If parents are unable to decide on parenting arrangements, either one or both can ask the court to make a parenting order.
There are two different laws that apply to parenting orders. If parents are asking for a divorce they apply for a parenting order under the Divorce Act. If they are not asking for a divorce parents use The Children's Law Act to apply for a parenting order. Although there are two different laws the process for applying for a parenting order and the factors the court considers when making a parenting order are the same. For more information see Family Law Basics.
If you want to apply to court for a parenting order or respond to a request for a parenting order served on you and you are not represented by a lawyer you should look at the information in Unrepresented Litigants. If you want to use the Form Wizard to make or respond to a court application for a parenting order create a free account to get started.
Who Can Ask for a Parenting Order?
In divorce cases either spouse can apply for a parenting order. The court can give leave for someone who is not a spouse to apply for a parenting order if they are:
- one of the child’s parents
- someone who stands in the place of a parent
- someone who intends to stand in the place of a parent
In non-divorce cases a parent or any other person who, in the court’s opinion, has a sufficient interest in the child can apply for a parenting order. In these cases parents specifically include a parent by adoption, the spouse of a birth parent, if the child was conceived by artificial insemination or some other form of assisted reproduction, and people who become parents as the result of a surrogacy agreement. For more information see Who are Parents?
Contents of a Parenting Order
A parenting order can:
- determine who has parenting time and when
- determine who has the responsibility for making particular decisions
- determine how a party with a parenting time or decision-making authority order can communicate with the children when the children are with another party who has parenting time
- prohibit or authorize relocation of the children
- prohibit removal of the children from a certain geographical area without the consent of a specified person or without a court order
- order that parenting time or the transfer of the children for parenting time be supervised
- make an order that ends on a certain date or when a certain event occurs
- make an indefinite order
- impose any terms, conditions or restrictions the court considers appropriate
- include any additional order that the court considers necessary and proper in the circumstances
In a divorce parties can submit a parenting plan to the court and the plan or parts of it can be included in the parenting order. The court can also decide to include a parenting time schedule in the order even if a parenting plan was not submitted to the court. In non-divorce cases parties can include details about parenting arrangements in the application itself.