Upon or even before separation, parents should reach agreements regarding future parenting arrangements.
Usually, a shared parenting arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
With respect to parenting time and parenting responsibilities (also referred to as “custody, guardianship and access”), our two Acts are almost identical.
Section 16(8) of the Divorce Act states that the court “shall take into consideration only the best interests of the child of the marriage as determined by reference to conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of the child”.
Section 37(2) of the FLA lists in detail the specific factors that must be considered: (a) the child’s health and emotional well-being; (b) the child’s views (where appropriate); (c) the relationships the child has with “significant persons”; (d) the history of the child’s care; (e) the child’s need for stability; (f) the ability of each care-giver to exercise his or her responsibilities; (g) the impact of family violence on the child; (h) whether a person responsible for family violence has the ability to care for the child; (i) whether a child’s care-givers are able to cooperate to jointly care for the child; and (j) any civil or criminal proceeding relevant to the child’s safety.
Both Acts stipulate that the court shall not take into consideration the past conduct of any person unless the conduct is relevant to the ability of that person to act as a parent of a child.
The Divorce Act stipulates that the child should have as much contact with each parent as possible insofar as such is consistent with the child’s best interests, and for that purpose consideration is given to the willingness of one parent to facilitate such contact.
If both parents possess the skill and ability to exercise their parental responsibilities properly, the court may easily find that it is in the child‘s best interest to spend the maximum amount of time with both parents.
The court is generally not happy to hear evidence pertaining only to differences in parenting style or “character flaws” of either parent. In P. (K.D.) v. K. (A.R.), 2011 BCSC 1085, the court emphasized that no parent is perfect and care must be taken not to focus on a parent’s character flaws in a manner which loses sight of the strengths that parent can bring to the challenge of raising children.