The Problem With Unilateral Decisions When You Are Parenting Jointly
It is always ideal for parents to be able to cooperate and make joint decisions about significant aspects of the upbringing of their children together even if they no longer happen to be. When sharing a child as a married couple or as a pair in a relationship, parents are generally free to make a decision as they choose in relation to the children but this can be very different in a co-parenting situation. And significantly, a good number of Canadian children are growing up without both parents in the household. According to one set of statistics published by Statistics Canada, almost 20 percent of children are part of a lone‑parent family.
The Need for Joint Decision-Making
Generally speaking, joint decision-making means that neither parent can make unilateral decisions in potentially life-changing areas such as:
- Medical care
- Choice of schools
Many parents who are raising their children jointly share in the making of long-term and significant decisions in the children’s lives, even if it was a court that made the decision that stipulated this after the parents could not reach an agreement. This keeps an important level of trust between the parents and also ensures that both parties retain an active presence in the development of their children. But even in situations where parents generally work together in making decisions, they can still unfortunately end up back in court when one parent begins making unilateral adjustments on their own.
For example, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently reproached a mother for acting unilaterally in switching the child she shared with her ex from the school they had jointly agreed to to one that was more convenient for her. Each parent asked the court for permission to enroll the child in a school of their choosing, but the court stipulated that after finishing the school year at the school his mother had changed him to, it was in the child’s best interests to switch to the one suggested by his father.
What if the Other Parent is Acting Badly?
The last thing you should ever do is stoop down to battle a misbehaving co-parent on their level. If you start making the same kinds of inappropriate unilateral decisions in regard to your children as a response to similar behavior by your ex, you can actually negate an advantage you would likely have otherwise gained the next time you are up against them before a court. Resist the impulse to be retaliatory and instead reach out to an experienced family lawyer for advice if the other parent of your children is making unilateral decisions about significant aspects of your kids’ lives.
Are You Facing the Challenges of Parenting Jointly?
Even if your ex is the parent your child lives with most of the time, it is to your benefit to have joint decision-making specifically addressed in your parenting plan. And if you already know there is no possibility of reaching an agreement with your ex, you should begin mentally preparing yourself for the possibility that the court may have to make the decision for you. If you are facing challenges when it comes to parenting with an ex, you should obtain legal help as early as possible. As the Mississauga child custody lawyers at Zagazeta Garcia LLP, we have dedicated ourselves to assisting those who are struggling through the process of coparenting. Whether you have already separated from the other parent or are putting plans in place to do so, you can lean on us to guide and support you without judgment throughout this process. Contact us today for a free consultation.