Manitoba Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
When creating a parenting plan in the Province of Manitoba, it is important to be aware of the laws pertaining to child custody, access, and guardianship.
These laws may be found in the Family Law of Manitoba, Chapter 5, and in The Family Maintenance Act.
The law provides specific details as to what the court considers when ruling on child custody, definitions for the terminology used in court and court documents, and explains the rights parents have as to custody of their child.
By using the law as a tool when creating your parenting plan, and ensuring your plan is compliant with the law, you will be more likely to have a positive outcome in your child custody case.
As you begin to create your parenting plan, you should be aware of some of the terms the law defines, found in Chapter 5 of the Family Law of Manitoba:
- Custody refers to all of the duties and rights having to do with the child's care.
- Legal custody refers to the rights and authority a parent to make important decisions about the child's upbringing and how to raise the child.
- Physical custody refers to the rights of a parent to physically care for the child and the authority to make day to day parenting decisions.
- Access pertains to the right to have contact with the child, which includes actual visits as well as electronic, telephone, and other communications.
- Guardianship means someone other than a parent has legal responsibility and custody of the child.
Once you have an understanding of these terms, the type of custody the parents shall have should be defined in your Manitoba parenting plan, though you are not required to use these specific terms in an informal parenting agreement.
Chapter 5 of the Family Law of Manitoba defines the various types of custody:
- Sole custody means one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child. The child would primarily live with the parent that has sole custody, and that parent would be responsible for making all of the important decisions that involve the child. The other parent would typically be provided access and visitation time with the child.
- Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of the child and both parents are authorized to making important decisions in the child's life. With joint custody, one parent's home is usually designated as the child's primary residence, with the child having access to and visitation with the child.
- Shared custody means both parents shall share physical and legal custody of the child. The child spends a more balanced amount of time with each parent, and lives with each parent more or less equally. Cooperation and effective communication between the parents in regard to parenting and the care of the child is a prerequisite for this type of custody.
The best interest of the child is the ultimate determining factor in custody matters.
The Family Maintenance Act defines the criteria the court uses to determine the child's best interests, including, but not limited to:
- The wishes of the child as to custody, the age of the child, and whether or not the child is able to recognize the nature of the situation and is capable of making such a decision.
- The nature and quality of the established relationships between the child and each parent, any siblings the child may have, and any other persons of significant importance in a child's life.
- The physical, mental, educational, social, moral and emotional needs of the child, including the need for stability, taking the child's age and maturity into consideration.
- The impact (on the child) of any domestic violence, also considering the safety of the child and other household members, the child's general well-being, whether perpetrator of domestic violence is able to take care of and raise the child, and whether or not a court ordered custody arrangement would be possible for the parents to follow, given the nature of the situation and the parents' capacity to cooperate on issues affecting the child.
- The willingness and capability of each parent to cooperate and communicate with the other, regarding the child.
- The willingness of each parent to foster and encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent.
- Whether or not the child has any special needs, including special needs for care, treatment, and education, and which parent may be better equipped to meet those needs.
- The proposed plan for care of the child, including each parent's capability to provide the child with basic needs: a safe home, adequate food and clothing, and medical care.
- The history of the care of the child.
- The effect disrupting the child's care and sense of continuity would have on the child.
- The child's cultural, linguistic, and spiritual upbringing and heritage.
Your agreement should cover such matters of where the child will live, how the parents will share time with the child, and how the parents will make decisions for the child. Provisions for holidays and special occasions should be also be included.
You can also include a method for resolving disputes and making changes to the agreement.
In your agreement you can use whatever language you want to describe your custody arrangements.
Cooperating with the other parent is the best way to ensure all of the needs of your child are being met and that your custody case will have a successful result. If you and the other parent want to create your custody agreement outside of court, you can reach a parenting agreement on your own.
When parents are unable to agree, it is up to the court to decide the custodial arrangements for the child. Either parent can appeal to the court to make a decision for them.
Before the court will make a decision about custody and access, parents must complete the For the Sake of the Children information program.
The court can also recommend that parents attend mediation or conciliation. If mediation is unsuccessful or not an option, the court will make your custody agreement based on what is best for your child.
The top ten cities in Manitoba (by population, Statistics Canada) are: Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach, Selkirk, Winkler, Dauphin, Peguis First Nation, Morden.