Parenting Arrangements

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When parents separate, how are parenting arrangements decided?

    Parents can decide for themselves about who will look after a child, where the child will live, and who is able to make important decisions about the child’s well-being. If the parents can’t agree, they can use mediation to help them reach an agreement, or they can turn to lawyers and the court to make a decision and formalize it in a parenting order. When deciding on a parenting arrangement, the court will decide based on what is in the best interests of the child.

  • Is there anything I have to do before getting a court hearing about parenting arrangements?

    You must attend the For the Sake of the Children course, which is run by Family Conciliation Services. The program provides information about the needs of children upon separation and helps parents understand the legal and emotional process that they are going through. You must take this course before your motion for a parenting order is heard by a judge. At least two days before your hearing date, you must file a certificate of attendance or confirm in an affidavit that you completed the course.

    You do not need to take the course if you are just changing an existing parenting order. You also do not need to take the course if:

      • You are just filing a parenting order by consent,
      • Your matter is unopposed, or
      • The other party has been noted in default.
  • Is there a way to get into court quickly for a parenting order?

    Once you have started a proceeding by filing a Petition or Petition for Divorce you can apply for an interim order by filing a Notice of Motion and an Affidavit. An interim order is an order of the court intended to decide matters until a final order can be made at trial. Matters such as parenting arrangements often need quick attention by the court when the parties can’t reach an agreement. Interim orders are enforceable in the same way as a final order and they can be extremely important. They may establish a status quo (the way things are currently) that might be difficult to overturn in future court proceedings.

    Parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, occupancy of the home, preservation of property orders, and protection and prevention orders are the types of orders that are commonly granted on an interim motion. Generally, you must attend one case conference before your contested motion can be heard.

  • Do I have to let my ex-partner see our child if they do not pay child support?

    It is generally unwise to use your children as leverage in disputes with your ex-partner. If your ex-partner has a parenting order granting parenting time with the children, then it has been decided by the court that it is in the children’s best interest to see the other parent. You may be held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the order. If you want to change a parenting order, you must apply to court to vary (change) the order.

    If your ex-partner is required, by order or agreement, to make child support payments and is not making the payments, you should contact the Maintenance Enforcement Program, which has various options to enforce support payments, for example, by garnishing wages, seizing property, suspending a driver’s license, diverting a pension, registering the maintenance debt with the Credit Bureau, summoning the other spouse to court, or imposing a fine and/or imprisonment.

  • Who applies for the Canada Child Benefit if I share parenting time?

    When parents each have parenting time of 40% or more, both must apply for the Canada Child Benefit. The Canada Revenue Agency will calculate an amount for each parent based on adjusted income, and each parent will receive half of what they would have received if they were the sole caregiver for the child.

    When one parent has most of the parenting time (over 60%), they become the only parent eligible to apply for the Canada Child Benefit, and the amount will be calculated based on their income alone.

    Temporary Child Care Benefits are also possible, for example in situations where the child spends most of their time with one parent but spends extended periods of time (for example, summer vacation) with the other parent. In these cases, the parent who has the child on a more temporary basis can apply for the Canada Child Benefit for the period in which they are caring for the child. When the period ends, the other parent will have to reapply to reinstate their Canada Child Benefit.

  • My baby has the father’s last name. Does that give him the right to see the child?

    No. The name of the child has nothing to do with who is allowed to have parenting time or contact with the child.

    In Manitoba, parents who have lived together after their child’s birth, regardless of whether they are married, are presumed to share parenting of the child, unless the court orders otherwise. If the parents of a child have never lived together, the parent the child lives with has sole decision-making responsibility. However, the other parent will still usually have the right to spend parenting time with the child.

  • Do grandparents have the right to see their grandchildren?

    Grandparents have a right to ask the court for time with their grandchildren. Whether or not the court will grant it will depend on what is in the best interests of the child. Contact the Grandparent Advisor (Family Conciliation Services) for more information: (204) 945-7236.

  • My child lives with their other parent, but I get to visit them. Can I still get access to my child’s medical and school records?

    Yes. Both parents are entitled to receive school, medical, dental, psychological, and other reports concerning the child, unless a court order says otherwise. This is only a right to receive information about the child—it is not the same as being able to make decisions about the child’s education, medical treatment, etc.

  • Will I lose my rights to my children if I don’t take them with me when I leave the family home?

    Not necessarily. You always have the right to apply for parenting time, even if you left the home and the children. However, if you don’t apply soon after leaving your partner, you may hurt your chances of having the children live with you. If you delay, the court may not want to change the children’s situation. Remember, the court always thinks of what’s best for the children, and stability is very important for children. If you can’t take your children with you when you leave, you should see a lawyer immediately about applying for a temporary order that would give you your parenting rights until a more permanent solution could be put in place.

  • Is there any way my children can tell the court their wishes?

    The court may consider a child’s wishes when making a parenting order, but they must take the age and maturity of the child into account. This means the court will generally pay more attention to the wishes of an older child than a younger one. In any case, the child’s wishes are just one of many factors the court will consider when deciding what is in the child’s best interests.

    The Brief Consultation Service offers a service where the wishes and concerns of children between the ages of 11-17 are told to a counselor. The counselor prepares a report for the court. The Brief Consultation Service can be contacted at (204) 945-4756.

  • My ex-partner and I argue every time we meet to exchange care of the children. How can I avoid this?

    You could try to make exchange arrangements through trusted third parties like friends or family members. Also, the Winnipeg Children’s Access Agency and the Brandon Access/Exchange Services provide a safe place with trained people where exchanges can be made safely. There is a fee for this service.

  • What happens if the other parent comes and take the children away from me?

    If you and the other parent lived together after the child was born, you are both presumed to be able to care for and spend time with your child. If there is no existing parenting agreement or parenting order in place, it may not be legally possible to prevent this from happening. This is why it is a good idea to have a parenting arrangement in place.

    If the other parent has taken your child away contrary to the terms of a parenting agreement or order, or if the other parent has taken your child away in order to keep you from your child, you should contact a lawyer.

  • Can a parent be charged with abducting their own child?

    Yes. If a parent takes the child away outside of their own parenting time, or if they take the child away intending to deprive the other parent of parenting time, they could be charged with child abduction under the Criminal Code of Canada. If a parent is charged, the Attorney General’s office will involve the police to try to get your child back and a Crown Attorney can prosecute the parent for the crime. If the child is taken out of province, the Attorney General’s office and the police would contact the other province’s police and Attorney General’s office to try to locate your child and return them to Manitoba.

  • Can a parent be charged with child abduction even if there is no court order in place?

    Yes. However, the Attorney General must agree to lay a criminal charge. Usually, the Attorney General would agree only if:

      • The parents and child were living together and suddenly one parent takes the child away from Manitoba without the consent of the other parent, with the intention of depriving the other parent of his or her rights; or
      • Separated parents have agreed in the past that a child is to live with one of them, and the other parent later decides to take the child away without a court order, again, with the intention of depriving the other parent of his or her rights.