The term "parenting," as opposed to "custody" and "access," is used in Alberta's Family Law Act, and under the Act, the term "parenting" refers to the plan for how divorced or separated parents will make decisions regarding their child and how the parents' time with the child is shared.
The federal Divorce Act, however, still uses the terms "custody" and "access," and these terms are often included in divorce documents. The terms "joint custody," "shared custody," "split custody" and "sole custody" are also distinctly defined. Following is an explanation of these terms for parents who are separated and in the process of creating a parenting plan.
When a parenting arrangement gives both parents joint custody, major decisions regarding the child are made together by the parents. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean that the parents will spend an equal amount of time with the child. In some cases, there is a 50-50 split of parenting time, and in other cases the child lives mostly with one parent while the other has access.
When parents have shared custody, they split time with the child more or less equally, and in most shared custody arrangements, the parents also have joint custody.
Split custody applies in cases involving two or more children, and some children live mostly with one parent while the other children live mostly with the other parent. As with shared custody, most parents with split custody also have joint custody.
In sole custody arrangements, the child lives primarily with one parent, and that parent has a right to make all major decisions regarding the child. The other parent may have access to the child and make decisions about the child during that time of access, but the parent with sole custody makes the final decisions.
Each parenting plan should be tailored to meet the needs of the child now and as he or she grows older. If family circumstances change significantly, then it may be possible to modify the original custody arrangement. Parents with questions about these matters are encouraged to visit Kirk Montoute LLP's child custody overview.