Non-guardians' contact with a child

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.

There are different words to describe the time that a person who isn't a guardian or who doesn't have custody of a child spends with that child.

  • Access is used in the federal Divorce Act to describe the time that a person who doesn't have custody spends with the child.
  • Contact with a child is the term used in provincial family law to describe the time that a non-guardian spends with the child.

These terms can be used for parents or any other person related to the child, such as a grandparent.


Access is usually the time a parent who doesn't have custody will spend with their child. But grandparents, step-parents, and other relatives can apply for access, too. Find out about access arrangements after separation.

Contact: Spending time with a child if you're not a guardian

Even if you're not a child's guardian, you might still have a right to have contact with them after separation. This applies if you're a parent who isn't a guardian, or another relative like a grandparent, step-parent, sibling, aunt, or uncle. Learn about your right to contact.

Do children have a right to time with their grandparents?

Separation can be hard on other relatives, too. But children have the right to have contact with their grandparents if it's in their best interests. Find out more about the rights of children and grandparents and what to do if the parents refuse to allow contact.