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Putting your children’s best interests first

If you’re going through a divorce or a custody dispute, it is important to put the needs of your children before your own. You want your decisions to reflect their best interests.

How do you determine what their best interests really are? It’s not just what they want, though you may want to consider that, especially with older children. Don’t worry: The court also focuses on your children’s best interests. Some of the things they consider include:

  • Your children’s ages
  • Your children’s genders
  • Any evidence from you or your spouse of criminal activity
  • Special needs that the children have
  • Who already provides most of the care for the children
  • Your physical health, along with that of your co-parent
  • Both parents’ mental health
  • The school your children attend
  • The neighborhoods in which you live
  • The roles of your extended family members

These are just a few examples but remember that the goal should be consistency. When considering schools, for instance, what custody setup will allow the children to remain in the same school, with the same classes and the same friends? That may not feel like the most important part of the equation to you, as an adult. However, it is probably very important to your children and can have a dramatic impact on their emotional and mental health moving forward.

Canada has a new piece of legislation in effect as of 1 July 2020. Bill C-78 amends the federal Divorce Act. The new legislation takes a holistic view of the “best interests of the child” and instructs us to consider all factors but the revised Act goes on to give a list of factors to consider that varies somewhat from the list stated above. See the amended section 16 of the Divorce Act. Also, take note of the increased emphasis that the revised Act places on “family violence” in s. 16(3)(j) and 16(4). Relocation of children is given special consideration in sections 16.9 to 16.96. Make certain that any order or Parenting Plan that you obtain even before 1 July 2020 addresses relocation or otherwise you may be in for a surprise if a parent decides to relocate.

Child custody cases can get very complicated and parents do not always agree on children’s best interests. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure that you are well aware of the legal rights you have and that you have the guidance of an experienced lawyer.

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