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Understanding Decision-Making Responsibility

  • Defining Responsibilities: Decision-making responsibility involves making significant decisions about a child's wellbeing, including education, healthcare, and religion, while parenting time refers to the periods when the child is in a parent's primary care.
  • Creating a Parenting Plan: Parents can negotiate and create a parenting plan with the help of lawyers, which can be included in a separation agreement to make it legally binding. Courts prioritize the child's best interests when making decisions on parenting plans.
  • Court Determination: If parents cannot agree, the court will issue a parenting order based on the child's best interests, considering factors like the child's age, preferences, care history, and any family violence. Courts strive to allocate as much parenting time as possible to both parents.
A Parent with child enjoying some screen time

Factors That Determine Allocation

You’ve recently separated from your spouse and now you’re concerned about the wellbeing of your children. Understanding and deciding the terms of decision-making responsibility and parenting time can be a confusing, tiresome, and emotional process. After reading this blog post, we hope you have a clearer understanding of what decision-making responsibility and parenting time are and how they are determined.

The Divorce Act defines decision-making responsibility (formerly known as custody) as making important decisions regarding the wellbeing of one’s child in relation to topics such as education, healthcare, religion, culture, and significant extra-curricular activities. Decision-making responsibility is different from parenting time meaning that although one parent may have complete decision-making responsibility of the child, the other parent may have equal parenting time.

The Divorce Act defines parenting time (formerly known as access) as the time in which the child is in the primary care of the parent. If a parent has parenting time but doesn’t have decision-making responsibility, they are still entitled to information regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and wellbeing. They are also authorized to make day-to-day decisions when the child is in their care.

Now that we have defined decision-making responsibility and parenting time, you’re probably wondering how they’re determined. One option is to create a parenting plan with your ex-spouse. You can work with lawyers who can help you negotiate the terms of the parenting plan. This plan can be included in a separation agreement which will make it legally binding. If one parent breaches the parenting plan, the other parent can seek a remedy through the court. However, the court is not obligated to make decisions based on the parenting plan. Rather, the court must make decisions based on the child’s best interest.

 If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may choose to pursue litigation to have the court make a parenting order which determines how decision-making responsibility and parenting time will be divided. In such cases, the only factor the court will consider is the child’s best interest. The various factors that are used to determine the child’s best interest are set out in s. 16(3) of the Divorce Act and include, among many other factors, the child’s needs according to their age and development stage, the child’s views and preferences, history of the child’s care, and any family violence that has occurred. The court will work to allocate as much parenting time to each parent as possible without sacrificing the child’s best interest. Further, the court can also issue a contact order to a person other than a spouse, such as a grandparent, which is also based on the best interest of the child.

Now that you know how decision-making responsibility and parenting time are decided, we can help you with the next steps. Please do not hesitate to contact us.