Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce


These definitions may help you understand legal terms related to parenting, in alphabetical order. They are not legal definitions. For a legal definition of these terms, you may wish to consult a legal adviser.

Legal term previously used in the Divorce Act to refer to the time a parent or other person spends with a child, usually not the parent with whom the child primarily lives.
An agreement is reached when you and the other parent come to a common understanding about your parenting arrangements. The laws in your province set out how to make this agreement legally binding so that you both have to follow it.
A process in which a neutral person—an arbitrator—makes decisions on legal issues. Under this process, both parents agree that they will allow the arbitrator to make decisions. The arbitrator acts like a judge.
A report by a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist who gathers information about your family for a judge. The assessment is a professional evaluation about the best interests of your children.
Blended family
A family with two parents who both have children from different relationships; it may also include a child of the current relationship.
Change of residence
A move within the same city that is not expected to have a major impact on the child’s relationship with either parent.
Child abduction
Parental child abduction happens when a parent or a guardian takes or keeps a child without either the legal right to do so or the permission of the other parent. Child abduction is a crime in Canada.
Child support
The amount of money one parent pays to another to support their child financially.
Collaborative law
A process in which both parents, their legal advisers, and potentially other professionals agree to work cooperatively to come to an agreement. During the collaborative process, both parents agree not to bring any court applications.
Co-parenting relationship
A relationship between parents who are separated or divorced where the focus of the relationship is on what is best for the children. There are many types of co-parenting relationships.
Consent order
An order a judge will make once both parents agree on certain issues.
Court-ordered time that a person who is special to a child but is not their parent—such as a grandparent—spends with that child.
A person who is trained to give advice or guidance on personal issues, such as parenting after separation or divorce. Counsellors may have backgrounds in such fields as social work or psychology.
Court order
A written decision made by a judge. Parents must follow what the court order says. Court orders can be changed by going back to a judge and asking for a change, but only if there is a good reason.
Legal term previously used in the Divorce Act and still used in some provinces and territories. It sometimes refers to the authority that one or both parents have to make significant decisions about their child and is sometimes used to describe both the parenting time schedule and how decisions about the child will be made.
Decision-making responsibility
The responsibility for making important decisions about a child’s well-being, including decisions about health, education, culture, religion, and significant extra-curricular activities.
Divided (or parallel) decision-making responsibility
Situations in which one parent is responsible for making decisions on some aspects of a child’s life, while the other parent is responsible for making decisions on other aspects of the same child’s life.
Divorce Act
The federal law that sets out the rules for legally ending a marriage.
Family dispute resolution process
An out-of-court process that parties can use in a family law dispute to attempt to resolve any issues upon which they cannot agree. There are many types of family dispute resolution processes, such as negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration.
Family justice services and programs
Public or private services and programs that help people dealing with issues arising from separation and divorce.
Family violence
Any behaviour by one family member towards another family member that is 1) violent or 2) threatening or 3) coercive and controlling, or 4) that causes fear for a family member’s safety.
Federal Child Support Guidelines
Regulations under the Divorce Act that apply when setting child support amounts. The guidelines consist of a set of rules and tables. The guidelines are the law.
Federal Child Support Tables
Tables under the Federal Child Support Guidelines that set out the basic amount of child support based on income. There is a separate table for each province and territory to reflect different tax rates among provinces and territories.
Joint decision-making responsibility
A child’s parents jointly make major decisions about that child in areas such as the child's education, religion and health care.
Legal adviser
A person who is qualified in a province to give legal advice to another person or represent them in court. This can be a lawyer, and in some provinces, may include other professionals.
Majority of parenting time
Situations where a child spends more than 60 percent of the time with one parent. This term is normally used in the child support context. Majority of parenting time was formerly referred to as sole custody.
A process in which a neutral third party helps parents come to an agreement about issues related to separation and divorce, such as their parenting arrangement. In “shuttle mediation,” the two parents do not need to be in the same room. The mediator speaks to one parent and then to the other parent separately. The two parents negotiate with the help of the mediator, without being face to face.
A process in which parties have discussions to try to come up with a compromise or agreement about parenting issues. Parents may negotiate by themselves or they may negotiate with the help of their legal advisers.
Parenting arrangements
A plan that you or a court make for the care of your children after you separate or divorce. Parenting arrangements include “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibility.”
Parenting coach
A person who helps parents adopt new strategies, ideas and attitudes to parenting. Parenting coaches focus on the future and help parents adopt problem-solving skills.
Parenting coordination/Parenting coordinator
Parenting coordination is a child-focused process for resolving parenting disputes that arise after an agreement or order has been made about parenting timeparenting responsibilities, or contact. A parenting coordinator helps parents follow their parenting plan if any problems arise once it is in place.
Parenting order
An order made by a court that sets out important details about a parenting arrangement, such as the time the children will spend with each parent, each parent’s decision-making responsibilities, and how the children will communicate with one parent when spending time with the other parent.
Parenting plan
A plan that describes how parents who are not living together will care for and make important decisions about their children in both homes.
Parenting time
The time that children spend in the care of one of their parents, whether or not the child is physically with that parent (for example, it includes time when children are attending school).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A disorder triggered by a victim reliving a terrifying experience in which they were threatened with, or suffered, physical, psychological or emotional harm.
A move that will have a significant impact on the child’s relationship with their parents and other important people in the child’s life.
Shared parenting time
Situations where a child spends at least 40 percent of the time with each parent. This term is normally used in the child support context.
Split parenting time
Situations involving more than one child where each parent has the majority of parenting time—over 60 percent—with at least one of the children. This term is normally used in the child support context. Split parenting time was formerly referred to as split custody.
Sole decision-making responsibility
One parent makes all major decisions about the child, including on issues related to education, religion and health care.
A family in which at least one of the parents has a child from a previous relationship.
Views (or Voice) of the Child Report
A report that summarizes the opinions and preferences of a child about certain parenting issues, such as parenting time and living arrangements. A professional such as a social worker or legal adviser interviews your children and prepares a report on their views.