As every parent knows, raising a child more often than not means putting the child’s needs ahead of your own.
When you and the child’s other parent or guardian are not together, co-parenting can mean sacrificing some of the time you would like to spend with your child because spending as much time as possible with each parent is in your child’s best interest.
Shared parenting can be challenging – you want to be present for every big moment in your child’s life as well as the small, day-to-day moments and as many in-between moments as possible – but a shared parenting schedule means that your child will not be with you every day.
A skilled child custody and shared parenting schedule lawyer in Vancouver, BC can help ensure that you get as much time with your child as possible by negotiating a schedule that protects your parenting time while also protecting your child’s best interests.
What is shared parenting time?
The Family Law Act and the Divorce Act refer to parenting time as the time a child spends with each parent. Shared parenting time is the agreed upon schedule for when the child spends time with each parent. This gives everyone involved – particularly the child – a sense of structure and routine around which they can plan their time.
Shared parenting schedules, also known as proposed parenting plans, may vary depending on the child’s age, and may be adjusted as the child gets older, depending on his or her needs and the flexibility of both parents.
How do I get a shared parenting schedule in Vancouver, BC?
If you and your child’s other parent or guardian are separating, or if you are not currently together but are expecting a child, it is important to arrange a parenting schedule that works best for your child’s needs. This may be as simple as speaking with the child’s other parent and agreeing upon a schedule that allows your child to spend ample time with each parent.
However, if the two of you are unable to agree on a shared parenting schedule on your own, you may want to seek the assistance of an impartial third party. This may be a counsellor or respected mutual friend whom you can trust to remain neutral. If this does not work, a parenting coordinator, mediator, or family justice counsellor may be able to help.
If you are unable to agree on a schedule at this point, it is time to contact a BC child custody lawyer experienced in preparing and negotiating shared parenting schedules in BC. Your family law attorney will begin a Parenting Time Action in either the Provincial or the Supreme Court of BC, depending on the specifics of your case.
Agreeing upon a shared parenting schedule can be challenging. Both parents want to spend as much time with their child as possible and each may feel they should have more time depending on the child’s age, the child’s particular needs, or the child’s current attachment to one parent vs. the other. For instance, if the child is still nursing, the shared parenting time schedule may favor the mother simply because she is the child’s food supply.
A skilled parenting schedule lawyer such as the attorneys at Spectrum Family Law can help identify and secure the right shared parenting schedule for your child, while protecting your rights as a parent.
Why is shared parenting time recommended in BC?
Typically, it is in the child’s best interest to spend equal time with each parent. This helps ensure that each parent forms and maintains a strong bond with the child, allowing the child to feel loved and supported by both parents. Children who grow up knowing that they are loved and supported by both of their parents tend to be healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally.
They are usually more confident and better equipped to form secure attachments with others as they mature and even during adulthood.
While there are some instances when shared parenting time is not in the child’s best interest – in cases of abuse or neglect, for example – in nearly every other situation, shared parenting time is what is best for the child.
What’s the difference between formal and informal parenting time in BC?
When parents are unable to agree to a shared parenting schedule on their own, a formal parenting time schedule is typically required. A formal parenting time schedule is when both parents agree to a parenting schedule in writing, whether with or without the help of a family law attorney or mediator of some sort.
In BC, formal parenting time may also occur due to a Court Order which outlines the time the child will spend with each parent. A formal parenting time schedule is a legally binding document for both parents.
On the other hand, there are situations in which parents or guardians are able to work out a parenting schedule on their own, without the assistance of an attorney or official mediator or counsellor. This sometimes occurs when parents find a routine that works for them and their children – without ever actually agreeing on a specific schedule. Informal parenting time can also be the result of a verbal agreement between the parents.
It is important to note that even without a written, formalized agreement in place, the court can enforce an informal parenting time schedule if one parent abandons the arrangement without providing a valid reason.
What is the difference between interim and final parenting orders in BC?
Are there standard shared parenting schedules in BC?
There are several standard options for shared parenting schedules in British Columbia. The most commonly used shared parenting schedules in BC include:
THE ¾ AND ¾ SCHEDULE
This 50/50 parenting schedule covers two weeks. During the first week, one parent has the child for four days and during week two that parent has the child for three days. The reverse is true for the other parent. This splits the child’s time evenly between both parents, ensuring equal parenting time for both.
