Child Custody, Access & Parenting Time
The primary factor in custody or parenting time is what is in the best interests of the children. The court is not going to give consideration to the needs or preferences of the parents. The best interests of the children involves looking at the big picture including factors like the historical parenting arrangements, who the children are most comfortable with, their emotional needs, their physical needs, their educational needs, maintaining contact with extended family members and their community, what the children may want and if there are any mental health issues or abuse.
When lawyers and judges speak about custody, sometimes this creates confusion because the definition of custody also includes decision-making authority. That is why many lawyers and judges now use the term parenting time to specifically refer to time with children, but his can also be called access.
The Best Interests of the Child
Parenting time can be structured in any way that meets the best interests of the children. Sometimes this is shared parenting where the children spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other. Sometimes one parent has the children most of the time and the other sees them every second weekend and for half of the holidays. Sometimes one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with the other parent in a split custody arrangement.
Decision-making authority over children can be called custody or guardianship. Many times parents are able to work together successfully and they share joint custody/guardianship so that both share in all major decisions in the children’s lives. However, sometimes this is impractical because one parent lives far away or because the parents simply cannot get along well enough to effectively communicate with each other. In these cases, the court may be inclined to order sole custody so that one parent has final decision-making.
Special Circumstances in Custody Cases
When one parent wants to relocate the children to another city it is often contested. However, the best interests of the children are again considered and the court will look at all of the opportunities in the new community but maintaining relationships with both parents is very important. The court is also very reluctant to separate children from the parent who has been the primary caregiver.
There are also incidents where one parent abducts the children and takes them to another country. In this situation the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction comes into play and an application will be brought in court in the foreign country to return the children. There are some exceptions, but most often the children are returned to the country that they were taken from. Also, there are countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention and parents must be extra cautious in agreeing for the children to travel to any of these countries.
- Read more from our resources section on Child Custody.
Our Approach at Crossroads Law
At Crossroads Law, our lawyers excel in custody and parenting cases. We understand that it is important for parents to minimize their conflict in order to reduce any negative impacts on the children. Children are more perceptive than we often give them credit for, and they are sensitive to conflict between parents even when it seems to be hidden from them. That is why for most custody and parenting cases we attempt alternative dispute resolution like mediation before going to court. However, we also understand that in some circumstances an aggressive strategy in court is required and we have a history of success with these cases in the family court system.
For a FREE initial consultation on a custody or parenting case, please reach out to us.
Yes, a child's preference can play a role in determining custody and parenting time/access decisions in both BC and Alberta. Courts will consider the child's views and preferences, especially if the child is of an age and maturity where it's appropriate to do so. However, the child's preference is just one of many factors the court will consider. The overriding concern will always be the child's best interests.
In both BC and Alberta, the primary consideration when determining child custody and parenting time/access is the best interests of the child.
Child custody and parenting time/access are two distinct concepts in family law, though they often intersect.
The term "best interests of the child" is a comprehensive evaluation that includes factors like historical parenting arrangements, emotional and physical needs, educational requirements, and maintaining contact with extended family and community.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Child Custody, Access and Parenting Time Legal Resources
Blended families have become quite common in today’s society. According to a 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth, 20% of children who have experienced parental separation or divorce, live with a stepparent - that equates to over 237,000 Canadian kids.
The abduction of a child is a nightmare for any parent. When such a tragedy occurs across international borders, the complexities of legal jurisdiction and cultural differences can further exacerbate the anguish.