Michelle Rogers – May 2016
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
In many cases, parents have joint custody of children following separation. This means both parents are involved in the decision-making for their children about custodial issues. Custodial issues are those about religion, health, and education.
Where parents are not able to make decisions together, one parent may have sole custody or “sole decision-making“. “Custody” is different from the amount of time a parent spends with their child. Time with children is more commonly referred to as “access“, or “parenting time“.
In other cases, one parent may have final decision-making authority. This typically means that both parents will participate meaningfully in a decision-making process. But, if after consultation there is no agreement, one parent would have authority to make the final decision.
Day-to-day decisions for children, such as what they will eat, what they will wear, and what they will do, are generally made by the parent whose care the child is in on that particular day.
Decisions about extracurricular activities are often made by both parents together, if they will impact both parents’ parenting time.
Disagreements about Decisions for Children
Parents may disagree about decisions for their children. This may be in the case of custodial decisions – health, religion, or education – or in day-to-day decision-making, such as extracurricular activities.
How parents make decisions for their children can be determined by their agreement or a court order about custody. This should be the first point of reference for any parent concerned about a disagreement about decisions for the children.
If one parent disagrees about a custodial decision for the children, is possible to bring that issue before the court. Examples of such disagreements include where parents disagree about what school the child should attend or whether the child should receive particular medical treatment, such as seeing a psychologist. Your lawyer will be able to provide you with advice about the law in such areas, and review various options for resolution with you.
Parents may also turn to professionals for advice. For example, members of the child’s school may be able to give helpful advice about what decisions may best meet the child’s educational needs; medical professionals will be able to provide advice about the child’s medical needs; and mental health professionals can provide advice and education about how the child is reacting to particular decisions, and child development generally.
Where parents are having difficulty with day-to-day decisions or communicating about decisions for the children, they may wish to work with a co-parenting counsellor.
Co-Parenting Counselling for Decision Making
Co-parenting counsellors help separated parents make decisions and communicate about their children. Parenting counsellors are typically psychologists or social workers with appropriate training. While there are a limited number of professionals in Nova Scotia offering this particular service, co-parenting counselling is widely used in other provinces such as Ontario.
Co-parenting counsellors can help parents address a particular decision for the children – such as whether the child is to change schools, or be involved in particular activities. Co-parenting counsellors can also help parents create communication plans and facilitate ongoing discussions about children.
Co-parenting counsellor are facilitators, rather than mediators or decision-makers. While they can help parents make decisions about their children, they do not provide legal advice and are not negotiators. This is the role of a lawyer.
For more information about the legal and other options available to helping parents navigate decision-making, please feel free to contact one of our family law lawyers at MDW Law.