During divorces and relationship breakdowns involving children, the most important decisions concern their best interests.
In British Columbia, the courts prefer that both parents are involved in a child’s upbringing even though it is normally impractical for the child to spend equal time with both parents. Sometimes, it is even impractical for both parents to share the decision-making responsibilities.
Child custody laws help parents and the courts make decisions on these matters.
The child custody lawyers at Jennings Family Law can assist you in resolving issues relating to children, parenting or guardianship in Victoria. We can help you and your ex reach an agreeable arrangement in the best interests of the child or represent you in the family court system in BC.
“Child custody” can be confusing. Sometimes the term is used to mean where a child spends most of the time and, at other times, it refers to who has decision-making responsibility for the child.
The two are separated but connected. For ease of understanding, let’s consider it as two forms of custody:
Besides this, there is the matter of child access and parenting responsibilities, which are a critical part of any child custody decision-making.
In BC, legal custody is usually joint: both parents retain decision-making authority over the key aspects of a child’s life. This is seen as the best outcome for the child unless there are extenuating circumstances that make this impossible (for instance, if one parent is incarcerated or in drug rehabilitation).
The parenting arrangements depend on the physical custody of the child. If a child spends at least 40 percent of the time with both parents, it is shared. Otherwise, one parent will have primary custody and the other parent will need to arrange access to the child via a parenting schedule.
British Columbia’s Family Law Act is the main piece of legislation for family law issues in the province.
Its guidelines apply to married spouses, unmarried spouses, people in other unmarried relationships, and guardians.
Within the Family Law Act, child custody is specifically addressed, as well as matters such as guardianship, child support, spousal support, and the division of property and debt. These are generally key issues when a relationship ends.
The Act provides guidelines for resolving such matters without having to go to court.
The main principle to bear in mind with all matters concerning children is that their best interests take precedence at all times in BC. This is considered both a moral and legal obligation.
If physical custody is not shared but legal custody is, divorced or separated parents with children must agree on a parenting schedule that works best for the children.
Child access rights for the parent without physical custody are fundamental to this, allowing the children to spend time (and bond) with the other parent.
With the help of a child custody lawyer, parents can ensure that they both have the opportunity to form strong relationships with their children – for the ultimate benefit of those children.
If there are challenging circumstances in a relationship, the assistance of a child custody lawyer can be especially helpful.
When one or both parents cannot provide adequate care for their children, the welfare of the children needs to be placed in another person’s hands.
This person is usually a relative of the family, like a grandparent or aunt. The court can legally appoint someone as a temporary or permanent guardian for the child and the responsibility for caring for the child’s needs then rests with that person.
The child custody lawyers at Jennings Family Law can help with guardianship applications in Victoria.
What other issues are addressed by our child custody lawyers in BC?
Matters involving children are frequently emotional, stressful, and complex. It helps to have an experienced family lawyer by your side.
Our child custody lawyers can assist parents in making decisions on the following important matters:
Our child custody lawyers can help you coordinate these types of decisions and avoid the matter going to court. If it does end up in the BC courts, we can assist with representation.
If a child custody order has been handed down by the BC courts, you and your ex-spouse are expected to follow its terms.
Likewise, if you and your spouse have agreed on all the main issues and signed court-approved documents, they are legally binding.
However, the courts in BC understand that circumstances can change. If there is a material change in circumstances that affects the ability of either parent to fulfill their duties outlined in the child custody and parenting agreement, an application may be made to the court to modify it.
A “material change” in circumstances refers to something not contemplated when the custody or parenting agreement was entered into or a court order created. The change must be major and permanent to warrant a modification of the order.
Child custody can be highly contentious. To arrive at an agreeable arrangement is rarely a simple matter.
At Jennings Family Law in Victoria, BC, our child custody lawyers can help you arrive at an agreement with your ex or work towards a favourable outcome in court.
Contact us today for a confidential free consultation and case evaluation.