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What is Custody?

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Given its negative connotation and confusion, the term “custody” has been replaced with “decision-making responsibility”

Recently, the term “custody” has been replaced with “decision-making responsibility”. It’s about time, especially since the word “custody” has a negative connotation of ownership, turning parents into “winners” or “losers” and increasing conflict.

Decision-making responsibility refers to the parental right to make the major decisions in your child’s life:

  1. education;
  2. health;
  3. culture, language, religion and spirituality; and
  4. significant extra-curricular activities.

The day-to-day decisions, for example if Johnny has a slice of pizza or a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, it’s the decision of the parent Johnny is with that day.

Decision-making responsibility can be divided a few ways

Joint Decision-Making, where both parents make the major decisions together.

Sole Decision-Making, where one parent makes all important decisions in the child’s life.

Bifurcated Decision-Making, where the parents essentially ‘split’ the decision-making responsibility. For example, one parent makes decisions surrounding health and education, and the other takes on religion and extra-curricular activities.

You and your co-parent can come up with your own parenting arrangements

You two can come up with your own agreements through mediation or collaborative process. When you do, make sure you put them in writing in a separation agreement or parenting plan. So to avoid any miscommunication or future conflict.

Better late than never, the legal system is trying to catch up to families’ needs. Recognizing the damage of the adversarial process and the negative impact that legal terms / expectations can have on the well-being of the entire family.

Still a long way to go, but the good news is that you don’t have to wait for the law to catch up with your family’s needs! You and your co-parent can create the practical solutions you need. In contrast to court, in mediation, you can be as creative and practical as your family needs.

Blog posts and podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

About the Author

Laura Tarcea

Laura is a family mediator dedicated to supporting families through divorce or separation. With a background in Mental Health, Research, Program Development, and a Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution, Laura brings valuable insight and critical knowledge to parents. She strongly believes that a healthy co-parenting relationship will protect children from short-term and long-term damage. As such, Laura is a supporter of out-of-court processes to help equip parents with appropriate tools to succeed in their next chapter.

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