Child Custody and Access in British Columbia
Child Custody and Access in British Columbia

Child Custody and Access in British Columbia: A Comprehensive Guide

Navigating child custody and access matters in British Columbia can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, as both parents strive to ensure the well-being and best interests of their child. Understanding the legal landscape associated with child custody and access is an essential step for parents undergoing separation or divorce, as it empowers them to make informed decisions and advocate for their desired arrangements. This comprehensive understanding requires a grasp of the various types of child custody, the factors that influence access arrangements, and the importance of prioritizing the child’s best interests.

In this article, we will delve into the complexities of child custody and access in British Columbia, providing information on key aspects such as sole and joint custody, decision-making responsibilities, access arrangements, and the central role of the best interests of the child standard. Furthermore, we will emphasize the important role that legal representation plays in guiding parents through the labyrinth of child custody and access disputes, advocating on their behalf, and pursuing the most favourable outcomes possible.

Child Custody and Access in British Columbia: A Comprehensive Guide

  1. Understanding the Types of Child Custody

The legal framework of child custody in British Columbia recognizes two main types of custody arrangements: sole custody and joint custody. It’s crucial for parents to understand the differences between these custody types when negotiating custody agreements or participating in court proceedings:

  • Sole Custody: Under sole custody arrangements, one parent is granted exclusive decision-making authority for the child, including decisions related to the child’s education, healthcare, and upbringing. The other parent is typically granted access to the child according to an agreed-upon schedule or court order.
  • Joint Custody: In joint custody arrangements, both parents share decision-making responsibilities for the child. Joint custody can take various forms depending on the needs and best interests of the child, such as shared parenting, where both parents hold physical custody or parallel parenting, where each parent exercises decision-making authority during their time with the child.

It’s important to note that child custody and physical residence are distinct aspects of the parenting arrangement. A joint custody arrangement, for example, doesn’t necessarily imply an equal 50/50 split of the child’s time between the parents.

  1. Decision-Making Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Child custody arrangements determine decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, both of which are crucial elements of the child’s life following a separation or divorce:

  • Decision-Making Responsibilities: Custodial arrangements allocate responsibility for making significant decisions in the child’s life, such as those involving education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities.
  • Parenting Time: Parenting time, previously known as “access” or “visitation,” refers to the scheduled time allocated for each parent to care for and spend time with the child. Parenting time arrangements may be flexible and open or adhere to a structured schedule.
  1. The Best Interests of the Child Standard

The best interests of the child standard are the cornerstone of child custody and access determinations in British Columbia. As outlined in the Family Law Act, the best interests of the child guide every aspect of custody and access arrangements, focusing on factors such as:

  • The child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs, as well as any special requirements;
  • The history of each parent’s care for the child, including the duration and quality of the relationship that has been established;
  • The child’s views and preferences, considering the child’s age and maturity;
  • The ability of each parent to communicate, cooperate, and effectively address the child’s needs;
  • Any history of family violence or other risks to the child’s safety and well-being;
  • The capacity of each parent to foster and maintain the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  1. The Role of Legal Representation in Child Custody and Access Disputes

Engaging the services of a knowledgeable family law attorney is crucial for parents dealing with child custody and access disputes in British Columbia. Legal representation can:

  • Provide guidance and clarity: Family law attorneys can help parents understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as the various factors that may influence custody and access arrangements.
  • Facilitate Negotiation and Mediation: Attorneys can represent clients in negotiations and mediation processes, working towards collaborative resolutions that prioritize the best interests of the child.
  • Advocate in Court Proceedings: In cases where amicable resolutions cannot be reached, a family law attorney can advocate for their client and the desired custody arrangement in court, presenting evidence and arguments to establish the arrangement’s alignment with the child’s best interests.


Understanding the complexities of child custody and access in British Columbia is vital for parents facing the challenging process of separation or divorce. By comprehending essential aspects such as types of custody, decision-making responsibilities, parenting time, and the best interests of the child standard, parents can approach custody negotiations and disputes informed and empowered. 

Pathfinder Law’s dedicated team of experienced family law attorneys is committed to providing guidance, support, and representation in child custody and access matters, ensuring that our clients’ desires and their child’s best interests are prioritized throughout the legal process. Trust our compassionate and knowledgeable child custody lawyers in Abbotsford to advocate for you and your child during this challenging chapter in your lives.

Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. You should not rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of your particular situation.