About Custody and Parenting

It is important to make parenting arrangements that are in your children's best interests if you separate or divorce. When making these arrangements, you and the other parent need to make a lot of decisions. This includes decisions about where the children will live, where they will go to school, their religious education, their medical care, their after-school activities and so on. You and the other parent may have very different views on this. Remember, do not have these discussions in front of the child. It is important that children not be exposed to conflict or feel caught in the middle.

The federal Divorce Act says custody and parenting arrangements must be in the child's best interests. The Act also says that a child must be allowed to have as much contact with each parent as is in the child's best interests.

Every child – and every family – is different. Many factors will affect what arrangements are best for a child. For example, the best arrangement for an infant may not be the best arrangement for a teenager.

The Divorce Act has certain rules about parenting arrangements for parents who divorce. This Act is a federal law.

The provinces and territories generally have similar rules for unmarried parents and for married parents who separate but do not apply for a divorce.

You and the other parent probably understand your children better than anyone else. For this reason, it is best if you can agree about what is best for your children. There are family justice services such as parent education and mediation that can help you better understand your situation and come to an agreement.

If you cannot agree, you can go to court and ask a judge to decide. However, going to court can cost a lot and take a long time. You might not agree with the judge's decision. It can also increase both your stress and conflict with the other parent.

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