Looking at divorce from your child’s perspective isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you love your child and try your best to uplift them, it can be easy to forget that they aren’t mature adults, and aren’t yet ready for the intricacies of a divorce.
While you should be as honest as possible with your children, you must still shield them from some of the more brutal aspects of your divorce, particularly parenting disputes. This article from Guardian Law divorce lawyers will show you how the leading lawyers in Vancouver recommend you address these family law issues with your children.
What Are Parenting Disputes?
It’s inevitable that once a marriage breaks down, there will be some disagreements.
Oftentimes, those disagreements relate to how a couple will take care of their children following their split. In family law, these are called parenting disputes.
As divorce lawyers, we try to keep things calm. But sometimes, there just isn’t any quick resolution when two people stand opposite each other.
To give you a better idea of what these disputes look like, here are the 3 most common parenting disputes. We’ll dive into each of these.
- Guardianship and Parenting Time Disputes (Child Custody)
- Child Support
- Mobility Issues
Guardianship and Parenting Time Disputes
In family law also known as custody and access respectively, guardianship and parenting time disputes often arise when parents separate or divorce and cannot agree on who the child will live with (guardianship) or how often the child will see the other parent (parenting time). They can also occur if circumstances change, and one parent seeks to change an existing agreement or court order.
As divorce lawyers, we know that the impacts of guardianship and parenting time disputes can be far-reaching. For children, these disputes can cause stress and anxiety. Children may feel torn between their parents or may worry about the future.
And for your part as a parent, these disputes can be costly, especially if it leads to court proceedings. Moreover, they could cause emotional distress and can strain your relationships with your children.
As with all disputes, the first type of resolution isn’t to go straight to court. Family lawyers know that you can usually solve these issues through negotiation and mediation first before you take things as far as that.
Child Support Disputes
In Canada’s family law, including British Columbia, child support is considered a right of the child, and it’s intended to ensure that children share in their parents’ financial resources. That said, actually determining how much one parent should pay and who should pay it is where the whole issue gets complicated.
The non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the child does not primarily live) typically pays child support to the custodial parent. The amount of child support is generally based on the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of children they are supporting.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
The Federal Child Support Guidelines provide a framework for calculating the amount of child support. The Guidelines include a series of tables, one for each province and territory, which show the basic amount of child support that a payor parent should pay based on their income and the number of children they have.
The basic child support amount is intended to cover typical children’s expenses like food, clothing, and basic school supplies. In addition to this basic amount, parents may need to share the cost of extraordinary expenses, such as childcare, post-secondary education, and medical expenses. The proportion each parent contributes towards these expenses is usually proportional to their respective incomes.
How Child Support Can Lead To Family Law Disputes
For one thing, parents may disagree about the payor’s income or the appropriate table amount, particularly if the payor’s income fluctuates or is not straightforward to determine. For example, if the parent is self-employed or earns income from various sources. Plus, if one parent tries to hide their income, this can land them in even bigger trouble.
That said, circumstances can change significantly. A child might have new needs that require higher payments, or, a parent could undergo significant financial distress and be unable to keep up their support of their child. If at any point a parent decides not to pay child support, this could lead to conflict as well.
Disputes Regarding Mobility
When one parent wishes to move to a different location, particularly when the move is far enough to disrupt the existing parenting arrangements, new issues arise that complicate existing agreements. This is a contentious area of family law, as it can create significant disruption to the child’s relationship with the non-moving parent and can add extra complications to the execution of custody and access arrangements.
Under Canadian law, including in British Columbia, relocation cases hinge on the best interests of the child. This principle requires considering the potential impact of the move on the child, considering factors such as the child’s relationship with both parents, the reason for the move, the child’s wishes (if it’s appropriate to consider them), and the disruption versus potential benefits of the move.
BC has several specific rules for relocation cases. The parent wishing to move with the child (when the move would have a significant impact on the child’s relationship with the other parent or important people in their life) must provide 60 days’ notice to the other parent outlining the plan. The other parent then has 30 days to object. If an objection is made, the parent wanting to move has to apply to a court for permission unless both parents can come to an agreement.
The person applying to move must prove that the move is being made in good faith. In essence, it should not intend to limit the other parent’s time with the child and should be in the best interests of the child. Should both parents spend substantially equal time with the child, the burden of proof is on the moving parent. On the other hand, if the child primarily lives with the parent wishing to move, the other parent must show why the move would not be in the child’s best interest.
5 More Common Parenting Disputes
Of course, there are far more complications that can arise if you and your partner split. Here are the most common ones we see at our practice at Guardian Law.
- Educational Decisions: Issues arise often when two parents are deciding on where the child should go to school, whether the child should attend a public or private school, or if one parent should homeschool the child.
- Medical Decisions: You might disagree regarding medical care, including mental health treatment, vaccinations, and other critical health-related decisions.
- Religious Upbringing: If parents are of different faiths, determining religious upbringing could be a major issue. And even if they have the same faith but one feels more strongly than the other.
- Parenting Styles: Disputes can also arise from differing parenting styles, discipline methods, or disagreement on general upbringing strategies.
- Agreements: Both enforcing and changing agreements can cause a great degree of discord between you and your ex. One party might not like the change and refuse to implement it in practice. Moreover, one spouse might believe that the other isn’t following an agreement properly and cause a dispute.
7 Ways To Resolve Parenting Disputes
Initially, you could communicate directly with your ex-spouse, discussing your points of view and trying to come to a mutual agreement. You should have a list of points to discuss and potential solutions.
