- When parents are not together they can ask the court to decide on parenting arrangements if they cannot agree.
- The court can decide when each parent will spend time with the children and how important decisions about the children will be made.
- The court can determine when the children will spend time with others in their lives such as grandparents.
- If there are issues with the child's safety the court can order that parenting time be supervised.
When making a parenting order the court will only consider the best interests of the children.
Before deciding to go to court it is important to consider other options. Parents who do not agree on parenting arrangements may still be able to reach an agreement with help from a third-party, such as a family mediator. Most parents will need to use a family dispute resolution process before asking for a parenting order. For more information about resolving parenting issues without going to court see Parenting Agreements.
Contents of a Parenting Order
A parenting order can determine:
- Parenting Time: when the children will spend time with each parent
- Decision–making Responsibility: how important decisions about the children will be made
A parenting order can also:
- allow or not allow relocation of the children (a move is considered a relocation if it would significantly impact the children’s relationship with the other parent)
- prohibit removal of the children from a certain geographical area without the consent of both parents or a court order
- order that parenting time or the transfer of the children for parenting time be supervised
- include any terms, conditions or restrictions the court thinks are necessary. For example, a parenting order could include a condition that a parent not consume any alcohol when the children are with them.
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 parenting time centres provided through the Supervised Parenting Time/Exchange Program in Saskatoon and Regina.
Supervised parenting time is only ordered if there is a concern for the child’s safety or wellbeing, 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 rare 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-offs and pick-ups 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 anger between the parents, or if one parent has a restraining order against the other parent.
Other People in the Children’s Lives
Sometimes other people in the children’s lives, such as grandparents, also want to spend time with them. Parents can arrange this during their own parenting time. If this is not possible, others in the children’s lives might be able to also ask for a court order allowing them to spend time with the children.
In divorce cases, when a person other than a parent applies for such an order, it is called a contact order. People other than the parents, can apply for a parenting order if they can show they have a sufficient interest in the children. A sufficient interest means they play an important enough role in the children’s lives to have the court consider making an order about them spending time with the children.
In determining if someone has enough of an 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 is presented to the community
- whether the person has supported the child financially
When deciding whether to make an order, giving a non-parent, time with the children, the court considers the best interests of the child. This could include considering whether the person could just spend time with the children when they are in the care of either parent. If parents are not allowing someone, like a grandparent, to see the children, the court may be reluctant to make an order that could cause more conflict. But, in some situations, the court can make an order, even if the parents do not agree that this person should be in the children’s lives.