Child Custody

The co-parenting schedule should be determined based on the children's best interests. It is preferable to avoid percentages of time when developing a plan and stay focused on the best arrangement for all parties considering work, kids, etc. Many parenting plans/agreements refer to the amount of time with each parent as "parenting time." The best way to achieve a co-parenting plan with favourable parenting time is through mediation, as it allows a collaborative approach. The last resort is to leave your family's plan in the hands of the courts. 

Child custody is formerly the term used to define the legal guardianship of children of common law, marriage or otherwise. While still a commonly used term, the word "custody" has been removed from most legislation. Instead, more child-focused terms such as "guardianship" or "decision-making responsibilities" are used. If one party has sole decision-making responsibility or sole guardianship, they have the responsibility for making all major decisions for the children in areas like education, health, religion, etc. To have sole custody would give that guardian complete decision-making authority over the well-being of that child concerning school, health, religion, etc.

It is hard to find specific statistics regarding the number of children in two separate households. Stats Canada reported 42,933 divorces in 2020. We can assume that at least half of those marriages ended involved children, resulting in approximately 21,000 new divorced households with children per year.

While still a commonly used term, the word "custody" has been removed from most legislation. Instead, more child-focused terms such as "guardianship" or "decision-making responsibilities" are used. Child-related laws reside in both federal and provincial law. The Divorce Act will apply if you are married and seeking a divorce. If you are not married or are not seeking a divorce, you will follow the relevant provincial legislation. Regardless of your province, you must demonstrate that guardianship/decision-making, parent responsibilities, parenting schedules, and child support have been dealt with before you will be granted a divorce. Many of the provincial family acts address parenting responsibilities. Regardless, you must address the parenting schedule, where the children will live, who will make decisions, jointly or otherwise and ensure child support is calculated.

A great co-parenting plan requires both parties to set aside any bad feelings and egos and focus 100% on the well-being of the children and their future. Regardless of whether you are still friends with your ex, you can, if disciplined, lay the foundation for good co-parenting. The key is to decide you will not fight and, instead, focus on positive outcomes.

A co-parenting plan is a written document outlining schedules, responsibilities, and communication to help parents raise their children cooperatively and fairly after separation or divorce.

A co-parenting agreement or plan can be very detailed or vague. Most traditional separation agreements tend to specify general terms around joint custody, decision-making, and parenting schedule.

If you are parents faced with challenging parenting decisions or cannot agree on co-parenting decisions, a parenting coordinator can assist you in dealing with various issues. A parenting coordinator has the authority to make parenting decisions within a specific scope by the parties entering into a parenting coordination agreement. The scope is generally limited to day-to-day decisions and cannot override the terms of a court order. A coordinator can assist you in dealing with a variety of issues:

  • Parenting and holiday schedule
  • Selecting medical personnel or professional
  • Education
  • Choice of extracurricular activities
  • Section 7 (extraordinary) expenses
  • Religion
  • Birthday parties
  • General communication strategies