THE 2-2-5-5 SCHEDULE
Another two-week schedule, the 2-2-5-5 schedule is particularly popular among parents of young children. This rotates the children between homes every two days, so parents have equal time with their children during the week.
However, the schedule shifts for the weekends. Parenting time alternates each weekend, giving the parent who has the child that weekend five full days with the child. For example:
Parent A has the child every Monday and Tuesday. The child then goes to Parent B every Wednesday and Thursday. During week one, the child spends the weekend with Parent A, meaning he or she is with Parent A on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and remains with Parent A for Monday and Tuesday of week two. The child then goes to Parent B for their usual Wednesday and Thursday, and remains with that parent for the second weekend – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This gives Parent B five full days with the child during the second week of the two-week schedule.
ONE WEEK ON, ONE WEEK OFF SCHEDULE
This two-week schedule is fairly straightforward. Each week begins on the Monday after school, with Parent A picking the child up from school on the Monday of week one and taking him or her home.
Parent A then keeps the child with them for the entire week, dropping him or her off at school on Monday morning of week two. Parent B then picks the child up from school that afternoon and keeps the child until the following Monday morning.
This schedule is popular with parents of school-age children, and can be adjusted for younger children so that during week one Parent B has Wednesday night with the child and then during week two Parent A has Wednesday night with the child. This ensures that the child does not have to go too many days in a row without seeing either parent.
THE TWO-WEEK ON, TWO-WEEK OFF SCHEDULE
Another alternating schedule, this option is often used with older children or when the parents live at a distance from one another. In this schedule, the child spends the first two weeks of the month with Parent A and the second two weeks of the month with Parent B.
Keep in mind that the right shared parenting schedule is the one that works best for your child. This means the schedule allows your child to spend ample time with each parent and is not disruptive of the child’s lifestyle.
What are my rights and responsibilities when sharing parenting time in BC?
As a parent with shared parenting time in BC, you have specific rights and responsibilities. The law guarantees equal rights to both parents, including:
- The right to shared time, including and especially birthdays; holidays – including Mother’s Day or Father’s Day; and all school vacations
- The right to be a part of all of your child’s important moments and milestones, such as school functions, competitions, religious occasions, graduations, etc.
- The right to make decisions equally regarding your child’s religious upbringing, education, medical needs, and residence
- The right to share the responsibility of your child’s healthy growth and socialization, as well as their completion of school responsibilities such as homework and other tasks
- The right to fair child support, if needed, based on each parent’s income
- The right to take over full guardianship of your child or children if their other parent or guardian dies
In addition to these rights, parents with shared parenting time in BC also have certain responsibilities, such as:
- Putting your child’s needs first and always considering issues through their eyes and according to what is in their best interest
- Maintaining good communication with the other parent in order to discuss your child’s needs and to make important decisions together
- Being respectful of the other parent’s time and relationship with your child
- Cooperating with your child’s other parent or guardian in order to provide the child with stable parenting
- Being open and honest regarding your income, finances, and taxes so that child support can be calculated accurately and adjusted as necessary
What should I do about my parenting time dispute?
Parents are often able to work out and maintain shared parenting schedules without any outside assistance, but not always. Even when both parents work hard to communicate and determine – and stick to – a shared parenting time schedule, it is not always possible. The Family Law Act and the Divorce Act require both parents to put the child’s needs first and to act with the child’s best interests in mind.
However, disputes may arise regarding pending or existing shared parenting time plans. When that happens, a shared parenting schedule lawyer, mediator, or counsellor may be able to help resolve the issue. If that is not successful, it may be time to go to court.
A shared parenting time lawyer can file your application for interim parenting time or a change to an existing parenting time schedule and represent you before the judge.
What are my rights and responsibilities when sharing parenting time in BC?
If you are involved in a custody dispute, it is important to have a child custody lawyer on your side who knows how to negotiate shared parenting agreements. From our offices in Vancouver, the shared parenting schedule lawyers at Spectrum Law Firm have extensive experience representing clients throughout British Columbia.
Schedule a consultation with a proposed parenting plan lawyer.
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.
Our Vancouver office is 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.