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The new Family Law Act: Care of and time with children: guardianship, parenting arrangements, and contact (Part 1)

On November 24, 2011, BC’s new Family Law Act was introduced. This act will have wide-reaching effects on family law in the province. The first part of this entry is about guardianship and parental responsibilities. For more information, see the act itself and our introduction to the act.

The new Family Law Act does not use the words custody or access. Instead, it uses:

  • guardianship
  • parental responsibilities
  • parenting time
  • parenting arrangements

Parental responsibilities, parental time, and parenting arrangements are all part of guardianship. Guardianship, as the new Family Law Act explains it, is quite different from what it was under the Family Relations Act.

Under the Family Law Act, a guardian is a person who is responsible for caring for and making decisions for a child. Parents who live together after their child’s birth are both the child’s guardians. If the parents separate, they are both still considered to be the child’s guardians, unless an agreement or court order removes one of them as a guardian.

If a parent never lived with the child, then that parent is not a guardian unless he or she:

  • regularly cares for the child, or
  • is appointed as a guardian by a court order or agreement with the child’s other guardian(s).

People other than parents can sometimes be guardians, but they must have a court order naming them as guardians.

A guardian may name someone to be a stand-by guardian just in case he or she becomes unable to look after the child, or to be a testamentary guardian, to become the child’s guardian if the guardian dies.

Guardians have the responsibility to make decisions about their child’s life. These are called parental responsibilities and include decisions about daily care, as well as larger ones about, for example:

  • health care
  • education
  • religious upbringing
  • extracurricular activities
  • where the child lives, etc.

Parental responsibilities can be shared between guardians or one or more parental responsibilities can be assigned to only one guardian. Guardians must consult each other when making decisions, unless doing so would be inappropriate or unreasonable.

To be continued…

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