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Every parent has questions and our experts have answers. Read on:

There are 67 questions and answers.


1. I have custody of my son and want to move out of town for better schooling for my son, but the mother has visiting rights and refuses to let him move. I tried to work out a plan for summer holidays phone calls, etc. If I move without her permission can she charge me or can I get charged?

Thank you for your questions. We asked one of our legal experts at the Family Law Branch for their help with your questions. Our expert has provided the following:

When parents have joint custody of their child, neither parent has the right to move the child without the other parent's consent unless a court order provides otherwise. Even in a situation where one parent has sole custody of the child pursuant to a court order and the other parent has specified access, it is recommended that the custodial parent should not move the child without either obtaining the non-custodial parent's consent or a court order allowing them to move with the child.

In some cases, moving a child without the consent of a parent who has custody rights or specified access rights is a criminal offence and the offending parent may be charged with parental child abduction or breaching a court order. It is very important to consult a lawyer in these situations well before the move is to take place, as a court order may be necessary.

If a non-custodial parent isn't willing to consent to the request of a custodial parent to be allowed to move with their child, the custodial parent who wants to vary (i.e. change) the terms of an existing custody order can file a variation application with the court.

If a parent files a variation application, the other parent would ordinarily get notice of the application (by being served with court documents) and they would have an opportunity to respond. If the parents can't agree on the issue(s), then the matter would be scheduled for a court hearing before a judge.

It would be best to consult with a family law lawyer who can provide you with specific advice on the custody situation you've asked about. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 204-985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for general legal information is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at 202-393 Portage Avenue in Portage Place Mall (telephone: 204-258-3096), is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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2. Can a grandparent enter into an agreement with the legal guardian (parent) using a private agreement in case the school asks for a guardianship document or in order to access health care for the child? We are wondering if a legal document drawn up and signed would suffice to address issues that may be raised by the school for signing documents?

Thank you for your question. We asked one of our legal experts at the Family Law Branch for their help with your question. Our expert has provided the following:

When someone other than a parent wants to assume legal responsibility to care for a child, that person can apply to the court for an order of private guardianship.

A judge considering an application for private guardianship must consider whether the order would be in the children's best interests. It would be wise to discuss your situation with a lawyer who is familiar with the facts of your situation, including the parents' agreement. A lawyer can advise you as to the options available.

Further general legal information on "Private Guardianship" can be found online. Please see Chapter Five of Family Law in Manitoba - 2008 Edition at the following link:

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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3. What are the paternal rights for a man who thinks his name was placed on a birth certificate of a child, but he is unsure whether the child is his? Is there somewhere he can check to see if his name is on the birth certificate? He would love to have a paternity test but the mother in question has rejected his offer.

Assuming that the man and woman were not married at the time that the child was born, the man would have had to sign a document indicating his consent to be listed on the birth certificate. It is not automatic. If he did not sign this type of document then he would not be listed.

If the man and woman were married at the time the child was born then it is likely that the man was listed on the birth certificate as the father.

If the man wishes to have a DNA test done to establish paternity and the woman refuses, a court application can be made seeking this relief.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for the interested party to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If the interested party cannot afford to consult with a lawyer, they may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if they qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

They also might wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca/.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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4. I have a daughter who is 11-years-old. Her mother and I never lived together or married. We split just after she was born. When my daughter was two, her mom moved away to another province with my daughter. I never had any contact numbers and she never contacted me. Now I found out they are back living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I want shared custody now. If I were to file a court order for custody, will I be required to pay back-pay for child support for all of those years I never saw or knew where they were? Or will I have to start paying child support effective now when the court order is filed? I also have my own family now and have three children with my wife. Will my other three children be considered when my maintenance calculation is determined for what my child support payment should be to my first daughter?

If the mother and father were not living together when their child is born, there is a legal presumption that the mother has sole custody of the child. If you would like to have access to your child (and the mother does not voluntarily agree to that) you will have to file an application in court asking for a judge to make an order giving you access to the child. The same applies if you want to have joint custody with shared care and control.

