Upon the dissolution of any adult relationship in which children are involved, it is inevitable that the issues of custody and access will need to be immediately dealt with.
Contrary to popular belief, the custodial arrangement of the children establishes which parent or in the case of joint custody, that both parents, have the authority to make important parenting decisions about the children.
While the access schedule for the children is what dictates how much time the children are in each parent’s physical care. For the purposes of this video blog, I will focus on the shared parenting arrangement as it relates to separating families with young children.
In a shared parenting arrangement, the child(ren) reside with each parent no less than 40% of the time. Practically, a shared parenting regime may be implemented so that each parent has parenting time with the children on a week about basis or the children reside with each parent on alternating weekends and the weekdays are divided between the parents.
Parents often wish to pursue a shared parenting arrangement as this allows both parents to have relatively the same amount of time with the children. Typically, the shared parenting regime is successfully implemented in situations where both parents are able to effectively communicate with respect to the children.
In establishing the shared parenting arrangement it is imperative that the parents agree to all terms and conditions relating to this access schedule. More specifically, the rights and obligations of the parent without physical custody must be clearly defined so that the children are able to attain consistency and normalcy. For example, it may be helpful to identify when the non-access parent can contact the children while they are with the other parent.
Historically, there has been a presumption in favour of young children maintaining their primary residence with the mother; however, with the recent change of the family dynamic and as fathers are becoming more actively involved in the care of their children, the courts have recently provided fathers with liberal access after separation. Nonetheless, the move towards equal parenting for young children is a slow one and is yet to become the norm. While there are practical reasons why fathers must have limited access time with their young children, such as where young children are being nursed, even absent such conditions, courts are still reluctant to give the father an equal number of overnights with young children.
As such, while the outcome of each case depends on the individual fact scenario and the established status quo, it is important for separating fathers of young children to understand that in the current state of the law, it is not likely that an equal split of time will automatically granted (absent some compelling reason to do so). Instead, it is important for these parties to understand that while an equal division of time is not entirely out of the picture, unfortunately for fathers, this is likely to occur gradually over time.