It's easy to get bogged down in the legal jargon surrounding child custody. A competent child custody lawyer can help you navigate the process. Child custody laws distinguish between child custody, now called "guardianship," and access, now called “parenting time.”
Guardianship refers to parents or adults who have the authority to make decisions about the child's upbringing. This includes things like schooling, religion, values and parenting in general. Joint guardianship typically works well for parents who can communicate well, cooperate and support each other's parenting styles.
Parenting time refers to the amount of time children spend with each parent. This would include your weekly or monthly schedule during the school year as well as holiday time and summer vacations. As with guardianship, the Court often tries to establish equitable parenting time so children can maintain relationships with both parents.
When the BC Legislature changed "custody" and "access" to "guardianship" and "parenting time" through the Family Law Act, it enacted more than just a substitution of words. These terms encapsulate the world in which a child will live following parental separation. Furthermore, these inclusive terms underscore the fact that the word "family" has multiple meanings.
How Child Custody Decisions Get Made
After separation, guardians and parents must create parenting arrangements which determine parenting time (i.e. who has custody of the kids on what days). These are often put into a court order a child custody agreement/parenting plan. If the matter goes to trial, a judge will decide parenting arrangements based entirely on the child's best interests — that is, their physical, psychological and emotional safety, security, and overall well-being. Courts will consider:
- An evaluation of each parent's role and relationship with the child
- The proposed plan for the child's future care
- Each parent's willingness to facilitate the child's relationship with the other parent
Protecting the children's best interests opens up the possibility of non-parental guardianship where appropriate. We handle these custody situations with care; thankfully, we have decades of family law litigation experience helping families resolve their legal disputes successfully.
Family Violence and Other Challenges
Family violence, which includes emotional, financial and psychological abuse, or drug/alcohol addiction parents can significantly affect the outcome of a guardianship/parenting time case. If you are worried about the safety of your children, talk to a child custody lawyer about your options for protective measures such as obtaining a restraining order, conducting medical/professional interventions, submitting expert reports to the Court to explore unique needs, or seeking sole guardianship or reduced parenting time.
Other challenges could make it difficult to establish equitable parenting time. For example, if one parent wishes to relocate or move away with the children, either transnationally or internationally, guardianship and parenting time could be disputed in Court. We are a team of child custody lawyers ready to help you with any custody and parenting access issues that may arise.
Protecting Your Children
At Westside Family Law, we know that you and your spouse need to preserve your relationships with your children. Our Vancouver child custody lawyers offer sound advice and step-by-step guidance throughout the litigation process to help you establish parenting solutions that fit your family's needs. Fill out the contact form below to set up a free consultation with a child custody lawyer, or call us at 604-734-7911 to get started.