Parenting & guardianship

If your relationship ends, you and your ex-spouse need to make arrangements for any dependent children you have. This includes organizing parenting time, parental responsibilities, and maybe even contact arrangements for other relatives and people involved in the child's life.

In all situations, the decisions you make need to be in the child's best interests. If the courts are involved, a judge will only ever consider what's best for the child.

Best interests of the child

Parents and judges can only consider what's best for the safety and well-being of the child when making decisions about parenting, guardianship, parenting time, and contact with the child.

Parenting arrangements

Who is a parent?

Find out who is classified as a parent of a child and how you can become a parent. 

Parenting coordinators

If you and your spouse can't agree about how you'll share parenting time and responsibilities after you separate, a parenting coordinator might be able to help.

Parenting apart

Learn about the parenting decisions that have to be made if you separate from your child's other parent. This includes parenting time and contact. This page also explains the different terms used in federal and provincial law.

Guardianship: Parenting time and parental responsibilities

Being a child's guardian involves spending time caring for the child, and being responsible for decisions that affect them. Learn about how you can make a parenting agreement about how you will share parenting time and responsibilities after you separate.

Custody

Having custody means your child lives with you at least some of the time, and you have rights and responsibilities to make decisions about them. It's a term only used in federal law, so it might not apply to your situation.

Step-parents' rights and responsibilities

Find out what rights step-parents have to continue relationships with their stepchildren, and if they're required to pay child support.

What will happen if you die or can't take care of your child?

If you die or can't take care of your children, what happens to them depends on what plans you've made for them. Find out what you can do to make back-up plans for your child's future care.

Guardianship

How can you become a child's guardian?

Guardians are the people responsible for bringing up a child, and making decisions about the child's care. Anyone can apply to become a child's guardian but the court will only consider what's best for the child. Find out how to apply to become a guardian.

If you're 19 or over and want to become a guardian of your underage siblings, see also Can you be a guardian of your younger siblings?

Spending time with children after separation

Access

Access is usually the time a parent who doesn't have custody will spend with their child, but grandparents, step-parents, and other relatives can apply for access, too. Find out about access arrangements after separation.

Contact: Spending time with a child if you're not a guardian

Even if you're not a child's guardian, you might still have a right to have a contact arrangement with them after separation. This applies whether you're a parent who isn't a guardian, or another relative like a grandparent, step-parent, aunt, or uncle. Learn about your right to contact.

Do children have a right to time with their grandparents?

Separation can be hard on other relatives, too. But children have the right to have contact with their grandparents if it's in their best interests. Find out more about the rights of children and grandparents and what to do if the parents refuse to allow contact.

Moving and travelling with children

Can you move — with or without your children?

There are rules you have to follow if you're planning on moving somewhere that would affect your child's other parent's ability to spend time with them.

Do you need any legal documents to leave Canada with your children?

If you're your child's only parent or if you're travelling without their other parent, you might need documents to prove that you're allowed to take them out of the country.