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Wednesday May 12, 2021

Communication and Civil Behaviour for Effective Co-Parenting

Authored by: Peter D. Crowther Posted in: Family Law

The 2019 changes to the Divorce Act aim to encourage parents to develop parenting arrangements with as little court intervention as possible.[1] Children benefit when parents can cooperate and communicate effectively.

Parents who can cooperate, communicate and be civil with one another are more likely to successfully share decision-making responsibilities and avoid court intervention.[2] When parents are not able or willing to cooperate, communicate effectively or be civil, children may find themselves in the middle of their parents’ disputes.

The key to successful co-parenting is to separate the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one, one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you.[3] Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; acting in your kids’ best interest is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.[4]

In the recent Lusted[5] decision, the court expressed their views on effective communication and civil behaviour and how parents that are separated should work together for the betterment of their children to avoid court. Some impactful comments made by The Honourable Lene Madsen were:

  1. Once a parenting schedule is established by the court, it is both parties’ obligation to comply with that schedule fully. This means that it is both parties’ obligation to be on time, every time, absent an emergency. The parenting schedule should be treated like an employment schedule — pick-up on time, drop off on time, every time.
  2. Unless there is a legal impediment to parents communicating directly about their child, they should, in general, make every effort to do so. That said, the communication must remain focused on the child only, not on adult issues. All communication must be respectful and courteous.
  3. Parents must remember that they are always role modelling, not just when they think they are “teaching” the child. Children see, feel, and experience their parents’ conflict viscerally, and through that experience “learn” how conflict is to be resolved. All parental conduct during pick-ups and drop offs matter and can have lasting impacts on the child.
  4. It is not unreasonable for parents to have third parties assist parents with pick-up and drop off of the child. Life is busy. Having trusted family members assist is perfectly reasonable. However, as a courtesy, if a non-parent will be assisting in pick up or drop off, he or she must be scrupulously polite to the other parent; and, the other parent must, as a courtesy, be provided with notice in advance (text will suffice).
  5. The parents are, as a starting point, the two most important people in the life of the child, and should speak about and treat one another as such, particularly in front of the child. It should go without saying that each must speak of the other respectfully within earshot of the child and not permit others to denigrate the other parent in front of the child. Toxic words have toxic effects on children in both the short and long term.

Lawyers at BOYNECLARKE LLP can provide you with additional tips and resources to help you navigate through these communicative and civil behaviour issues with your ex. To speak with a member of our Family Law practice, contact Peter D. Crowther at PCrowther@boyneclarke.ca.


[1] Legislative Background: An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act (Bill C-78 in the 42nd Parliament) <https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/fl-lf/famil/c78/03.html>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents (November 2020) <https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm>.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Lusted v Bogobowicz, 2021 ONSC 269.

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