Upon or even before separation, parents should reach agreements regarding future parenting arrangements. Try to carefully consider what is best for the child. Such an arrangement is not about “parent’s rights” or what each parent wants. You and your former spouse may not agree on what is best for the child. In such cases, the court may need to decide, and the court must only consider the child’s best interests.

Parents should not make parenting decisions based on financial circumstances. In some cases, an arrangement close to 50-50 may be best for the child. On the other hand, in some circumstances it is better for a child to have one primary parent a reasonable amount of time with the other parent.

People often get distracted by the 40% threshold of parenting time set out in section 9 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. This section deals with “shared parenting” for the purpose of child support. However, the amount of time a parent is responsible for the child does not necessarily indicate the amount that parent is contributing the child’s needs. Parents may want to consider a schedule that is attuned to the child’s needs at the time the agreement is made with a review at a future date when the child’s needs may change.

About Custody / Guardianship

The words “custody” and “guardianship” have historically been confusing because the federal Divorce Act and the provincial statutes used different words with slightly different meanings to refer to parenting after separation. Old legislation used the word “custody” which has been replaced with “parenting responsibilities” and “parenting time”. The term “custody” is still often referred to by regular people in common parlance and still appears in older agreements and court orders. In B.C., the term “guardian” is still current, which means that the parent is responsible for the child. It is most common for both parents to be guardians (though there are exceptions).