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Separation and divorce

Child custody: choosing your parenting schedule

When you separate, you’ll need to decide how much time your child will spend with each parent. What factors should you consider? Which models should you use? What will the impact of your decision be? Here's everything you need to know to create a parenting schedule that will work for everyone in the family.

Factors to consider when creating your parenting schedule

There is no legally required model or magic formula. The best schedule is, above all, the one that best suits your child. As parents, you’re in the best position to know what your child needs.

When creating your schedule, you need to consider a number of factors, including:

  • Your child’s age and stage of development
  • Your child’s special needs
  • Your child’s activities and social commitments
  • The means of transportation available
  • The level of cooperation between the parents
  • Both parents’ work schedules
  • The distance between the parents’ homes
  • The availability of both parents, given their commitments and activities. 

You should also think about important dates. Many parents choose a different schedule for:

  • Summer vacation, winter break and spring break
  • Special holidays (religious celebrations and holidays, Halloween, etc.)
  • Special occasions (birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.).

Finally, you should decide when and how the child will travel between the parents’ homes. In particular, consider who will be responsible for transporting the child and the time it will take place.

When you agree on a parenting schedule with your ex, it’s best to put your agreement in writing to avoid any misunderstandings.

Bear in mind as well that the parenting schedule you choose at the time of your separation can be modified as your child’s needs evolve or if there are major changes in the parents’ lives, for example if one parent moves.

En apprendre plus

Which custody arrangement is best for your child? (Naître et grandir)

En apprendre plus

Shared custody: What is the impact on the children? - French only (Naître et grandir)

 

Examples of parenting schedules

When the child lives with both parents on a rotational basis

Here are a few models of popular parenting schedules to inspire you. Each model has its own advantages and disadvantages.

« 5-2-2-5 » Rotation

Advantages:

  • The child sees both parents frequently.
  • Parents can organize their personal schedules more easily.

Disadvantage:

  • It requires a lot of travelling back and forth.

« 2-2-3 » Rotation

Advantage:

  • The child sees both parents frequently.

Disadvantages:

  • It requires a lot of travelling back and forth.
  • The frequent changes make it difficult to establish a routine with the child.

Alternating weeks

Advantage:

  • There is very little travelling back and forth.

Disadvantage:

  • The child and the parents may miss each other because they don’t see each for seven consecutive days.

When the child lives alone with one parent

If the plan is for the child to live with only one parent most of the time, there are several options for the child to see the other parent. For example,

  • The child can see the other parent every second weekend, from Friday evening after school to Monday morning before school.
  • The child can see the other parent a few evenings a week and for longer periods during the holidays.

En apprendre plus

Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce (Justice Canada)

 

Impact of the parenting schedule on the other aspects of the separation

After establishing your parenting schedule, you need to calculate the total number of days in the year that the child will spend with each parent.

For visits lasting less than a day, you also have to add the number of hours spent with each parent. However, you don’t need to take into account visits that last only a few minutes and that don’t require any additional expenses for the parent.

The number of days obtained through this calculation could affect several other aspects of your separation.

  • If your child spends between 146 and 219 days a year with each parent: the child is in “shared” custody.
  • If your child spends more than 219 days a year with one parent: the child is in “sole” custody. In this case, the parent who spends less time with the child (less than 146 days a year) is considered the non-custodial parent and has “visiting and prolonged outing rights” with the child.

This distinction is important because it has an impact on the amount of child support and government benefits for children.

It may also be a factor in deciding which parent can stay in the family home.

However, whether custody is “shared” or “sole”, both parents have the same rights when it comes to making important decisions concerning the child, such as decisions having to do with the child’s health or choice of school.

Resolving parental disputes

If you and your ex can’t agree on a parenting schedule, you can go to a mediator who will help you find a solution that works for everyone. Parents of minor children are entitled to five free hours of mediation when they break up.

When no agreement is possible, you can ask the Superior Court to rule upon the matter. When making a decision, the judge will consider one issue only: your child’s interests.

The interests of each child vary according to a number of factors, including:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s relationship with his or her parents
  • The child’s health
  • The parents’ ability to communicate with each other
  • The parents’ ability to take care of the child.

In the cases of older children such as teenagers, the judge may also consider their opinion.

When your child’s needs change and require a modification to the parenting schedule, you can go back before a judge to have it modified accordingly.

Did you know?

Since March 2021, the Divorce Act uses "parenting time" instead of "custody" and "access rights" when referring to the time that a child spends with each parent. If you're married, it's the expression you'll find in your legal proceedings and judgments rendered by the Court.

However, the terms "custody" and "access rights" are still used for de facto partners. 

 

En apprendre plus

Child Custody Decisions: Criteria Used and Types of Custody (Éducaloi)

 

Warning

The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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