The new Family Law Act came into effect on March 18, 2013. It introduced a myriad of changes to the family law framework in British Columbia. The Act has imposed significant changes to the way that family law is practiced, which will directly impact your rights, obligations and expectations. For example, here are some important changes with respect to parenting:
- Best interests of the children: Whereas the best interests of the child was formerly only one of many factors that courts, arbitrators, and parenting coordinators considered in parenting disputes, pursuant to the Family Law Act, the best interests of the child is now the only factor to be considered when parenting arrangements or orders are made
- Language changes: Under the Family Law Act, the words custody and access are no longer used. Instead, these terms have been replaced with the following:
- Guardianship: A guardian is a person who is responsible for caring for and making decisions for a child. Parents who live together after their child is born are both automatically the child’s guardians. If the parents decide to separate, they will both continue to be the child’s guardian, subject to a court order or agreement that states otherwise. However, if a parent has never lived with the child, then that parent is not a guardian of the child, unless he or she regularly cares for the child or is appointed as a guardian by a court order or agreement with the child’s other guardian.
- Parental responsibilities: This term coined by the Family Law Act that describes the decisions that a guardian makes for a child. These include daily, ordinary decisions as well as significant decisions that concern a child’s religion, education, health care, residence, etc.
- Parenting time: This term under the Family Law Act that describes the time that a guardian spends with a child.
- Contact: This term was introduced by the Family Law Act that describes the time that a person who is not a guardian of the child spends with the child. It is important to note that if a person only has contact with a child, then that person is not a guardian and does not have parental responsibilities.
- Parenting arrangements: Pursuant to the Family Law Act, this term refers to the arrangements that guardians make for sharing parental responsibilities and parenting time.
Establishing the best interests of children can be one of the most challenging issues arising from divorce or separation. If parents are unable to decide where the children will live, how often each parent will have access to the children, and how decisions about the children will be made in the future, then the courts will make an order.
Child custody decisions in divorce and family law disputes include the child’s residence, time spent with each parent, the child’s education, medical attention, religion and general upbringing.
Child guardianship is usually the most important issue involved in the breakdown of a relationship.
All of the adults involved have a duty to ensure that we place the best interests of the children at the forefront. The parents have to deal with the issue of parenting arrangements.
Some parents feel that it is in the children’s best interests to have a primary residence with one parent and for the children to visit with the other parent on alternate weekends and perhaps one evening during the week.
Some parents feel that it is in the children’s best interests to have a shared parenting arrangement, with the children spending approximately equal time with each parent.
Sometimes, the court will ask for an assessment by a professional, typically a psychologist, agreed to by both parents and appointed by the court. The assessor interviews both parents and extended family members to determine the best living arrangement for the child or children.
During this process sometimes other professionals are involved and will provide their input. They might include the family doctor, a counsellor or therapist, the children’s teachers and other professionals involved with the children.
The assessment report is submitted with a recommendation as to who should be the custodial parent and when the children should reside with their respective parents.
To schedule a consultation, contact Quay Law Centre at 604-527-1161. From our multiple offices, we represent clients in the Metro-Vancouver area, including Surrey, Fraser Valley, Tri-Cities, Burnaby, Kelowna, and any other area throughout British Columbia, Canada and internationally.