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Co-parenting in British Columbia: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

Child Custody, Access, and Parental Rights

When it comes to custody and access, the Family Law Act of British Columbia, section 37(2) states that “there is an obligation on parents of a child to provide the child … with guidance, care, and control, and other necessaries.” This is known as “guardianship” and requires parents to consult one another and to take part in making decisions regarding the child’s education, religious upbringing, and medical treatments. In agreeing to parenting arrangements, a court may also award one parent parental rights. This means that one parent will ensure that the child is raised in accordance with their religion and culture, provide the child with food, clothing, shelter, and education, and if possible be available to give the child guidance and discipline. In the event that both parents cannot agree on custodial and access arrangements, the court will make the decision on the best interests of the child, as outlined in Section 37(7) of the Family Law Act. The factors taken into account include the child’s physical and emotional well-being, the existing relationship between the child and the two parents, and the need to create a safe and stable home environment.


Visitation and Parenting Plan

In certain cases, the court may decide that the child’s best interests would be served by having access to both parents. This is usually referred to as a parenting plan, and can take the form of joint physical custody or physical custody for one parent and access for the other. In the case of joint physical custody, the child will share living space with both parents and have the same amount of time with each parent. In the case of physical custody for one parent and access for the other, the child will live mostly with one parent, but have access to the other parent on a regular basis. The court may also issue an order for supervised access. If either parent is deemed to pose a risk to the child, then the court can decide that the parent has access to the child under the supervision of a third-party.


Child Support Payments

Child support payments, as outlined by Division 5 of the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program Act of British Columbia, are payments made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help with the financial support of their child. The court will set the amount of the payments, taking into account the income of both parents, and the amount of access and involvement each has with the child. Child support payments are not based on the parent’s willingness or ability to pay, and must be paid in full and on time. Defaulting on payments can lead to serious legal action being taken against the defaulter, and has serious implications when it comes to relationship between the two parents.


Shared Expenses and Parental Decisions

In cases where both parties have shared physical custody of the child, they may also end up sharing certain expenses related to the upbringing of the child. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program Act of British Columbia states that the extent of sharing and the responsibility for paying the expenses must be agreed upon by both parties, in writing and signed by both parties. In some cases, the shared expenses may be taken into consideration for child support payment amounts, however, this must be agreed to by both parties. Any decisions relating to the child’s education, religious upbringing and medical treatments must be made jointly by the two parties as per section 37(2) of the Family Law Act. This means that any decisions regarding the child’s welfare must be agreed to by both parties, and cannot be decided by one party alone.



If both parties are unable to agree on any of the above-mentioned issues, then they may be asked to attend mediation sessions in order to come to an agreement that both are happy with. According to the Courts Administration Act of British Columbia, family disputes may be mediated by a Family Justice Counselor ("FJC"). An FJC is trained in Family Law, and can provide advice and guidance on matters relating to custody, access, child support, shared expenses, and other co-parenting matters. The FJC can also help both parties to write out a comprehensive parenting plan, which they can both agree to and sign. The parenting plan will be recognized by the court, and can be used to avoid court appearances, as well as to ensure that both parties stick to their agreement.



Co-parenting can be difficult, but understanding the law and asking for help if needed can make the process a little easier. Knowing the law in British Columbia regarding child custody, child support, access, and shared expenses can help to ensure that the relationship between the two parents is as amicable as possible. Additionally, attending mediation sessions with a Family Justice Counselor can also help to settle disagreements and create a plan that both parties can agree upon. This can help to remove the stresses and conflict that can arise between two parents, making the entire situation better for everyone involved, especially the child.


Fact Check and Resources

In crafting this post, we conducted thorough fact-checking and research, consulting the following sources:


Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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