October 11, 2017

What the Heck is a “Parental Responsibility”?

Harris & Brun

In 2013, the new Family Law Act, S.B.C. 2011, c. 25 came into force. This Act sought to take away the sting of words like “custody” and “access” and instead be child-focused.

The act re-framed matters so that we do not talk about a parent’s “right” to their child anymore. We now speak of a parent’s “obligations and responsibilities” towards their child and their child’s best interests.

In the generic case where two parents have a child or children together and later separate, the Family Law Act says that each parent is automatically a guardian of the child or children.  Guardians, by definition, have parental responsibilities towards their children.

The Legislation

The Family Law Act sets out the various parental responsibilities at s. 41. For the full list, see here.


So what the heck is a “parental responsibility”?

Parental responsibilities encompass all of your rights over and obligations towards your children including:

  • The small or day-to-day matters – Will your child have a peanut butter or tuna fish sandwich for lunch? Will they play with the neighbour or go for family dinner?
  • The medium matters – Where will your child live? which sports or activities will they participate in? Will they have a passport? Will they go to the doctor or dentist?
  • The big matters – Will they be raised Christian or Buddhist, or both or neither? Will they have surgery or other medical treatment? Will you start or defend a lawsuit on their behalf?

Exercising Parental Responsibilities

It is the guardian’s obligation to ensure that the exercise of parental responsibilities is always done in the child’s best interests. A guardian must not consider their own personal best interests before those of the child.

Parental responsibilities can be shared or divided up among the child’s guardians. There are many ways of structuring the sharing or division of responsibilities towards your child.


Do you have questions about your parental responsibilities or need help asserting the exercise of those responsibilities?

Feel free to contact me at your convenience to set up an initial consult. I would be pleased to discuss your matter and the associated cost. You may also complete the Request a Consult form found here or elsewhere on our website, and our office will contact you regarding your matter.

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