conception of a child?
Many provinces in Canada require a written agreement before conception utilizing ART or IVR. If you already have frozen genetic materials (eggs or sperm) or embryos, ensure you can have your wishes respected regarding any frozen genetic material after separating, divorce, incapacitation or death.