Q: I know the law changed recently. What is the difference between access and parenting time? Is guardianship the same as parental responsibilities?

A: The new BC Family Law Act (FLA) has made several key changes.  The terms “custody” and “access” have been abandoned and replaced by a broader definition of guardianship, parenting time, and parental responsibility.

A guardian is the person who has the right to  make important decisions about a child.

Under the Family Law Act, guardians have  parental responsibilities and  parenting time.  Parents who live together after the birth of their child are both considered the child’s guardians. After parents separate, they continue to both be guardians unless one of them is removed as a guardian by agreement or court order. If a parent never lived with the child, that parent is not the child’s guardian unless he or she has been appointed as a guardian in a court order or in a Will.  Guardianship, parental responsibilities, parenting time, and parenting arrangements are the terms used in the Family Law Act.

Parental responsibilities: The responsibility of guardian(s) to make decisions about the child’s life. These can include decisions about daily care, as well as larger ones about health care, education, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, etc.

Parenting arrangements: The arrangements made for parental  responsibilities and parenting time in a court order or agreement between guardians. Contact is not part of a parenting arrangement.

Parenting time: The time that a guardian  is entitled to have with a child  under an order or agreement.

Contact: The time that a person who is  not a guardian spends with the child.  This person could be a parent who does not have guardianship or  another relative, like a grandparent.

The new Family Law Act entrenches the rights and obligations of both parents. After separation, neither parent is in a better position than the other. The Family Law Act also recognizes that parental disputes should be resolved through mediation and collaboration, not through the courts.

Jeannette Aucoin
Articled Student