Contact: Spending time with a child

What contact is and who can get it

The time that a child spends with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others is called contact. Both the federal Divorce Act and the BC Family Law Act use this term. So it's important to know which law applies in your situation.

Family Law Act

Under the BC Family Law Act, contact describes the time a child spends with a person who isn't their guardian. This applies to relatives like grandparents, adult siblings, aunts, uncles, step-parents, and other people important to the child.

Some parents aren't guardians. They can also have contact with a child, because the law recognizes a child's right to have a relationship with both parents whenever possible.  

Divorce Act

Under the federal Divorce Act, contact describes the time a child spends with a person who isn't one of the spouses getting a divorce. This includes grandparents, other relatives, and other people who are important to the child. It can also include parents and step-parents who aren't married spouses.

Anyone who wants to apply for a contact order under the Divorce Act must first get the court's permission to apply. (If you got permission to apply for parenting time but the application wasn’t successful, you don’t need permission again to apply for contact.)

Apply for contact

To have contact with a child, you can:

  • talk to the other person to arrange contact, or
  • apply to court for a contact order.
Under the Divorce Act, you must get the court’s permission to apply for contact.

Apply to limit a person's contact

If you're worried about your child's well-being when they spend time with someone who has contact, you can apply to the court for:

  • Conditions on contact: the court sets out the things the person with contact has to do if they want to have contact with the child. For example:
    • they can't use drugs or alcohol while they're with the child,
    • they can't use drugs or alcohol for 24 hours before contact with the child,
    • they can't take the child out of their home community, or
    • they can't have the child stay overnight.
  • Supervised time: the person who has contact must have someone with them when they visit the child. Before you go to court to apply for this, find out if a friend or family member would supervise visits. Or you can use a professional supervisor, if you prefer.
  • Specific times: the person who has contact can spend time with the child only at certain times.
  • Specific place: the person who has contact has to stay in a certain area when they're with the child.

If the judge wouldn't give you a contact order

Sometimes the judge won't let a person applying for contact spend any time with the child. If this happens to you and you think it's unfair, get some legal advice.