Parenting Apart

When any couple with children separates, they need to make some very important decisions, such as how they will care for their children, and how each parent will be involved in their children’s lives.

The Family Law Act, which came into effect in March 2013, says that when making any decision about parenting arrangements after separation, only the best interest of the child must be considered.

The Family Law Act promotes a co-operative approach to parenting arrangements. The new law focuses on parents’ responsibilities to their children, rather than parents’ “rights”.

The language in the new law has been changed to reflect this. The terms “custody” and “access” are no longer used in B.C.’s family law. The words custody and access suggest there are winners and losers when it comes to parenting.

The Family Law Act instead uses words like “guardianship,” “parental responsibilities,” “parenting time” and “contact” to emphasize a relationship of responsibility towards a child. “Guardianship” signifies responsibility for children and “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” describe the responsibilities that guardians have.

The change is more than just a wording substitution - it is a new way of looking at parenting after separation. The change encourages respect for each parent’s role - even where they have different roles and levels of responsibility.

The federal Divorce Act governs divorce. It has not changed. It still uses the terms custody and access. Because federal and provincial laws now use different terms, it may be confusing. But even if you are getting a divorce, you can still use the provincial Family Law Act to settle your parenting arrangements.

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