Vaughan Family Lawyers Advising on Decision-Making Responsibility

Decision-making responsibility is the ability of a parent to make decisions about their child’s well-being and day-to-day life. This includes the child’s education, healthcare and medical decisions, religious and spiritual upbringing, culture, heritage, and discipline. Under the Divorce Act, the previous term for decision-making responsibility was custody.

At GDH Family Law, we have dedicated our careers to the practice of family law and have decades of experience advising clients on parenting matters. Our skilled team understands the importance of settling the issue of decision-making responsibility as efficiently as possible to avoid conflict and misunderstandings between separated parents.

Decision-Making Arrangements

Parents may decide how decision-making responsibility will be apportioned between themselves and incorporate the arrangement into a parenting plan or separation agreement. If the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own or through negotiation or mediation, they may need to have a family arbitrator or court decide the matter.

Sole Decision-Making Responsibility (Sole Custody)

Where one parent has all the power to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, they have sole decision-making responsibility. This may be required when there is a high degree of conflict between parents, and they cannot agree on matters affecting their child’s upbringing. There may also be situations where one parent has historically had little involvement in their child’s care.

Shared Decision-Making Responsibility (Joint Custody)

Shared or joint decision-making responsibility gives both parents an equal ability to make parenting decisions for their children. Parents who share decision-making responsibilities must consult with each other and cooperate in their child’s upbringing. If the parties can co-parent amicably and act in the best interests of their child(ren), shared decision-making responsibility is often the preferable parenting arrangement.

Split Decision-Making Responsibility (Split Custody)

In families with more than one child, parents may split decision-making responsibility. This gives each parent the sole decision-making responsibility for at least one child. Split decision-making responsibility is particularly effective where the family’s children primarily reside with different parents.

Parents who can amicably co-parent may also split the decision-making for the same child based on the issue involved. For example, one parent may prefer to be the sole decision-maker for matters affecting a child’s religious upbringing, while the other parent makes any decision relating to the child’s education.

Best Interests of the Child

The best interests of the child or children are always paramount when deciding how decision-making responsibility will be shared between the parents. Under the Divorce Act, a child’s best interests are determined by reviewing all of the child’s circumstances, including the following factors:

  • The child’s needs, based on their age and stage of development, such as their need for stability;
  • The nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each parent, their siblings, and grandparents, as well as with any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent;
  • The history of the care of the child;
  • The child’s views, considering their age and maturity;
  • The child’s upbringing and heritage, including their culture, religion, and spiritual influences. This especially includes their Indigenous upbringing and heritage, if applicable;
  • Plans for the child’s care;
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to care for the child and meet their needs;
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to communicate and cooperate on matters affecting the child;
  • Any history of family violence and its impact on the violent person’s ability and willingness to care for and meet the child’s needs. Courts also consider whether an order requiring parents to cooperate is appropriate given the history of family violence; and
  • Any civil or criminal matter relevant to the child’s safety, security, and well-being.

It is important to note that while these factors guide a judge or arbitrator when deciding matters relating to decision-making responsibility, they are by no means exhaustive.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans address a variety of parental responsibilities and act as a roadmap for the care of the family’s children. A parenting plan can be integrated into the terms of a separation agreement or a court order.

An effective parenting plan is as thorough as possible and should address decision-making responsibility (custody) and parenting time (access). It sets expectations for the parties and creates a consistent routine for the family to minimize misunderstandings and conflict.

The details of each parent’s decision-making responsibility for a child can be fleshed out in a parenting plan, including matters relating to:

  • Medical and healthcare decisions, including treatments, prescriptions, and other health services;
  • The child’s religious, cultural, or linguistic upbringing, such as teachings intrinsic to a child’s Indigenous heritage (where applicable);;
  • Education and learning, including schooling, tutoring, and extracurricular activities; and
  • How and when discipline will be administered.

Parenting plans should also set rules for contact between the parents, including communicating changes to the parenting plan or resolving disputes about the children’s upbringing.

Contact GDH Family Law in Vaughan for Advice on Decision-Making

The founding partners of GDH Family Law are seasoned family law professionals with extensive knowledge and experience in parental decision-making (custody) matters. Our attentive team provides client-driven advice and strategies aimed at resolving parental disputes as efficiently as possible while always prioritizing the children’s best interests. Where a matter cannot be resolved through collaborative methods, we are a commanding presence in court and will passionately advocate for your rights.

GDH Family Law provides as much or as little support as needed with decision-making issues. Our team offers full-service representation throughout your separation or can provide à la carte legal solutions at various stages of the process. We represent clients in Vaughan (including Maple, Concord, Woodbridge, Kleinburg) and the surrounding areas, including Markham, Richmond Hill, Nobleton, Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga, Etobicoke, North York, Thornhill, and King City. For a free initial consultation on your family matter, contact us at 416-535-6944 or reach out online.