• Charlotte Goldfried

The New Divorce Act and Parenting – “Parenting Time”, “Contact” and “Decision Making”

I practice in the area of collaborative family law, which means that I work with individuals who have decided to move through their separation and divorce without litigating. This does not mean that all is easy sailing. When parents get stuck and find it difficult to move from their position, the question I ask is “What would a judge say about this matter, if we were in court?” Understanding, your rights and responsibilities and your children’s rights and how a court of law would decide on a particular issue, often helps spouses to get “unstuck” and move past the roadblock, without having to go to court. And, whenever possible, the goal is to avoid court. The court process usually takes more time, is costly and, most importantly, individuals give their decision-making power away. Once a judge decides on an issue, that is it. It is final.


This article is about some of the changes to the Divorce Act, which come into effect on July 1, 2020. You may be thinking that the Divorce Act does not apply to you, as you are a long way from applying for your divorce. In fact, your immediate concerns are how the two of you will



care for your children, once you separate. Actually, the Divorce Act deals with all kinds of matters, one of which is the issue of children and parenting.


My hope is, that this article, will assist individuals who are contemplating separation, or who are in the process of sep


The Divorce Act now refers to three new terms; they are parenting time, contact and decision making responsibility. These terms replace and supplement the older terms “custody” and “access,” which were often misinterpreted.



  1. Parenting Time refers to the time a child is in the care of a parent. During parenting time with their child, each parent is able to make day-to-day decisions affecting their child. Day-to-day decisions include matters such as a child’s bedtime or the time period for homework.

  2. Contact refers to the time that someone who is not a parent spends with a child. Such people could, for example, include grandparents. Generally, if a parent is unwilling to allocate contact time for an important person to spend with a child, the important person can enforce these rights through the courts.

  3. Decision Making Responsibility refers to making important decisions about the child’s life, such as decisions about the child’s health, education, religion, language and significant extra-curricular activities. Decision making responsibility can be allocated to one or both parents or it can be divided so that one parent takes care of certain decision making responsibilities and the other parent takes care of others.

Parents can create Parenting Plans that outline their decision making responsibilities and parenting time, as well as who may have contact with their child.


Should parents find that they cannot agree about parenting time, decision making or contact, and they wind up in court, a court would make a ruling on these issues based on what is in the best interests of the child, as this ought to be the primary consideration on these matters.

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