When a couple looking to separate shares children under the age of majority, resolving issues of decision-making responsibility (formerly known as “custody”) and parenting time (formerly known as “access”) can quickly become emotionally charged. While each parent may have a preferred plan in mind, ultimately the primary consideration will be the best interests of the child. This principle takes many factors into account, including questions of domestic or international mobility, the importance of maintaining a sense of normalcy for the child, and even questions of abuse or neglect. If you are expecting a dispute with your former partner regarding the parenting of your minor children following a separation, it is important to seek the advice of skilled family lawyers.

At Boulby Weinberg LLP, our team of family lawyers has assisted numerous clients with developing a parenting plan that keeps the focus on the child’s best interests while also seeking to enforce parental rights. We will work to reach an amicable agreement with your former spouse whenever possible while prioritizing the maintenance of your decision-making and parenting time rights.

Parenting Time vs. Decision-Making Responsibility: What is the Difference?

The two terms are often used interchangeably, however, in Canadian family law, they refer to separate parental rights. Parenting time refers to the time a child spends in the care of each parent, while decision-making responsibility refers to the right of a parent to make major decisions on behalf of their child. For example, parents might share equal parenting time, alternating weeks when the child is in their care, while one parent retains primary decision-making rights, enabling them to make decisions relating to the child’s medical care, religion, or education.

The “Maximum Contact” Rule

Canadian courts give strong credence to ensuring a child has maximum contact with each parent to the degree it suits the best interests of the child. In suitable cases, a child would spend equal time with each parent in order to preserve their relationship with each. However, in some cases, this is not possible, due to geographical issues or other factors. In these cases, the preference will be to maintain as much time as possible with each parent, under the given circumstances.

Decision-Making & Parental Alienation

When parents have a contentious relationship, communication can be difficult, and parenting time and decision-making issues can become adversarial. In these cases, it may become tempting to badmouth the other parent in front of the child, in order to put distance between the child and their other parent. However, this is never advisable. This practice is referred to as ‘parental alienation’ and it can result in severe legal consequences for a parent who engages in such behaviour. While there may be extremely hurt feelings between the parents, deliberately manipulating a child’s emotions to cause harm to their relationship with their parent can result in losing parenting time rights altogether in some cases.

Reach out to Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto for Advice on Decision-Making and Parenting Time

Determining a suitable parenting plan for decision-making and parenting time is a sensitive matter requiring care and diligence. The lawyers at Boulby Weinberg LLP have extensive experience navigating clients through this process and prioritize the preservation of parental rights in every case.

To arrange a consultation with a reputable and empathetic lawyer at Boulby Weinberg LLP, please complete our confidential online questionnaire, which will provide you with valuable preliminary information tailored to your situation. A representative from our firm will contact you within one business day to discuss your matter further and arrange an initial meeting. To contact our firm without completing the questionnaire, please reach out to us online, or call us at 647-494-0113 ext. 102.