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Interests of children in legal situations remain our greatest concern.
You may be familiar with the terms “custody” and “access” when it comes to the discussion of parenting a child. The federal Divorce Act talks about the care of children in terms of custody and access, where custody is the right to have the child with you and the right to make parenting decisions about the child, and access is the schedule of the child’s time between spouses. However, using terms like custody and access implies that there are victors and losers when it comes to parenting. For this reason, the Divorce Act is being amended to get rid of these outdated terms. The provincial Family Law Act, which is the primary legislation on family law issues in British Columbia, has replaced these terms with less adversarial terms like “guardianship”, “parental responsibilities”, and “parenting time”. This fosters a more productive approach to parenting issues. The change is more than just a semantic shift; it is a new way of understanding parenting following a separation. The Family Law Act applies to married spouses, unmarried spouses, and people in other unmarried relationships. It also applies to people who have an interest in caring for someone else’s children, like a family member or friend.
Guardians have rights and duties for the children in their care, and most of the time a child’s parents will be the guardians. However, non-parents can apply to the court to be appointed as guardian, or they could be appointed as guardian by someone’s will. Guardians exercise parental responsibilities, which include deciding where a child goes to school, whether a child is raised in religion, what extracurricular activities a child is involved in, and other major decisions impacting a child’s life. Parenting time is the time a guardian has with a child, during which time the guardian is responsible for the care of the child and has decision-making power about day-to-day issues. People who are not guardians do not have parental responsibilities, but they can be awarded time with a child, which is called contact. At Dreyer and Associates Family Lawyers, the interests of the children involved in any legal situation remain our greatest concern.