Protecting your child’s rights to spend time with you and making decisions for them is vital from the ‘get go’ in family law cases. Unfortunately, the process can be complicated and contentious if parents disagree on parenting responsibilities and time sharing. Rest assured that bona fide disagreements should ideally not stand in the way of achieving a favourable outcome for your child.
No matter what mode of dispute resolution you have chosen, evidence gathering is necessary to show which arrangements are in your child’s best interests.
No parent is perfect, and the courts (and other dispute resolution decision makers) do not expect you to prove you have never made a mistake or are without flaws. However, courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of your child. According to the Divorce Act, this means arrangements that support your child’s “physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and wellbeing.”
Illustrating this can mean showing that you:
- Know your child’s daily schedule
- Play an active role in their life
- Know who their friends and teachers are
- Show your support for their interests (e.g., academics, sports, the arts, etc.)
- Can and will work respectfully with the other parent when necessary
When it comes to evidence that might reveal the other parent is incapable or outright obstructive, relevant information can include:
- Proof they are abusive and/or violent
- Proof that they attempt to alienate the child from you
- A history of being unwilling to cooperate with you for the benefit of your child
- Decisions that have caused direct harm to your child’s wellbeing
- Schedules showing the parent travels extensively for work and is unavailable to assume significant amounts of parental responsibility
- These factors can help the courts assess parenting skills, living arrangements and other elements that will affect a child.
Factors that may be less significant than you think
Too often, parents are tempted to advance petty allegations against the other parent to make that parent appear as incompetent, mistakenly thinking that this will somehow highlight you as the superior parent. Such attack mode accusations typically do not have any bearing on a person’s parenting capabilities. Some examples of this might include:
- Evidence of infidelity
- Missteps made as a juvenile or young adult
- Bad habits that have been broken
- A different approach to parenting or discipline (unless it is violent or abusive)
- Political stances
In general, if you keep the above principles in mind, you will maximize the chances of things turning out well for your kids. You need to provide truly meaningful information on you and the other parent. These principles apply in court cases but they are equally applicable in the context of negotiations, collaborative law, mediation and arbitration. Remain positive. Remain focused on what is truly best for your kid.
As we wrote in this 2010 article, introducing the right sort of evidence can maximize the chances of success. That was true then, and it continues to be true today.
However, parents can struggle to be objective when it comes to evidence in their own case, which is why legal representation is often crucial in these situations.