*You can see this blog post, among several others by the lawyers at Henderson Heinrichs LLP, over at the Henderson Heinrichs LLP website.*
As the school year winds down and the weather heats up, separated parents in British Columbia and across Canada are gearing up for negotiations. It’s that time of year when separation agreements or court orders are dusted off and reviewed in order to determine the sharing of a finite resource: summer parenting time.
The summer is a particularly important time to parents and children because it is the time of year when we get to make long-lasting family memories, have uninterrupted time for visits with out-of-town family or to exotic locales, and accumulate some bonding time within the family.
You would be surprised at the length of time that parenting time negotiations can take, so parents should be thinking about starting discussions for this year, either between themselves or through counsel, without delay.
The first step in determining your summer parenting time is to review any written agreement or court order that allocates the time the children spend with each parent. Does the agreement or order specify a summer schedule? If so, that’s your starting point. Does the agreement or order specify a method of dispute resolution in case of a disagreement? Then take steps to follow that method. For example, if you have a mediation clause in your agreement, and you want to change the parenting time for the summer, book that mediation!
The next step is developing a clear position on when you want to have the children in your care, and why it is important that they be in your care at that time. For example, do you want to take them out of the province for a couple of weeks? Identify which days you propose to leave and return, where you want to take the children, and how the children could make up the time with the other parent (if appropriate). Alternatively, do you want to propose a different schedule for the summer since the children are no longer beholden to a school schedule? For some families a 50-50 parenting schedule is impracticable where one parent lives far from the school; a move to more equal parenting may be possible in the summertime.
If the parties are not able to resolve the sharing of parenting time by discussion, then they should consider hiring counsel to assist with the negotiations. A BC family lawyer will give you advice about what to expect should the matter end up in court, and manage the correspondence with the other party’s lawyer. A BC family lawyer will present you with various options so that you can consider the one that best works for you and your family.
Parties may also consider retaining a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator is typically an impartial family lawyer hired by both parties, who will hear each party’s side and then make a binding determination about temporary changes to the parenting schedule. This can be a much more cost-efficient way to resolve a dispute, because the parties need not each retain lawyers to attend a contested court application. More information about parenting coordinators can be found here: http://www.bcparentingcoordinators.com/.
If negotiations fail, and the parties do not want to retain a parenting coordinator, then the last step is an application to court. You can bring an application to court by filing a Notice of Application and supporting affidavit. Be sure to serve the opposing party with sufficient days’ notice (8, 12, or 21 business days, depending on whether the order is interim, final, or varying a previous order). Based on these time frames, the best time to apply for July and August parenting time is the beginning of June, and parents who need to retain counsel would be wise to do so in early May.
At an application, the court will consider factors relevant to the best interests of the children. For example, the court may consider the benefit to the children of going on a holiday with a parent, the benefit to the children of visiting with out-of-town relatives, the reasonableness of the parenting time proposed by the applicant parent, child care during summer months when many children are off school. The result will turn on the individual facts of your case.
If you want to develop a parenting schedule for summer but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can assist you through the process. For any questions about how a lawyer could assist you with your case, contact the writer.
*Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. To establish a solicitor-client relationship with Virginia K. Richards please contact her at Henderson Heinrichs LLP using the information on the Contact Page.