Parenting, custody & access

Parenting includes contact with a child, guardianship, parental responsibilities, and parenting time (BC Family Law Act); and access and custody (federal Divorce Act), and covers who has the right and responsibility to make decisions about the child, and guardians' and non-guardians' time with the child.

The basics

Fact sheets

Parenting apart

Parenting apart
Describes all the legal terms about parenting after separation that were introduced by the BC Family Law Act and explains how they relate to the Divorce Act legal terms.

Best interests of the child
Describes the "best interests of the child," which the law says parents and judges must consider in making decisions about parenting.

Access and contact with a child

Defines access to children and what this means in family law, and sets out some of the different types of access (specified, supervised) that may be arranged by parents and guardians (applies also to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives).

Spending time with a child if you're not a guardian: Contact
Describes contact with a child, which is what the BC Family Law Act calls the time that someone who's not a guardian (for example, a non-guardian parent or grandparent) spends with a child.


Defines custody of children and what this means in family law, and describes some of the different types of custody orders (sole, joint), as well as terms such as split custody and shared custody that describe custody arrangements.


Guardianship: Parenting time and parental responsibilities
Describes guardianship under the Family Law Act, and includes who is a guardian, who can apply to become one, what being a guardian means, what happens when you separate, what you need to put into an agreement about guardianship, and whether guardianship issues can be settled in court.

How can you become a guardian?
Describes who is a child's guardian, who can apply to become a guardian, and how to apply to become a guardian under the new BC Family Law Act requirements. Includes links to the necessary self-help guides and court forms.

What will happen if you die or can't take care of your child?
Describes what will happen if you die without making arrangements for who will look after your child, what you can do about it (appoint a stand-by or testamentary guardian), and how you can record your decisions.

Moving or travelling

Can you move — With or without your child?
Describes what a parent or guardian must do (give notice) before moving to another city with children, and what could happen if the other parent/guardian doesn’t agree with the move.

Do you need any legal documents to be able to leave Canada with your child?
Describes what documents you must bring along to prove that you're allowed to take your children out of the country if you travel without the other parent.


Who is a parent?
Explains the basics of the new law that defines parentage and includes definitions of birth mother; biological father; birth mother’s partner; sperm, egg, or embryo donor; and surrogacy.


Step-parents' rights and responsibilities
Information for step-parents who want to apply for guardianship, custody, or access to or contact with their step-children, and about whether they are responsible to pay child support.

Getting help

Parenting After Separation courses
Describes the course (a free, three-hour information session for BC parents and other family members, dealing with parenting and support issues) and who can/must attend it.

Parenting coordinators
Describes how professional parenting coordinators can help parents resolve day-to-day conflicts about parenting agreements or orders, where to find parenting coordinators, and how parenting coordinators can get involved.