This process involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator, who helps parents find a compromise. The mediator does not impose a decision but guides the discussion and helps parents explore options and make decisions.
A parenting coordinator is a neutral professional who helps parents resolve conflicts about their parenting agreement or order. Parenting coordination can be particularly helpful for high-conflict situations or when parents have difficulty communicating or making decisions together.
Counselling Or Therapy
Therapists or counsellors, particularly those specializing in family or child-focused therapy, can provide parents with strategies to resolve disputes and communicate effectively. They can also help manage the emotional aspects of parenting disputes.
In this process, each parent hires a collaborative lawyer, and all parties agree to work together to resolve issues without going to court. If this process fails, the lawyers are disqualified from representing the parents in court, which provides a strong incentive to find a solution.
This involves bringing in a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, who makes a binding decision after hearing arguments and evidence from both parents. It’s a more formal process, similar to a court proceeding, but can be more expedient and private.
Going to court should be the last resort. Choose this when you’ve exhausted all other potential remedies or found they are not appropriate, such as in cases involving domestic violence. A judge will make the final decision based on the best interests of the child.
8 Tactics For Managing Parenting Disputes With Your Children
One of the easiest ways for your child to sour on both you and your ex-spouse is if you don’t properly communicate the consequences of parenting issues and disputes to them.
It’s not even about malice. Sometimes, you or your ex-spouse might carelessly relay a detail to your child at the wrong time or use the wrong wording. That could cause your child to misinterpret your words. Maintaining your child’s trust in you is critical as they grow up under your care.
As such, we’ve compiled these 8 tactics for communicating parenting disputes to help you set your parenting on the right course.
Stay On The Same Page
When you’re communicating about parenting disputes with your child, you must agree on the details of what you’re communicating with your ex-spouse ahead of time. Preferably, you should both be present when you’re letting them know these details. We realize that it is not always possible for you to agree on the details. In those cases, don’t say anything until you’ve both agreed on what to say. It’s essential that the two of you don’t contradict each other in front of your child. They need to have confidence in the two of you.
Only Say What’s Necessary
Children aren’t equipped to deal with the same types of stress as adults. That’s why you should only communicate the info that applies directly to them. Want to discuss specific numbers regarding spousal support? Save that for your family lawyer.
If you feel the need to vent, consult your family, a close friend, or a therapist. Your children shouldn’t be exposed to your feelings on the matter. It’s unfortunate, but it could warp their perception of events and even cause them to resent you or your ex-spouse. It’s better to save these discussions for a decade or two later when they’re mature enough to handle them.
Be Honest, Yet Sensitive
If you’re clearly obfuscating important information, your child will sniff it out and often trust you less as a result. Adding extra details might tip them off about a bigger issue, so be sure to refer to things in broad terms that children can understand.
If there is a problem, refer to it in broad terms and don’t go any further. Say that you and your ex are working on a solution and that you both love them very much. Delving into details will cause them undue stress.
If your dispute is prolonged, highly contentious, or having a noticeable impact on your child, it can be beneficial to seek professional guidance. Child psychologists, therapists, or counsellors are trained to help children navigate through emotional difficulties and can provide useful tools and strategies.
They can also guide you on how to best communicate with your child during this challenging period. They may offer advice on what language to use, how to reassure your child effectively, how to encourage your child to express their feelings, and how to spot signs of distress that may require further intervention.
Family therapists can also work with the whole family, facilitating healthier communication between family members and helping to rebuild relationships that may have been strained during the dispute.
Reassure Your Child
This is a delicate time. Your child likely has all sorts of concerns circling through their mind. As the various questions pop up, it’s important to portray an image of confidence and strength towards them. As we said earlier, spare them the details and simply tell them the adults are handling it. Don’t dwell on any issue for too long either, simply answer their questions as best as you can and change the subject gracefully.
During times of instability or change, maintaining regular routines can provide children with a sense of security and normalcy. This might include consistent meal times, bedtime routines, school schedules, and regular activities like sports or clubs.
While some changes may be inevitable, try to keep as much consistency as possible, and involve your child in creating new routines if necessary. For example, if your child will now be splitting time between two homes, you can ask them which activities they would like to engage in at each home, and how they want to set up their new bedroom.
Having predictable routines can help children feel more in control and less anxious. It also helps to reassure them that life will go on and that they can still have regular, everyday experiences despite the disputes between their parents.
Listen To Your Child
Of course, your child can’t actually have a voice in the process. That said, they should still have their feelings heard. They may be experiencing a range of emotions – confusion, sadness, anger, fear, and more. Let your child know that these feelings are entirely valid and that it’s okay to talk about them.
Creating a safe, non-judgmental space for your child to express themselves can be very therapeutic. This might be through casual conversations, or through more formal avenues like writing in a journal or drawing pictures. When they share, listen actively, acknowledge their feelings, and provide comfort and support.
Don’t Belittle Your Ex
When you play the blame game, everyone loses. Your child might side with you if they’re young and don’t know better when they hear you berate your ex. That said, down the road, they might realize that you were unable to control your emotions in front of them, and that can cause them to lose respect for you. Don’t influence your child’s opinion of your ex-spouse. It’s up to them to form their own opinions as they mature.
Who Should I Contact During A Parenting Dispute?
If you’re looking for a Vancouver divorce lawyer with the right expertise to handle all your divorce proceedings, look no further.
As we emphasized in this article, courts are always the last resort. We mean it. Causing more friction between you and your family isn’t our goal. We’re prepared to use the fullest extent of our family law skills to help reach a speedy settlement.
Book an appointment now to receive the advice you need and get your parenting dispute settled faster.