The terms “custody” and “access” are no longer used in the new Divorce Act. Instead:
- Decision-making responsibility has replaced “custody”. This gives the spouse with the decision-making responsibility the right to get information about their children’s health, education, and well-being as well as other important factors such as language and religion. Decision-making responsibilities can be given to one spouse or shared between both parents.
- Parenting time has replaced “access” and provides the parent with parenting time the right to make day-to-day decisions about their child. During this time, they also have the right to get information about their children’s health, education, and well-being.
- Contact refers to time with a child involving someone who isn’t a spouse, such as a grandparent. A contact is not granted the right to make day-to-day decisions about the child or obtain information about the children’s health, education, and well-being.
There is a strong presumption in favour of shared parenting because the law considers it important for both parents to participate in a discussion about what is in the best interest of the child.
Occasionally, parents are awarded another type of decision-making regime referred to as parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is when one parent has decision-making authority over one specific set of issues and the other parent has decision-making authority over different issues. For example, one parent is awarded the right to make the decisions relating to the health and recreational activities of the children and the other parent is granted the authority to make education decisions for the children, both religious and scholastic. Parallel parenting is reserved for fairly extreme situations where the parents are both capable of making decisions in the best interests of the children but are completely unable to communicate with each other.
Regardless of parenting arrangement that is in place, if a parent believes that a decision is being made that is contrary to a best interest of the child he/she has the ability to make an application and have the court determine what should occur. As such, even parents with sole parenting do not have absolute power and there is a remedy available to a parent that does not have decision-making power.