Vancouver Family Lawyers Providing Experienced Advice on Parenting Issues
After a separation or divorce, a family’s dynamic changes substantially, particularly how a couple parents their children. Parenting disputes are some of the most emotionally-charged issues in family law matters and can significantly impact a family’s ability to move forward.
Meridian Law Group understands the importance of settling parenting issues swiftly and avoiding unnecessary conflict between separated spouses. The firm’s compassionate family lawyers take the time to understand all facets of a client’s case and develop a customized legal strategy that addresses their concerns. When matters cannot be resolved amicably, the firm forcefully advocates to secure the client’s rights and deliver a result that meets their family’s needs.
Best Interests of the Child
The primary consideration in any parenting issue is the best interests of the child. The federal Divorce Act states that the following factors apply when determining what is in a child’s best interests:
- The child’s needs, based on their age and stage of development, such as their need for stability;
- The nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each spouse, each of the child’s siblings and grandparents, and any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;
- Each spouse’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other spouse;
- The history of the care of the child;
- The child’s views and preferences, considering the child’s age and maturity, unless their preferences cannot be ascertained;
- The child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including Indigenous upbringing and heritage;
- Any plans for the child’s care;
- The ability and willingness of each parent to care for and meet the needs of the child;
- The ability of parents to cooperate and communicate with each other on matters affecting the child;
- Any history of family violence and its effect on the parenting abilities of the person who engaged in the violence; and
- Any legal proceedings relevant to the safety, security, and wellbeing of the child.
These factors are echoed in British Columbia’s Family Law Act, which requires an agreement or court order under the Act to protect the child’s physical, psychological and emotional safety, security, and wellbeing to the greatest extent possible.
Parental or Decision-Making Responsibility (Custody)
Decision-making responsibility (or “parental responsibility” under the Family Law Act) is a parent’s ability to make decisions affecting their child’s upbringing and care. Previously referred to as “custody”, decision-making responsibility encompasses a variety of issues that impact a child’s wellbeing, including:
- Culture, traditions, and heritage;
- Religion and spiritual upbringing;
- Medical treatments and healthcare; and
The division of decision-making responsibility between the parents can be set out in a separation agreement or ordered through family arbitration or the court.
Parenting Time (Access)
Formerly called “access”, parenting time is the amount of time a child spends with each parent post-separation. As with decision-making responsibility, parents may make agreements about parenting time or require an independent decision-maker, such as a family arbitrator or judge, to decide.
A spouse’s parenting time can affect their child support obligations, depending on the amount each parent has the child in their care.
In most circumstances, a child’s parents are their guardians. However, absent an agreement to the contrary, a parent who has never lived with their child and has historically had little involvement with the child’s care may not be considered a guardian under the Family Law Act.
Non-guardian parents and other individuals can apply to the court to become a child’s guardian, including grandparents, step-parents, close family friends, and other family members. The guardianship applicant must provide the court with detailed evidence about their plans to care for the child, family and criminal history, and relationship with the child.
Alienation & Reunification Counselling
Parental alienation occurs when one parent’s conduct damages the other parent’s relationship with their child. For example, a parent deliberately badmouths the other parent in front of the child or tries to align the child against them.
The estrangement caused by parental alienation may result in the child refusing to see the other parent. Courts try to repair the parent-child relationship by ordering professional therapy known as “reunification counselling”. Both the parent and child may be directed to attend.
Courts are critical of parents who deliberately sabotage their children’s relationship with their other parent. The parent who caused the alienation can face serious legal consequences, including a reduction or loss of their own parenting time.
Parentage & DNA Testing
The Family Law Act states that unless proven otherwise, a man is presumed to be a child’s biological father if:
- He was married to the child’s birth mother on the day of the child’s birth;
- He was married to the child’s birth mother and, within 300 days before the child’s birth, the marriage ended by divorce, annulment, or the man’s death;
- He married the child’s birth mother after the child’s birth and acknowledges that he is the father;
- He was living with the child’s birth mother in a marriage-like relationship within 300 days before, or on the day of, the child’s birth;
- He, along with the child’s birth mother, has acknowledged that he is the child’s father through a signed statement under the Vital Statistics Act; and
- He has acknowledged that he is the child’s father by signing an agreement under the Child Paternity and Support Act (a precursor, in part, to the Family Law Act).
If more than one man qualifies under these factors, no one is presumed to be the child’s birth father.
When some question exists about a child’s parentage, the courts in British Columbia can order a person to submit to parentage testing, including DNA tests. A court can draw an adverse inference from a person’s failure to cooperate with the testing.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Seasoned Representation in Parenting Matters
For over three decades, the family lawyers of Meridian Law Group have provided practical advice and persuasive advocacy in parenting matters, including parental decision-making and parenting time. The firm offers clients customized, out-of-the-box legal solutions that exceed expectations and deliver results in any forum, including mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Meridian Law Group handles the heavy lifting in parenting disputes so clients can focus on their children and move forward.
Since 1988, Meridian Law Group and its predecessor firms have been established as an institution known for legal excellence. Located across from the courthouse in downtown Vancouver, the firm represents clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia, including West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To speak with an experienced family lawyer or arrange a confidential consultation, please call (604) 687-2277 or reach out online.