FOCUS GROUPS ON FAMILY LAW ISSUES RELATED TO CUSTODY AND ACCESS

APPENDIX D:  ISSUES:  HOW CAN THE LAW DETERMINE WHAT IS "IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD?"

Current Situation

At the present time, the Divorce Act says that judges have to consider the "best interest of children" when they make decisions about parenting arrangements for children after a divorce.  As well, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.  This means that they can decide who the children will live with and who will make important decisions about the children's health, education, and so on.

However, the Divorce Act does not say what criteria the judge should use when making decisions on what is in the best interest of the child.

What we would like you to do

On the following page is a list of criteria that judges could use in making these decisions.  First, please read through this list of criteria that have been identified for "Best interest of the child".

What we would then like you to do is to indicate, from your personal point of view, which of these criteria are:

  1. Most Important for judges to use in making decisions on parenting arrangements

  2. Quite Important

  3. Less Important compared to other criteria

You must put all of the 15 criteria into one of the 3 categories listed above and you must choose 5 to fit into each of the categories.

CRITERIA FOR "BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD"

Place an "X" in the appropriate column for each criteria, based on how important you personally believe it to be.


Number


CRITERIA

MOST
Important

QUITE
Important

LESS
Important

1. The opportunity for the child to maintain a strong and stable relationship with both parents

2. The opportunity for the child to maintain a strong and stable relation with other members of his or her family

3. The opinions and wishes expressed by the child

4. The ability of the parent(s) to provide guidance, education, the basic needs and other special needs of the child

5. The child's cultural and religious background

6. The ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate with each other on important issues concerning the child

7. The ability of the child to adjust to the new parenting arrangement

8. The willingness of each of the parents to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent

9. A proven history of family violence

10. Ensuring there is no preference in favour of either parent on the basis of that parent's gender

11. The quality of the relationship that the child has with the parent(s)

12. Arrangements that encourage the child's emotional growth, health, stability and physical care at every stage of the child's development

13. Protecting the child from continued exposure to conflict between parents

14. The personality, character and emotional needs of the child

15. The caregiving role assumed by each parent before the breakup

Please write down your reasons for choosing each of the five criteria as being "Most Important".

Criteria Number
(Write in Number Below)


COMMENTS:  Why "Most Important"?

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