Newfoundland and Labrador Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
In Newfoundland and Labrador, 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 Newfoundland and Labrador, you will want to be aware of the laws pertaining to child custody and access and you can find these laws in the Revised Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador (RSNL), Chapter F-2, The Family Law Act.
The Department of Justice also provides the public with summaries of some of the laws and court procedures.
Becoming familiar with the laws of the province will enable you to create a parenting plan based on and compliant with the laws of Newfoundland and Labrador.
This will give you an advantage in your custody case by allowing you to create a parenting plan that meets the requirements of the court and serves the needs and best interests of your child.
The first thing you need to include in your parenting plan is a declaration of the types of custody the parents shall have and there are a few different types of custody:
- Physical custody refers to the residence of the child and the actual physical care of the child.
- One parent may have sole physical custody of the child, which means that parent provides the primary residence for the child and has the child the majority of the time, with the other parent having reasonable access and visitation with the child.
- Parents may also share joint physical custody. A primary residence may still be established with joint physical custody, but the parents share time with the child in a more equitable manner, in order to allow the child ample time with both parents.
- Legal custody involves the rights and responsibilities of a parent to make major decisions regarding the child's education, health, religion, and other important matters.
- One parent may have sole legal custody, but it is much more common for parents to share joint legal custody of their child, regardless of the status of their physical custody.
Statistically, custody of Canadian children is overwhelmingly awarded to mothers, but this does not mean that fathers are not entitled to custody of their children.
There are plenty of fathers that have sole custody of their children, and it is becoming more and more common for parents to share joint custody.
Sometimes parents request joint custody of their children for the wrong reasons. Parents have sought joint custody in an effort to reduce child support payments, or simply to get back at the other parent by using the child as a weapon.
Some parents will contest joint custody for similar reasons. They try to use their children against the other parent or want more child support and try to prevent the other parent from getting joint custody.
The court examines the motives for joint custody in every case. If you truly want to share custody in an effort to allow your child to be actively parented by both of you, and you are able to cooperate and communicate with each other, the court will make every effort to facilitate this.
Sharing custody of your child will help preserve the positive qualities of the relationships between each parent and your child as they existed before the family reconstruction.
After you've determined the type of custody, you can write out the more detailed arrangements in your parenting plan / custody agreement. You then have a parenting plan for how you will make the custody arrangement work. Generally, custody agreements contain the following:
- Information about how the parents will make major decisions about the child
- A schedule that shows when the child spends time with each parent
- Information about medical care for the child
- Rules about raising the child
- A method for how the parents will communicate about the child
- A process for how the parents will resolve disputes that arise about the agreement
- Other provisions that help the parents work out their custody situation
Since your custody situation is unique, you will want to personalize your agreement so that it fits with your circumstances. One of the best ways to do this is to think about the specific needs of your child and make your agreement so that it benefits your child and promotes your child's welfare.
When you agree that joint custody is in the best interests of your child, or you can reach an agreement on any other type of custodial arrangement, you may create a parenting plan/parenting agreement and submit it to the court.
The court will review your agreement and may omit or modify any portion of your parenting agreement according to what court feels is in the child's best interests (RSNL Chapter F-2, Family Law Act, Part IV, Section 66.1).
If you create your parenting plan with the best interests of the child as a central focus, the court should approve it in its entirety.
The phrase "the child's best interests" basically means that the health, welfare, and well-being of the child are to be protected and preserved. It means doing what is best for the child. The court will look at a lot of things when trying to decide what is best for a child.
Some of the factors the court considers when determining the best interests of a child are:
- The child's wishes as to custody if the child is of sufficient age to make a reasonable decision
- The requests of the parents as to custody
- The physical and mental health of each parent, and whether or not each parent has the capacity to provide the child with a safe, healthy home environment, adequate clothing and food, medical care, and other basic needs
- The history of care and nature of the relationships between each parent and the child, and whether disrupting or continuing the current situation would have an adverse effect on the child
- The child's relationships with any siblings and other people of importance in a child's life
- Whether or not there has been any domestic violence, child neglect, child abuse, substance abuse, or any other situation that is not in the child's best interests
- Each parent's motive for seeking custody
- The likeliness of each parent to allow the child to have access to and a relationship with the other parent
- Any special needs of the child and which parent is better equipped to meet those needs
- Any other factors that are relevant to the child's upbringing and well-being
These are just some of the factors the court may consider. If there are circumstances in your situation that the judge should know about, you should let the court know as it may affect the court's decision.
The top ten cities in Newfoundland and Labrador (by population, Statistics Canada) are: St. John's, Mount Pearl, Conception Bay South, Cornder Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor, Paradise, Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador City, Stephenville.