When couples who have a Child or Children together are separating, one of the most contentious issues becomes that of “Custody.” Over the years custody “battles” between parents have been known to be exhausting, emotional rollercoasters and expensive litigation, with one (1) parent always feeling like a loser at the end of Trial. The amendments to Family Law Legislation in Canada is seen as a step towards removing the “winner/loser” stigma and instead adopting a system of shared parenting for Children. The removal of terms such as “Custody” and “Access” and replacing them with “decision making” and “parenting time” is an example of how the lawmakers are attempting to remove the winner/loser stigma.
It is the hope that with the amendments in the Family Law Legislation, namely amendments to the Divorce Act, Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA),and Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA)that there will be a reduction in the ‘heated’ and lengthy litigation regarding Children post separation. The amendments to the Legislation aims to achieve inter alia the following objectives:
Despite there being an exhaustive list of case law on lengthy and contentious litigation dealing with parenting issues, there have been just as many cases wherein the Parents were able to enter into a Parenting Plan or Parenting Arrangement. These Plans/Arrangements would include clauses that clearly details the terms agreed to by the Parents with respect to how they intend to co-parent and raise their Children post separation.
Below is a list of some of the key areas that Parents should discuss with their family lawyer when discussing clauses to include in a Parenting Plan/Arrangement.
Clauses that should be included:
· General Provisions on how the parents intend to co-parent;
· sibling relationships, and Children being able to visit and communicate with one another;
· use of technology to keep in touch with your Children- especially important in this Pandemic phase;
· making decisions about your Children, such as decisions regarding schools or healthcare, extra curricular activities, religious activities;
· how your Children will spend time with each parent, including plans for vacations and holidays;
· how much notice would either parent provide the other of any changes/decisions;
· how do you intend to handle medical and school appointments and other practical arrangements for your Children;
· If either parent is relocating, how does it affect the Children;
· how your new partner or your new relationship may affect your Children;
· how you intend to exchange information and communicating about your Children’s needs(email/text/video call);
· exchange of financial disclosure and points relative to Child Support Payments or payments towards Special Expenses;
· always consider your Children’s views in developing the parenting plan- remember it’s “the BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD”;
· disability or death of a parent;
· how to resolve disputes as they arise in the future, governing law; and
· reviewing ,monitoring, and changing the parenting plan.
The above list is just a brief outline and there are several other areas that Parents should consider, depending on their family situation. Parents should remember that every family is different and there is no “one plan fits all” template to follow when entering into a Parenting Plan/Arrangement. It is therefore recommended that Parents consult a family lawyer for further information on this topic.
This Article is meant for information purposes only and not meant to be a replacement for Legal Advice. An experienced family lawyer can help parents resolve parenting issues with a Parenting Plan/Arrangement. If you have questions about making these decisions or any other Family Law issue, please contact Kavita Ramnanan via email or on 647-625-9661.
 Many of the changes are not in effect. Due to matters related to Covid-19, the Government of Canada deferred the coming into force date of changes to the Divorce Act to March 1, 2021. Amendments to FOAEAA and GAPDA will come into force over the course of the next 2-3 years.
Kavita Ramnanan is an associate lawyer in Toronto at Rose Law Firm.
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