Parenting after separation: Understanding guardianship

Family Law Blog

The Family Law Act talks about the care of children in terms of guardianship, parental responsibilities, and parenting time, instead of custody and access. There is no such thing as “sole guardianship” under the Family Law Act, you are either a guardian of a child, or you are not.

Guardians are typically both parents of a child. These guardians are also called statutorily presumptive guardians. If a parent did not live with the child at the time the child was born, that parent is not a statutorily presumptive guardian and will need to obtain a court order, or agreement, confirming they are a guardian of the child.

With the rise of blended families, there is a growing trend for grandparents, and other relatives and non-relatives, who apply for guardianship. It is important to note that guardians have a duty to pay child support for the child. The primary duty for child support still lies with the parent of a child, however, if you are a non-parent guardian and are applying for guardianship of a child, you may be ordered to pay child support for that child.

A guardian has full rights and responsibilities related to a child. These rights include the right to have the child with them, and to make decisions about the care and upbringing of the child, where the child lives, who the child spends time with, the child’s medical and dental care and to receive information from third parties and health providers about the child. This collection of rights is called parental responsibilities.

Parental responsibilities are shared equally among multiple guardians. If there is disagreement, a court order may split parental responsibilities and determine where the child will live and who will have the tie-breaking decision-making authority.

A guardian’s time with a child is called parenting time. During this time a guardian exercises his or her parental responsibilities, in other words, the guardian cares for, supervises the child and makes day-to-day decisions that affect the child.

If you are looking for advice regarding custody, access, guardianship and parenting time, and if you want to know more about resolving a parenting dispute with an agreement or a court order, click here to contact one of our family law lawyers. We’re here to help.

Happy parenting!

McQuarrie