During and after separation and divorce, one of the toughest things for parents to come to terms with is spending less time with the children.
Mothers and fathers have equal rights with custody and parenting in Vancouver and the important role that a father plays in raising the children is well-recognized.
However, statistics show that mothers are awarded primary parenting of the children in almost 80 percent of separations in Canada.
In the majority of cases, mothers put their children first and are happy to share the children equally with the father. In some cases, however, life gets very awkward for the father.
Fathers may have to follow controlled visitation rights and restrictive parenting plans, potentially putting a strain on the father-child relationship. This sometimes goes against the best interests of the child.
If you’re facing this situation in Vancouver, it is important to understand a father’s rights and child custody laws in BC—and what you can do to exert these rights.
How are custody decisions made in BC?
When children are born within a marriage, the father is assumed to be the husband of the mother.
When children are born out of marriage, paternity may need to be proven before custody decisions are made.
Once the question of paternity has been resolved, the courts may need to determine the following:
- Legal custody: this refers to the decision-making responsibilities for the child. A parent with sole legal custody over a child is responsible for making all key life decisions for the child, such as education, religion, medical issues, etc. In the vast majority of cases in Vancouver, decision-making is shared between the mother and father.
- Parenting (sometimes called “physical custody”): a child can rarely spend precisely equal time with both parents so, where the courts deem that parenting should be shared, a parenting plan must be created. This is enforced by the courts to ensure that the noncustodial parent spends adequate time with the child.
As the parents of the child, it is preferable to make these decisions yourselves in the best interest of the child.
However, when relationships end bitterly, these matters are often contested. A judge may need to decide based on the evidence provided by the mother and the father.
Statistics suggest that this presents a serious risk that a father will have to follow a parenting plan while the child is in the physical custody of the mother.
Even though the courts in BC generally prefer that both the mother and father have equal input into the child’s upbringing, it doesn’t mean that they will spend equal time with the child.
In making custody decisions, judges consider a host of factors including the child’s relationship with both parents, the child’s custody preferences (if mature enough to express an opinion), each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs, any history of abuse/criminal behaviour, and so on.
Father’s rights in BC
Fathers and mothers have equal rights when it comes to child custody in BC. That, however, does not always translate to 50/50 parenting arrangements.
A parent’s rights tend to diminish rapidly if there are any question marks over the fitness of one parent to care for the child. In theory, a father has the same right as a mother to look after a child but arguments are often stacked against the father.
If the father’s parenting skills cannot be called into question, the parenting arrangement should be as close as possible to 50/50. However, if a mother can show that the child’s best interests are served by spending more time with her than with the father, the court may agree.
Despite equal rights, do not necessarily expect a 50/50 parenting arrangement unless you can show that it is in the best interests of the child.
Sometimes, fathers might agree to less than 50/50 parenting time. You must be prepared to put the best interests of the child before your parental rights. The child may benefit by spending more time with the mother and though this can be hard to admit, it may be a necessary decision.
Bear in mind that emotions can take over after a family separates. A child custody lawyer can help you remain patient and focused on the best interests of the child. A mother may cling to the child and make it difficult for you to see your child but your best option is to be patient and unemotional as you consider what is best.
How to win father’s rights in a Vancouver family court
If you are involved in a custody dispute for your child in the Vancouver family court system, you need to be prepared.
Many fathers hire a child custody lawyer to present them because the stakes are high. To win this battle, you will need to follow a few important guidelines:
- Do not dwell on the past – you need to make decisions in the best interests of the child’s future happiness, health, and wellbeing and this needs to be the focus rather than blame.
- Present a reasonable parenting schedule to the judge that provides adequate time for the child with each parent.
- Avoid getting into another relationship (do not introduce your child to the “new woman in your life”).
- Avoid pointing the finger and accusing the mother of wrongdoing to the court or your child.
- If possible, continue to spend time and invest in the relationship with your child as the case progresses through the BC court system.
- Take parenting classes to improve your skills as a parent and demonstrate how serious you take parenting.
- Focus on your child’s needs rather than the mother’s attitude towards you.
Can a father move with their child after separation in BC?
A father who wants to relocate with a child after separation must tread very carefully and should not act without first taking legal advice.
A long-distance move to another province or overseas can create problems regardless of who has custody of the child.
Firstly, any decision to allow a child to be moved must adhere to the “best interests of the child” standard applied in all decisions regarding children in BC.
Then there are the rights of the mother to consider. In shared custody arrangements, the mother may understandably object to a move by the father and child if it means less parenting time with the child. Even in sole custody arrangements, the other parent generally retains the right to see their child.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that a custodial parent cannot automatically move a child anywhere without the consent of the other parent.
Fathers looking to move with a child should speak with a child custody lawyer and prepare a detailed custody plan for the new location. You will need to evaluate the new facilities and resources, compare the costs of living, determine the health care and education options, and assess the cultural environment and economy.
If the move is opposed by the mother, she may look to demonstrate a disruptive change in circumstances that destabilizes the child as a reason why the move should not be permitted by the court.
To discuss father’s rights in BC, speak with a lawyer at Spectrum Family Law We are ready to listen and advise you of your legal options during an initial consultation.
Our main hub for British Columbia is located in the heart of Vancouver. That said, we serve the entire province of BC. We have the infrastructure to work with any of our clients virtually — even the furthest regions of British Columbia.
We also have a dedicated intake form to help you get the ball rolling. Our intake team will review your specific case and advise you on the next steps to take as well as what to expect moving forward. That’s the best way to schedule an appointment
Our offices are generally open 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Mon—Fri.
Alfonso is a lawyer of our Vancouver office who provides services in both English and Mandarin. Prior to joining our firm, he worked at a full-service law firm for over four years, where he helped clients with a wide variety of family law matters, from drafting prenuptial agreements to negotiating terms for and drafting separation agreements to representing clients for divorces.