- Parents are responsible for looking after their children.
- If parents are not living together they can decide how to continue to look after their children or ask the court to decide.
- Parents are responsible for supporting their children whether the child lives with them or not.
Looking after Children
If you and the other parent have lived together since your child was born, you are both responsible for caring for your child. This includes making decisions about things like medical care and schooling. If you have never lived together, the parent who the child lives with is responsible for these things.
Caring for a child means you are responsible for:
- keeping them safe
- making sure they get enough to eat
- taking them to the doctor when needed
- not leaving them on their own when they are too young to look after themselves
- giving them attention and affection
Parents may need to find someone to care for their child while they are at work or busy with other obligations. In Saskatchewan there are licensed childcare providers. The Government sets standards for childcare centres and oversees them to make sure these standards are met. You can, however, choose to use someone who is not licensed. If you have any concerns with your childcare you should discuss these with your care provider. If you still are not satisfied you can report your concern and it will be investigated. The caregiver will not be given information about who made the complaint.
If you use physical punishment (like spanking):
- it cannot be because you are angry or frustrated
- the child must be more than two years old but not yet a teenager
- the force applied must be short-lived and not harmful
- objects such as belts, rulers, etc. cannot be used
- it cannot include any slaps or blows to the head
- it cannot result in injury
- it cannot be degrading or inhumane
Physical punishment that goes beyond these guidelines can be considered assault. Assault is a crime. It could also be considered child abuse.
Other things could also be considered child abuse, including:
- exposing a child to violence between parents
- involving a child in sexual activity
- harming a child with insults and hurtful comments
Anyone who thinks a child is being abused or neglected you must report it. Child abuse or neglect may be reported to Social Services. If you think a child needs immediate help, call the police. You do not need to be absolutely certain about the abuse or neglect. If abuse is suspected, it can be investigated. You do not have to give your name. If you report neglect or abuse because you are concerned about a child you will not be in trouble. Deliberately making a false report could, however, result in legal consequences.
If child abuse or neglect is reported it will be looked into by child protection workers. If they find that a child has been abused or neglected, they work to find a way to keep the child safe. This might mean offering the family support and services. Whenever possible the child will remain with the family.
If the child cannot safely remain at home, the child may be removed. If this happens there will be a hearing that the parents can attend. Parents can tell the court why they think that the child should remain with them. If a child cannot safely remain with the parents, the child will be placed in another home. This could be a home of a relative or, if there is no one else, a foster family. Children must be returned to their own home when it is safe to do so.
Travelling Outside the Country with Children
If you are travelling alone with a child, it is always a good idea to have a letter from the other parent. The letter should say that it is ok for you to travel with the child. This is true for parents who live together and for parents who live apart. You need to check with the country you will be travelling to find out what documents you need to enter that country with a child.
If parents live apart, there may be terms in a parenting order or agreement that require the consent of the other parent.
If you think the other parent might take your child outside of Canada without you consent you can ask to have your child put on the Passport Program System Lookout List. To do this your child must be under 16 and must be a Canadian citizen. If the other parent applies for a passport for a child on this list government officials will be alerted that there are concerns about parental abduction.
When Parents Live Apart
If parents separate or divorce, an agreement or court order dealing with the arrangements for the children may be needed.
Courts will only consider what is best for the child. They do not consider what either parent wants or needs. Courts do not favour mothers over fathers or fathers over mothers, even in cases involving very young children. Courts don’t favour keeping sons with their fathers or daughters with their mothers.
Support for Children
Both parents have a duty to support their children, even if they have never been spouses. This responsibility is ongoing until the child is at least 18. This responsibility doesn’t end if your relationship with the other parent ends, regardless of the circumstances of the break up. This responsibility continues even if you enter into a new relationship. You have this responsibility whether you spend time with your children or not. You and the other parent cannot agree that no child support will be paid.
You and the other parent may agree on the amount of child support. If you cannot agree, either parent can apply to court for a child support order. There are Child Support Guidelines to help determine a fair amount of support for a child when the parents are not together.