Some terms in the Divorce Act will change on March 1, 2021

Effective March 1, 2021, the federal Divorce Act will use terms similar to those in the BC Family Law Act.

  • The term decision-making responsibility will replace custody to describe the responsibility for making important decisions and getting information about the children after separating.
  • The term parenting time will be used to describe the time that a parent spends with their child and is responsible for supervising and caring for the child.
  • The term contact will be used instead of access to describe the time children spend with a person who isn't a parent. This includes grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others.

Being a child's guardian involves spending time caring for the child, and being responsible for decisions that affect them.

Guardianship: Parenting time and parental responsibilities

Learn how you can make a parenting agreement about how you will share parenting time and parental responsibilities after you separate.


Having custody means your child lives with you at least some of the time, and you have rights and responsibilities to make decisions about them. Find out more about when the term "custody" is used and the types of custody arrangements. 

Custody is a term only used in federal law, so it might not apply to your situation.

How can you become a child's guardian?

Anyone can apply to become a child's guardian but the court will only consider what's best for the child. Find out how to apply to become a guardian.

If you're 19 or over and want to become a guardian of your underage siblings, see also Can you be a guardian of your younger siblings?

What will happen if you die or can't take care of your child?

If you die or can't take care of your children, what happens to them depends on what plans you've made for them. Find out what you can do to make back-up plans for your child's future care.