Children have a right to spend time with each parent or guardian, as long as the contact is safe and reasonable. Whether the Parenting and Support Act (provincial law) or Divorce Act (federal law) applies to your situation,  parenting arrangements like decision-making responsibility and parenting time may be set out in an agreement, parenting plan, or a parenting court order.

The broad term ‘parenting arrangements’ is often used to include decision-making responsibility ( used to be called 'custody'), parenting time (used to be called 'access'), contact, or a combination of these terms.

Parenting arrangements do not have to be written down. Some parents prefer to have a written agreement. They might do a written Parenting Plan that talks about decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Other parents, who are not able to work together (for reasons such as family violence), or who are unable to agree on parenting arrangements, use the court process to get a Parenting Order (court order).

A Parenting Plan or Parenting Order may cover things like:

  • where the child will live
  • each parent’s decision-making responsibilities
  • the time the child will spend with each parent and other important people in the child’s life
  • how the children will communicate with one parent when spending time with the other parent
  • how the parents will communicate with each other about the child
  • who has the right to ask for and get information about the child’s health, education and well-being
  • how disputes will be resolved
  • rules about relocating with a child.

Last reviewed: February 2023
Reviewed for legal accuracy by: Lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray, KC

Thank you to Justice Canada for funding to help update our legal information on divorce.