Shared parenting under the BC Family Law Act means that each parent spends equal or more than 40% of the time with the children. Shared parenting has been regarded as the best and most suitable parenting arrangement for children who have two equally capable and loving parents.
It has been said that children do not forfeit the love and affection of their parents upon marital breakdown and the loving bond between them and their parents should be maximized and maintained unless it would be inappropriate to do so.
The government recently went as far as introducing a law that would presume shared parenting, meaning the presumption of parenting would be 50/50 parenting. But the law was quickly rejected because lawyers argued that each child custody or parenting case is unique and should be decided upon its own facts.
As recently as a few years back, the presumption was that young children, usually under the age of 7 years old, should have been primarily taken care of by their mother. Recent scientific and psychological research showed that such presumption was wrong and children with shared parenting grew and went through a healthy childhood when they were shared by their parents.
You do not have to be the ‘perfect’ parent to obtain shared parenting. The courts generally recognize that people are not perfect. As long as your children are not in some way harmed by you and you are able to provide them with suitable accommodation and a loving environment, you should technically be able to share their care and control.
In shared parenting situations:
- The parents are generally equal guardians for the child;
- Neither parent can make unilateral decisions regarding the child. Everything will need to be discussed and decided mutually.
- If one parent wants to move or relocate to another city or country, it will be much more difficult to obtain the approval of the court to do so if the other parent is sharing the children.
- Child support will only be paid if one parent earns more than the other: the incomes will get set off against one another and the higher earning parent will pay child support. In situations where one parent has the child more than 60% of the child, that parent’s income will not be counted or matter and the parent who has the child less than 40% will have to pay full child support based on her/his entire income.
If you are seeking shared parenting, it is always better to do it from the very get-go and upon separation. I meet many parents, especially fathers, who at the beginning consent to the child primarily residing with the mother to avoid court and acrimony. However, after a few months, they realize that it is not to the best interest of their children to spend so little time with them and want to change the arrangements to shared parenting. This will be almost always opposed by the mother who is used to the arrangement and thinks the child’s routine should not be disrupted.
This can be a very difficult process because the courts are reluctant to change final agreements or orders regarding parenting. Most times you would have to show something called a ‘material change in the circumstances’ to change the parenting arrangement. This can mean change of residence, job, status or some unusual event that would justify a shared parenting regime.
The parenting arrangement of the child or children will be determined based on s.37 of the Family Law which states:
2) To determine what is in the best interests of a child, all of the child’s needs and circumstances must be considered, including the following:
- the child’s health and emotional well-being;
- the child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them;
- the nature and strength of the relationships between the child and significant persons in the child’s life;
- the history of the child’s care;
- the child’s need for stability, given the child’s age and stage of development;
- the ability of each person who is a guardian or seeks guardianship of the child, or who has or seeks parental responsibilities, parenting time or contact with the child, to exercise his or her responsibilities;
- the impact of any family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member;
- whether the actions of a person responsible for family violence indicate that the person may be impaired in his or her ability to care for the child and meet the child’s needs;
- the appropriateness of an arrangement that would require the child’s guardians to cooperate on issues affecting the child, including whether requiring cooperation would increase any risks to the safety, security or well-being of the child or other family members;
- any civil or criminal proceeding relevant to the child’s safety, security or well-being.
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