6.7 Care of the Children



Family Law Act

Under the Family Law Act, guardians are the people, usually parents, who have parental responsibilities and parenting time with a child. Parenting Arrangements are the plans made about how parental responsibilities and parenting time are to be shared.

Usually if you are a parent you are a guardian. To find out if you are a guardian, check out the Guardianship Flow Chart.


Being a Guardian means you have parenting time and parenting responsibilities.

Lawyer’s Tip:

The Divorce Act is only for those that are, or were married. The Family Law Act can be used by any Parent.

Guardian ---->   Parenting Responsibilities  +  Parenting Time

Parenting time is the time a guardian spends with the child. During parenting time, a guardian is responsible for the care and supervision of the child, and makes day-to-day decisions about the child.

Law Guide:

Family Law Act:

Divorce Act

Parenting Responsibilities include:

  • Day to day decisions while caring for the child
  • Decisions relating to education, religion, and medical treatment
  • Receiving information about the child, (such as medical, and educational information)
  • Protecting the child's legal and financial interests.

If you and your former spouse can reach agreement on parenting time and parenting arrangements, you will avoid having to go to court to settle these issues.

“Contact” is the word used to describe the time a parent or other person who is not a guardian spends with a child.


Divorce Act

The Divorce Act uses different words to describe care and time with children: custody and access. Under the Divorce Act, the parent who has custody lives with the child at least some of the time and has the rights and responsibilities to care for and make decisions about the upbringing of their child. Access is a term used in the Divorce Act to describe the time that a parent, usually the parent who does not have custody, spends with the children.

How is custody decided?

Decisions about parenting must be based on the best interests of the children. A judge will consider the "condition, means, needs, and other circumstances of the child" and what would best protect the child's physical, psychological, and emotional safety, security, and well-being.

The different types of custody

There are different ways custody can be divided.

  • Sole custody — One parent has the legal responsibility for caring for and making all the decisions about a child. The child lives primarily with that parent at least 60% of the time.
  • Joint custody — Both parents share the rights and responsibilities for a child. The child lives with each parent at least 40% of the time and both parents make decisions about the child. Because joint custody is a flexible term, the parents need to agree on what joint custody means for them.
  • Shared custody — There are at least two children, and one or more of them live with one parent, and one or more of the other children live with the other parent.



  • Parents (that are guardians) automatically have all parental responsibilities, unless an order or agreement says otherwise. 
  • The guardians must consult with one another when exercising their parental responsibilities, unless it's inappropriate to do so.
  • An order or agreement can divide the parental responsibilities between the guardians so that some responsibilities are shared and others are only exercised by one guardian.
  • The law allows parents to create the parenting arrangements however they want, so long as the arrangements are in the best interests of the children.


If you have serious concerns about the safety of your children or are concerned they will be removed from their location without your permission, you should make an interim application to get a temporary court order.  To learn more about how to do this see Chapter 8.3.