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Co-parenting Legally & Lovingly: A Guide for Divorced Couples

Co-parenting Legally & Lovingly

Whether you are already divorced, in the process of divorcing, or only contemplating divorce, if you are a parent, there are extra concerns and considerations involved: the best interests of your child or children. Since 2021, changes to Canadian divorce law have affected how divorcing/divorced couples approach their legal parental rights and duties. 

Change: No One Gets Custody

Since 2021, common words and concepts such as “custody” and “access” are no longer used in Canadian divorce law. Instead, the court, divorcing/divorced couples, divorce lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, and all others involved in establishing a binding agreement for the legal and physical care of the divorced couple’s children. 

In all parenting arrangements, the best interests of the child are to be the governing factor. The 2021 Divorce Act offers greater clarity and direction as to what this means. Canadian divorce law now states that a court must give primary consideration to the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological safety, security, and well-being.

In light of this, many divorcing and divorced couples are turning to divorce lawyers to ask about co-parenting.

What Is Co-parenting?

Co-parenting is a legal and logistical agreement between separated or divorced couples. It is similar to the concept of joint custody in that both parents have equal time, involvement, rights, and duties. However, while divorcing parents may believe that a co-parenting agreement is in the best interest of their child(ern), it can be extremely difficult to reach such an agreement while in the throws of an emotional divorce. For this reason, many divorcing and divorced couples will use divorce lawyers and/or mediators to create a co-parenting agreement in a timely, cost-effective fashion that does not require going to court.  

How to Co-parent Legally and Lovingly: Duties of the Parties

Once a co-parenting agreement has been reached, it will be easy to know exactly what your physical rights and duties are. You will clearly know the who, what, where, and when of childcare responsibilities, but the how may be nebulous, especially if there is still unresolved hurt, anger, or resentment between the divorced couple. Nonetheless, both parents have a legal obligation to make parenting arrangements only in the best interest of their child(ern) and to protect them from conflict. Therefore, both parents need to avoid:

  • arguing or discussing the legal issues where the child(ern) can hear.

  • criticizing or complaining about the co-parent in front of the child(ern).

  • making the child(ern) feel as if they need to “take sides.”

It requires vigilance and self-control to remain silent, and even more to be polite and respectful, but it is necessary to fulfill the first two parental duties of Canadian divorce law. Once again, there is a variety of professionals who can help you. Divorce lawyers, legal advisers, counsellors, mediators, parenting coordinators, and parenting coaches can guide you through the new waters of divorce and co-parenting. In fact, using a family dispute resolution process is the third duty of divorced/divorcing parents when violence or a severe imbalance of power is not a factor, and co-parenting is the desired parenting arrangement. Remembering this and the reason why – love and concern for your child(ern) – will help you reach a resolution.

Tips to Make It Work

Beyond the fact that divorce law legally binds you to follow any court order or legal agreement and to provide complete, accurate up-to-date information to the court or other legal parties involved in your parenting agreement, it is the best thing for your child(ern) for both their parents to do so politely and respectfully during the resolution process and after. Here are some tips:

  • Establish ground rules with your co-parent about how, when, and where to communicate.

  • Avoid sarcasm, rudeness, insults, etc.

  • Keep communications brief and to the point.

  • Be clear about what you need, want, and expect.

  • Work through your issues of hurt, anger, etc. towards your ex-spouse.

  • Involve professionals as required to help you co-parent:

    • Divorce lawyers

    • Parenting coordinators

    • Parenting coaches

    • Counsellors

    • Mediators

  • Prepare for parental discussions with your co-parent, not to battle, but to discuss all the issues concisely and quickly.

  • Use “I” statements during your discussions.

  • Listen.

  • Focus on the child(ern) and their needs.

  • Learn more about federal child benefits and credits and the Income Tax Act and how that pertains to your co-parenting situation.

Get Help in Kelowna

The Heritage Law Group in Kelowna specializes in family law and helping parents reach co-parenting or other parenting arrangements. Reach out to us today for our legal guidance and support or to meet with one of our divorce lawyers.


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