According to our family lawyer Vancouver, A custody agreement is a legal and actionable document that sets the rights of parents to live with a child. Child custody agreements are common in separation and divorce lawsuits.
The terms and conditions of a custody agreement should be obeyed by both parents. Failing to follow a custody agreement can negatively impact all the parties to the agreement, including the child.
By law, child custody agreements are considered contracts hence, enforceable in a court of law in the event of non-compliance from either parent. While these contracts are agreed upon between the parents, they must be approved by the courts. Non-compliance with the rules or terms and conditions of a custody agreement translates to disobeying the directives of a court. In other words, non-compliance is considered contempt of court.
Children can only thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally in a safe environment. They bear the brunt of a bad custody agreement. That said, courts must ensure that the interests of a child are addressed before granting custodial and visitation rights to parents.
Courts and child custody law prioritize the child’s interests when granting custodial rights. Any decisions made by courts have profound and lasting effects on the affected child or children.
The “child’s best interest standard” dictates that a child’s welfare should be placed before the parents’ preferences or interests. Consequently, courts only grant custodial rights if the child stands to benefit.
Elements of a Child Custody Agreement
Child custody agreements focus on the welfare and safety of the child. Here are the elements of a child custody agreement:
Custody Designations—Physical and Legal
Custody designations are arguably the most important elements of a custody agreement. Physical custody focuses on where children should live, while legal custody defines the rights of parents to make critical decisions about the child’s welfare, including education, health, and more.
The language used to draft the custody agreement document shouldn’t be ambiguous. Simply put, a child custody agreement should be clear, concise, and understandable by both parents. Parental rights, responsibilities, and any other elements of the agreement must be clear to avoid confusion. The parent who stays with the child enjoys final decision-making rights about the child. However, parents under true joint custody have equal decision-making rights.
A detailed parenting schedule must feature in a child custody agreement. The schedule outlines how children will spend time with their parents. It must also factor in holidays, vacations, or any special occasion applicable to the family.
A detailed parenting plan should feature in the custody agreement. Parenting plans and schedules are different. The former focuses on how a child will be raised, while the latter focuses on how the child will spend time with their parents.
While predicting the future is impossible, a detailed parenting plan can help parents make informed choices about their child’s welfare. The following are the common elements of a parenting plan:
- The child’s health, and
- Extracurricular activities, among others.
Child support is the sum paid by a noncustodial parent to the other parent. The sum is meant for the child’s basic needs, including food, raiment, housing, health care, education, and more.
By law, child support must be paid directly to the child’s custodian and not the child. This ongoing support should be given until the child attains majority age—18 years.
British Columbia and many other jurisdictions have rules for determining child support amounts, which can vary by case. Consult the lawyers at Gertsoyg and Company for legal counsel and to help you calculate an appropriate child support amount.
Child Custody Agreement Non-Compliance
In the context of child custody agreements, non-compliance occurs when the terms and conditions of the agreement are contravened. Fortunately, the aggrieved parent can seek justice. The penalties for non-compliance depend on the violation committed.
Court-Ordered Visitation Denials
Visitation rules should be obeyed, but some parents decide not to cooperate. The aggrieved parent should be compensated for the lost time if it’s a first-time offense.
For ongoing violations, the parenting plan may be altered to give the aggrieved parent more time with the child. Altering the agreement can include granting primary custodianship to the aggrieved parent.
Children can become distant or create relationship boundaries between themselves and a parent. This behaviour is known as parental alienation, and it’s common in divorce and separation cases. Children are innocent and trusting by nature. That said, they’re likely to believe whatever information they get from the people they trust, especially parents.
Divorce and separation create bitterness and resentment between the parting parents. A bitter spouse will likely try to frustrate the other as a means of revenge. Pitting a child against the other parent is a common revenge strategy. The bitter parent can give false or exaggerated information to manipulate a child’s relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation negatively impacts a child’s development and future. Is parental alienation a crime or illegal in Canada? Sadly, there are no official parental alienation laws in Canada.
Forms of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation classifications include:
Mild Parental Alienation
Mild parental alienation occurs when a child doesn’t interact with a parent. The relationship only thrives when the alienated isn’t in sight.
Moderate Parental Alienation
The child resists any association with the alienated parent. They’re agitated any time they have to spend time with the alienated parent.
Severe Parental Alienation
This is an extreme form of parental alienation. The affected child typically prefers not to associate with the alienated parent. Such children can take drastic actions like hiding or escaping to stay away from the alienated parent. They may runaway or hide to not be near the parent.
Is parental alienation a crime in Canada?
The government doesn’t need legislation to criminalize or make parental alienation illegal. The Family Act handles parental alienation cases in Canada. However, Canadian courts acknowledge parental alienation, so the target parent can get legal help.
How do I Prove Parental Alienation in Canada?
The aggrieved party must demonstrate that the negativity of their ex is harmful to the child to prove parental alienation in Canada. Victims of parental alienation often suffer from parental alienation syndrome, which is now a health condition, as per the World Health Organization. Warning signs of parental alienation can include:
- Badmouthing the other parent;
- Depicting the target parent as dangerous to children;
- Sharing the weaknesses of the target parent with the child;
- Claiming the targeted parent doesn’t love the child;
- Defaming the ex-spouse;
- Violating visitation rules;
- Discussing confidential marital issues with the child;
- Badmouthing anyone related to the targeted parent;
- Intercepting the targeted parent’s calls and messages;
- Stalking the target parent, and
- Hiding a child by changing residences, among others.
Verifying visitation details in writing or via email is also highly recommended. Specifically, verification can help if the other parent intentionally shares wrong information about visitations or parenting time.
A bitter ex-spouse can use social media to propagate falsehoods or defame you. Any false comments that can support alienation claims can make good evidence to prove your case.
How to Win a Parental Alienation Case in Court
Parental alienation cases are complex and difficult to win. Keeping records is the best way to increase the chances of winning such cases. Document how the bitter parent relates with your child, especially what they tell them.
The records can provide sufficient evidence to prove your case. Records should be in writing because unrecorded discussions or conversations may be distorted. In other words, intangible evidence isn’t admissible in court. Other persons of interest can also provide more evidence to build a strong case, including pastors, teachers, caregivers, and more.
Teachers can tell when a child isn’t doing fine. For instance, when they’re mentally and emotionally disturbed. Child custody evaluators can also act as expert witnesses. They help tease the truth out from accused persons (defendants) besides offering professional advice to courts in parental alienation cases.
What to Do About Parental Alienation
The final step is to seek legal help from reputable family lawyers. A skilled and experienced lawyer will review your case, determine its strengths and weaknesses, and develop an ideal resolution strategy. Successful family lawyers possess:
- Good communication skills;
- Good reputation;
- High success rate in similar cases;
- Negotiating skills;
- Analytical skills, and more.
Identify a family lawyer and schedule an initial legal consultation to determine the likelihood of working with them. Initial legal consultations are free, so it’s a perfect opportunity to share your story and seek legal counsel freely.
Hiring legal services is highly recommended by legal professionals. Potential clients can benefit from legal representation in the following ways:
- Family lawyers know the common pitfalls of parental alienation cases, so you’ll be in safe hands.
- Protection of your constitutional rights.
- Lawyers understand the legal system, increasing your success rate.
Child custody agreements are legally binding and actionable contracts that define the rights of parent(s) to live with a child. These agreements are common in separation and divorce lawsuits. The interests of a child must be prioritized when granting custodianship to parents.