Parenting Apart

Parents who do not live in the same home need to make some very important decisions. For example: How will they care for the children? Where will the children live?

There are two sets of written laws that govern these decisions.

The Family Law Act is B.C.’s main family law statute. It applies to both married and unmarried parents. It says only the best interests of the child can be considered when deciding about parenting arrangements.

In the Family Law Act the word “guardianship” is used to describe responsibility for a child. Parents are usually guardians of their children.

“Parental responsibilities” is the list of responsibilities for children. Guardians can share all parental responsibilities, or they can divide them up.

The time a guardian spends with their child is called “parenting time”. The time a child spends with a person who is not a guardian is called “contact”.

The federal Divorce Act governs divorce. It also includes sections about parenting arrangements. These sections can apply to married parents who are filing for divorce.

The Divorce Act previously used the word “custody” to describe responsibility for a child. The word “access” was used to describe time spent with a child by someone who does not have custody of the child.

As of March 1, 2021, those terms have been replaced with words that are very similar to the language in B.C.’s Family Law Act.  

Instead of “custody”, the Divorce Act now says parents have “decision-making responsibility” for their child. Instead of “access”, parents have “parenting time”. Where the Divorce Act allows non-parents to apply to spend time with a child, that time is called “contact”.  See the Family Law section on the Department of Justice’s website for an overview of the updates to the Divorce Act.

Even if you are getting a divorce, you can still use B.C.'s Family Law Act to settle your parenting arrangements.

We recommend that you get legal advice before you make any final decisions about these issues.