Whether married or not, co-holders of parental responsibility are obliged to devise a parenting plan before approaching the court for relief. This can be done through mediation by a social worker or other suitably qualified persons, including an attorney who is an accredited divorce mediator.
The Children's Act seeks to promote a problem-solving approach to family law as opposed the traditional but often destructive confrontational approach. Section 33 of the Act provides for the formalities and contents of such parenting plan:
Contents of parenting plans
1) The co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child may agree on a parenting plan determining the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.
2) If the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child are experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights, those persons, before seeking the intervention of a court, must first seek to agree on a parenting plan determining the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.
3) A parenting plan may determine any matter in connection with parental responsibilities and rights, including-
a) where and with whom the child is to live;
b) the maintenance of the child;
c) contact between the child and-
i) any of the parties; and
ii) any other person; and
d) the schooling and religious upbringing of the child.
4) A parenting plan must comply with the best interests of the child standard as set out in section 7.
5) In preparing a parenting plan as contemplated in subsection (2) the parties must seek-
a) the assistance of a family advocate, social worker or psychologist; or
b) mediation through a social worker or other suitably qualified person.
Author : Roy Bregman