Co-Parenting and Custody

Talk to us today if you cannot agree on co-parenting decisions or if you feel you are not getting the time you are entitled to. 

In Canada, sole custody is very seldom awarded except in very extreme cases. The trend is moving away from the word “custody” and moving towards terms like; shared parenting, residential care, etc.

The most common result in divorce applications where there are dependent children is “joint custody,” and then residential care further defines where the children will spend their time. Regardless of which term is used, each jurisdictions focus is on the best interests of the child.

It is hard to find specific statistics with regards to the number of children with two separate households. The last divorce stats were by Stats Canada in the 2005 and had quoted 71,269 divorces filed. We can assume that at least half of those had children resulting in approximately 35,000 new divorced households per year.

The Department of Justice sets out that between 1991 and 2011, approximately 5 million Canadians separated or divorced. Out of these, 38% had a child together at the time of their separation. These stats reconfirm how prevalent divorces are and how many children are impacted.

Matters of guardianship reside in both parts of the federal law and provincial law. Regardless of what province you are in, you must demonstrate that custody 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 residential care, 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 ego and focus 100% on the wellbeing 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 are not going to fight and instead focus on great outcomes.

You need to avoid:

  • Using children for position bargaining – financial control vs. parenting control

  • Designing a shared parenting plan around percentages (who get them for what percentage) – think rather what works for the entire new family structure

  • Using child assessment reports to decide how your children will be raised – this should be your decision!

  • Turning the parenting into a blame game and feeling like divorce is a crime vs. just realizing that it is sad and only one event in your life, it need not define your life

  • Bad mouthing the other parent and making them look bad – remember your children are half them too

A co-parenting agreement or plan can be either very detailed or vague. Most traditional separation agreements tend to set out general agreements around joint custody, decision making, and residential care.

Many parents are deciding to place more attention and discussion around the details in their parenting plan to avoid any future conflict or confusion. These plans can vary in cost and detail.

Child custody is the term used to define the legal guardianship of children of either common law, marriage or otherwise. To have sole custody would give that guardian complete decision-making authority over the well-being of that child with regards to school, health, religion, etc.