Quebec 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.
Québec has specific laws pertaining to child custody and access that should be reviewed prior to creating a parenting plan, to ensure your parenting plan is compliant with the law and will be more likely to be accepted by the court.
These laws are included in the Divorce Act, and additional information regarding children's rights can be found in the Civil Code of Québec.
Book I, Chapter II, of the Québec Civil Code clearly outlines the legislation pertaining to respecting the rights of children, which applies to all cases, including family law.
The Divorce Act also contains child custody and access legislation.
Additionally, Justice Québec publishes several pamphlets and documents that can be helpful to review when you are involved in a child custody proceeding.
We will cover some of the basic information you will need to know about Québec laws in the sections below.
The Civil Code of Québec affords children three basic rights.
- Parents, or persons acting as parents, are required to furnish the child with protection, security and affection.
- Children have the right to be heard by the court in cases involving their futures, provided they are of sufficient age and possess the maturity and sensibility to voice an educated opinion.
- The rights of children are to be respected at all times and the decisions made by the court affecting the child should always protect the child's best interests and well-being.
You should keep these rights in mind as you start to create your parenting plan.
In Québec, you have the option between a joint agreement and a sole custody agreement.
The document that outlines the role of each parent in continuing to raise the children is often called a custody agreement or parenting plan. To begin your agreement, you must first decide on a custody arrangement for your child.
Joint Custody or Shared Custody Agreement
- An agreement where both parents are involved in raising and rearing the child.
- Both parents have the authority to make decisions for the child about education, religion, upbringing, etc.
- The child spends significant time with both parents. Even if the child lives with one parent, the other parent has frequent and continuing access.
- The parents must be able to cooperate and communicate with each other in order to make joint decisions about the care of the child.
- The parents establish the terms of the agreement and can have it ratified by the court. If the court does not ratify the agreement, there is no legal way to enforce it if one of the parents does not follow it.
Sole Custody Agreement
- The child lives with one parent and either that parent makes the decisions concerning the child or both parents contribute to making decisions for the child.
- The parent whom the child lives with has custody of the child, and the other parent has access (or visitation rights).
- If a child is old enough, the child can decide which parent to live with.
- If parents cannot agree on who has custody, a judge will determine the custodial parent.
- The judge will decide custody so that the children can have as much contact with each parent as possible. This means the judge will look at which parent is willing to facilitate contact with the other parent and other family members.
- If the parents cannot agree on a custody and access schedule, the judge can determine one that is in the best interest of the child.
The Divorce Act stipulates that the judge's decision should permit the child to have as much contact with both parents as is feasible, provided that this contact is in the child's best interests.
Regardless of the custodial arrangements, both parents are considered to be equally important in a child's life, and both parents are entitled and obligated to ensure their child is cared for, educated, and nurtured.
The main concern of the court in child custody cases in the best interest of the child and some of the factors the court will considered when determining what is best for the child include:
- The child's relationship with each parent
- Which parent is best suited to serve as the primary custodian of the child
- The history of the child's care
- Which parent has served as the child's primary caretaker
- The child's adjustment and acclimation to his or her home, school, and community
- The safety and security of the proposed homes, as well as the people that live in them
- Any siblings or other people that would have a significant effect on the child
- Whether or not domestic violence or any other type of abuse or neglect have occurred
- Each parent's ability to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care
- Each parent's ability to provide the child with a loving, nurturing environment
- Any other relevant factors
A comprehensive parenting plan may be comprised of the following components:
- A statement that defines the type of custody the parents shall have
- A designation of the child's primary residence, for legal purposes
- A declaration of the decision making authority and responsibilities of each parent
- An access schedule that specifies the days and times the child will spend with each parent
- A schedule for vacations and holidays
- A method for dispute resolution should conflict or problems arise in the future
- Stipulations for modifying the parenting plan, should the need occur in the future
- Any other information the parents wish to include
If you are able to work together to negotiate a parenting plan, it is more likely that you will be able to work together when raising your child. If you are able to agree to a custody arrangement on your own, you may submit your parenting plan to the court and request the judge's approval.
If you are unable to agree on the details of a parenting plan, it decreases the likeliness of successful joint parenting.
You may attend mediation and seek the help of a counsellor to help them reach an agreement, if you are unable to agree on some or most of the issues. If you are still unable or unwilling to agree, the court will determine the parenting arrangements and the access schedule.
If you find you have exhausted all options and still are unable to reach an agreement, you may want to consider submitting your own parenting plan to the court. This will show the court that you are willing and able to work with the other parent, which will be looked upon favorably.
It will also provide the court with the option to approve your plan, in lieu of simply awarding the "standard" parenting plan and access schedule.
Parent created plans are typically more effective, as the parents have intimate knowledge of the child's behaviors and needs and the judge does not.
The top twenty cities in Quebec (by population, Statistics Canada) are: Montreal, Quebec, Laval, Gatineau, Longueuil, Serbrooke, Saguenay, Levis, Trois-Rivieres, Terrebonne, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Repentigny, Brossard, Drummondville, Saint-Jerome, Granby, Shawinigan, Saint-Hyacinthe, Dollard-Des Ormeaux, Blainville.