Every parent has the right to be in their child’s life. In British Columbia, custody of children is called guardianship and this speaks to any non-married individuals who share the responsibility of raising children together but apart. Through Canadian family law, however, if joint custody of their children is not shared after divorce the parent who does not have child custody still has visiting rights. Provincial legislation makes decisions about access to children for the couple if they are in a long-term common-law relationship or are separating. This typically results in the creation of a Parenting Plan with the best interests of the child in mind. The hope is that this plan will help guide the parents on navigating their hew co-parenting relationship because the end of a relationship can be difficult on all parties involved but especially the children who require support during their most formative years.
If the parents have a good relationship with one another the Parenting Plan can be easier to decide what child visitation looks like for them. This arrangement can change with time as new things arise throughout the co-parenting relationship such as a change in schedules or moving further away. Life circumstances do change and it’s great to have a positive and supportive working relationship with your co-parent because flexibility is important with the inevitable change in life. If however, the parents cannot come to an agreement, a judge may have to step in and make decisions for them.
It’s important to note that a judge rarely denies parental visitation rights and will only do so if they believe the child might be in danger. Even so, there is still an opportunity for this noncustodial parent to have access to their children in a supervised manner. This may be because the noncustodial parent is exhibiting signs of mental illness that may cause harm to the child or they have a history of violence or substance abuse. In this case, a judge may order a responsible adult such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle, a family friend, or a social worker who can monitor the child and parent interaction.
Legislation in Canada can govern the decisions for a Parenting Plan if the parents cannot come to an agreement themselves. Utilizing the Divorce Act, the courts will make decisions about the following parental arrangements:
- Access to the child including where the child will live and where the noncustodial parent will visit the child
- Sole custody of the child and granting the non-custodial parent visitation rights
- Joint custody with one parent having full decision-making authority
- Mobility restrictions, this speaks to the relocation of the child (The laws will be changing on March 1st, 2021)
- Reasonable access for the noncustodial parent to the child
When a marriage or a relationship dissolves, parents will include a reasonable access section in their separation agreement. In the event the parents cannot make that decision, a court order may also grant the noncustodial parent reasonable access. Essentially, this allows the non-custodial parent a reasonable amount of time with their children. Flexibility for this arrangement is necessary for reasonable access to work. But how much is reasonable access? This depends on each family and factors that are taken into consideration are the ages of the children, school and extracurricular activities, distance travelled, and health concerns. Typically if the parents live in the same city and they have children between the ages of 5-17 reasonable access may look like one school night per week, every other weekend, holidays will be split, and unlimited access to contact the child by phone. However, each family’s reasonable access will look different depending on their circumstances.
Access and Child Support
Even if the non-custodial parent does not get access to their child they must still pay child support. The noncustodial parent is legally responsible and bound to pay what was agreed upon in court and by a judge. It is wrong to use child support against the custodial parent and judges will not stand for it. However, a judge may try to understand why the custodial parent is not giving the non-custodial parent access to the child or children.
Child visitation rights do not have to be complicated at all. A lawyer can provide support in mediating these issues outside of court which is a cost-effective, less time-consuming, and peaceful method of reaching a parental arrangement. Rest assured that the best interest of the family and particularly the children is the priority of the lawyer involved. Reach out to us if you’d like more information on how we can support you through this process.