Parenting time refers to the time that a child is in a person’s care. It can include time that the child is not physically with the person. For example, if a party with parenting time hired a babysitter during their time with the child, it would still be considered their parenting time.
Unless the court orders otherwise, a parent with parenting time has the same right as the child’s decision-maker to make inquiries and be given information respecting the health, education and welfare of the child. If the parenting order is made under the Divorce Act anyone with parenting time, even if they are not a parent, has a right to this information and they can request this information from any other person who has parenting time or decision-making responsibilities or anyone else who is likely to have this information. This could be a school or a doctor’s office for example. A person's access to information is subject to other laws including privacy laws.
There are as many ways to divide the time a child will spend with each parent as there are families. Some examples of parenting arrangements include the children:
- living mostly with one parent and spending time with the other parent according to a schedule or just as agreed by the parents
- alternating weeks living with each parent
- living with each parent part of each week - with those days changing or not changing every week
There can also be different arrangements for periods of time such as school breaks, summer vacations and any others days including birthdays, Christmas day and other special occasions. There are also many other aspects of parenting that can be covered in parenting arrangements including things such as:
- pick-up and drop-off when children move between homes
- communication with the children when they are with the other parent
- attendance at child-related events
The parenting plan section has more information on different types of parenting arrangements and other aspects of parenting that can be covered by parenting arrangements.
Supervised Parenting Time
The court can order that a parent’s time with the child be supervised. This means the child will not be alone with that parent. Parenting time can be supervised by a third party, for example a relative or friend of the family. The court will not order a third party to supervise parenting time unless they agree. Parenting time can also be supervised in supervised parenting time centres provided through the Supervised Parenting Time/Exchange Program. This program only operates in Saskatoon and Regina.
Supervised parenting time is only ordered if there is a concern for the child’s safety or well-being, or a concern about the parent not returning the child or abducting the child. Cause for concern could include situations where a parent has:
- a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse
- a history of mentally, physically or sexually abusing children
- had no contact with the children for a long period of time
- limited parenting skills
Supervised parenting time is only ordered in unusual cases and, even when it is ordered, it is not something that is considered a long-term solution. If supervised visits go well the court may decide to allow unsupervised visits after a period of time. If the court orders supervised parenting time the court can decide the amount of any cost of supervision that either party must pay.
The court can also order that drop-off and pick-up times be supervised. This is called supervised exchange. The exchange can be supervised by a third party, or in Saskatoon or Regina by the Supervised Parenting Time /Exchange Program. The court may order that the exchange be supervised if there is violence or a lot of hostility between the parents, or if one parent has a restraining order against the other parent. Parents can also agree to have the exchange supervised by a third party or in a supervised centre.
In a divorce case, the court can allow a person other than a parent to apply for a contact order. This can only be done if the court has already made a parenting order or they are going to make a parenting order at the same time. This would typically be someone like a grandparent who could not apply or who chooses not to apply for a parenting order.
The court can consider any relevant factor when deciding on a contact order. This includes looking at whether the person could have contact with the child during another person’s parenting time, for example, whether a grandparent could spend time with the child when the child is with one of the parents.
A contact order can provide for in-person visits and/or communication with the child. The court can order that the contact or the transfer of the child for the purposes of contact be supervised. The court can include a term that prohibits the removal of the child from a certain geographical area without the consent of a specified person or without a court order. The contact order can be for a definite or indefinite period or until a specified event.
Persons of Sufficient Interest
In non-divorce cases, a person who is not a parent but who the court finds has a sufficient interest in the child could apply for parenting time, which is similar to having a contact order. They could also apply for decision-making authority.
In determining if someone is a person of sufficient interest courts consider a variety of factors including:
- how involved the person is in the child’s life
- how long the person has been involved in the child’s life
- the quality of their relationship with the child
- how the relationship was presented to the world
- whether the person has supported the child financially
If the person is not a member of the child’s family, the person must have both a significant relationship with the child and be committed to an ongoing relationship with the child.
A person who is a member of the child’s family, such as a grandparent, is not automatically a person of sufficient interest but may have an easier time showing they are a person of sufficient interest. For example, a grandparent could be considered a person of sufficient interest even if at the time of the application their relationship with the grandchildren is limited because the parents will not allow it.
Once the court determines that someone is a person of sufficient interest the court uses the same criteria, based on the best interests of the child, that they would use if a parent applied when deciding on a parenting order. The court can make any of the same orders they could make if a parent applied.
Grandparents & Parenting Time
The court will not assume that an order for parenting time is in the best interests of the child the way they would if a parent is asking for parenting time. Grandparents wanting parenting time must show that it is in the best interests of the child.
If parents are not allowing the grandparents to see the grandchildren because of conflict between the parents and the grandparents, courts may be reluctant to give grandparents parenting time. Conflict between the parents and the grandparents however, is not alone a reason to deny them parenting time. The factors that are considered when determining what is in a child's best interests are used to determine whether to provide parenting time to a grandparent.