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Controlling your parenting plan after a divorce

It may be difficult to think clearly now, and your head may be spinning from the many decisions you have to make in light of your impending divorce. Perhaps the most difficult decisions are those involving your children. Undoubtedly, you have witnessed the struggle other divorcing parents – perhaps your own parents – have gone through in attempting to achieve the least stressful resolution for their children.

Fortunately, the evolution of thinking concerning child custody issues is moving toward a gentler, more equitable sharing of parental responsibility. As you and your spouse work through your divorce, you may be pleasantly surprised at the control you have over the outcome.

Seeking the best interests of the child

British Columbia child guardianship laws prefer that you and your spouse make the decisions about how you will parent after your divorce. It is more likely that your parenting time settlement will be satisfying and manageable if the two of you work it out through peaceful, amicable negotiations. If this is not possible, the court will step in and order a parenting arrangement for you.

Since you know your children and your family dynamic better than a judge on a bench, family advisors recommend giving every effort to focusing on the best interests of the children and arriving at a suitable plan outside the courtroom. As a guide, you may wish to consider some points the court refers to when weighing the best interests of the child, including these questions:

  • Does the child require any special medical accommodations?
  • How strong are the emotional bonds between the children and the adults seeking guardianship?
  • Does the child have educational requirements?
  • Are the adults seeking custody able to provide the care and guardianship the children need?
  • What arrangement will best suit the emotional needs of the children?
  • What arrangement will provide the most stable situation for the children?
  • How will each child be affected by the parenting arrangement?

Depending on the ages and maturity of the children, the court may also ask for their input in making the decisions. However, in a very young or sensitive child, this question may be too much of a burden.

You are still their parent

Of course, the biological parents are the first choice of the BC courts, but other family members may petition for guardianship if there is a strong reason why the biological parents should not maintain custody. In rare occasions, non-family members may seek consideration from the court.

While no resolution is ideal when a family breaks up, the best arrangements are often those that allow both parents to spend as much time as possible with the children, especially when that arrangement is created in cooperation with the family's existing schedules, routines and obligations.

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