Custody & Decision-Making Responsibility
What is child custody? Does it mean that I have the child solely in my care, and the other parent does not get to see them? In Canada, a parent who has custody does not necessarily have the children physically with them; they get to make decisions about the big things in their children’s lives. Child custody is an important issue during a separation, as parents want their children to be taken care of and have decisions made in their best interests.
Child Custody is also known as Decision-Making Responsibility in Saskatchewan. Custody does not refer to the time spent with your children, but rather the authority to make decisions regarding your children when it comes to the big decisions. Parents need to know who gets to make the decision when kids need a new daycare, school, sport or medical procedure.
R&R Legal Group always hopes that our clients will be able to come to an agreement with their partner as to how these decisions will be made. When agreement is unavailable, we can help guide you through the Court process.
When determining decision making responsibility, the Court must solve one question: what is in the best interests of the child? To determine that answer, the Court looks to the specific facts of your family. The Court needs to know what the parenting and decision making rules in your family prior to separation (if applicable) and generally prior to going to Court. R&R Legal Group can help by asking all of the right questions to draw out all of the facts and examples that will assist your argument in Court.
There are effectively three forms of decision-making responsibility:
Sole Decision-Making Responsibility
Joint Decision-Making Responsibility
Designated Responsibility (Split Decision-Making Responsibility)
Joint Custody (Joint Decision-Making Responsibility)
Joint Custody (Joint Decision-Making Responsibility) is where two or more parents work together, cooperatively to make big decisions for their children. If two parents live together after a child has been born, the default position of the law is that the parties should have Joint Decision-Making Responsibility. Most parents and families work along these lines already.
An example: When a child needs to be placed into school, the parents will come together and make those decisions cooperatively. On the chance that it cannot be worked out without outside help, R&R Legal Group is available to assist with new tools and avenues to achieve a resolution.
For many families Joint Custody will be acceptable. R&R Legal Group can help formalize this arrangement through agreement, mediation, Court application or trial.
Sole Custody (Sole Decision-Making Responsibility)
Sole Custody (Sole Decision-Making Responsibility) is a rare situation where one parent, due to the roles and responsibilities in the family, will make all of the decisions for the child. Although the deciding parent may need to provide information to the other parent, they will not need them to sign any documents nor be present for big decisions. In Saskatchewan, sole custody is never granted by default and we can help you determine if your case warrants sole custody.
What is the test for determining if it’s appropriate? Best interests of the child.
What does that mean? It means that the Court needs to look at the specific facts of your family to determine what makes sense for your children.
Some factors that the Court may review are:
Age of the children
Living arrangement in the time prior to going to court
Connection the parents have with their children
Who made the decisions prior to going to Court
Relationship of the parents
Some people travelling through the murky and troubled waters of divorce may believe sole custody is what they need, although that might not be right for their family or themselves. An experienced lawyer can help you determine if that is correct or if there are alternatives that may achieve the objectives you seek, such as preventing your child from experiencing hardship, upheaval and sadness.
There are some cases, however, where Joint Decision-Making Responsibility is impractical. These include situations where one parent lives far away or with whom it is difficult to communicate or contact. In these situations, the Court may grant one parent Sole Decision-Making Responsibility or final decision-making responsibility to one parent.