With respect to the issue of child support, if the mother asks the court to make an order for retroactive child support, there are a number of factors a court would consider before making such an order. The court will consider if any requests for child support had been made in the past. If there was a delay in asking for child support, the court will also consider if there is a reasonable excuse for that delay. Other factors include: what the child's needs and circumstances were for the time period that retroactive support is being requested; what those needs and circumstances are now; whether there was any blameworthy conduct on the part of the paying parent; and if an award of retroactive support would create undue hardship for the paying parent. There is also case law that says the court cannot generally go further back than three years in ordering child support.

As for a current amount of child support–the amount of child support someone is required to pay is determined by specific tables that specify how much support should be paid based on the income of the paying parent. There are situations where the court can make an award that is different than these guidelines–one of these situations is if the parents have shared custody, by which is meant that each parent has the child for at least 40 per cent of the time over the course of the year. In a situation like that, the court can make an award that is different than the guidelines and the court has to decide what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

The fact that you now have other children to support will only affect the amount of child support if you can demonstrate that paying the table amount of child support would result in undue hardship for you. The court would look at your entire financial situation and decide if you paying the table amount causes undue hardship. If that test has been met, the court then compares the entire financial situation of your family with the entire financial situation of the custodial parent–and if the paying parent's family would have a lower standard of living than the custodial parent's family, the court can make an award that is lower than the table amount.

Determining the appropriate amount of child support when there is shared custody and/or if the paying parent has other children to support can be a complicated issue to sort out. It is recommended that you seek the advice of counsel experienced in the practise of family law.

If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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5. We have joint custody and the dad has primary care and control (not signed). I don't agree with this set-up, but the 16-year-old is spoiled and dad convinces her to stay with him. Looking toward the future, what proportion do I have to pay for her post secondary education and for how many years? I want to pay as little as possible. Dad is discouraging her job hunting and discouraging her driver's education and license.

As a starting point, parents are only required to pay support for children until the age of 18. If a child is unable to withdraw from the care of their parents due to illness, disability or education, parents can be required to continue to pay child support. However, "child support for a child over the age of 18" is more flexible than the "child support guidelines that determine the amount of support payable for a child under the age of 18" in that the amount of support payable pursuant to the applicable child support table will not necessarily continue. In the case of a child over the age of 18, the parent may be required to pay the table amount of child support – but they may also be required to pay more or less than the table amount.

The amount that is paid will be affected (and potentially reduced) by any income the child has from part time employment (or income they could have, if they are not taking a full course load), student loans or scholarships. The amount of support to be paid may also be affected (and potentially increased) by greater living expenses the child has from living away from home to attend university.

There is no hard and fast rule about how long a parent will have to pay support for a child over 18. Very generally speaking, parents are required to pay while the child is earning the first degree. However, there may be situations where they will be required to pay for a longer period or a lesser period (if, for instance, the child is taking more years to complete the degree than would normally be expected).

Child support for children over the age of 18 is determined on a case-by-case basis and will be dependent on the unique facts of each case. For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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6. Can my 7-year-old grandson play in the playground across the street by himself? Can he ride his bike up the block by himself?

Thank you for your questions. The Child and Family Services Act states that children would be considered in need of protection if they are under 12 years of age and do not have supervision. Many safety concerns for children can be addressed with direct supervision. In general, younger children do not have the ability to fully assess the risk of different situations on their own, such as traffic safety.

Given your grandson's age, it would not be appropriate for him to be alone across the street in a playground. The risks to him would be from traffic, the possibility of injury without immediate assistance, and that people who are a risk to children with offending behaviours do seek out this kind of situation in this kind of setting.

Similar issues should be considered for your grandson riding his bike up the block alone. Issues that would affect his safety include whether he could be visually seen at all times by a supervisor, and whether the ride would require him to cross roads or back lanes where vehicles would be expected to be present.

In addition, you would need to consider your grandson's maturity and ability to follow directions. It would not be expected that a 7 year old could always respond to emerging situations appropriately. But if your grandson was able to understand and follow rules about things like keeping his bike off the road when riding alone, this would also affect what you might permit.

We hope this information is helpful to you. You may find it helpful to contact the Child and Family Services intake agency for your community if you have other questions. You can use the map at the following link to determine which agency provides intake services for your community: www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/dia_intake.html.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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7. I have two teenage children and their father has been no part of their life. He does not pay child support and frankly he just doesn't care. I am engaged to a wonderful, amazing man and we recently had a child together. We would both like it if he could adopt my older kids. Where do we start? Does the biological father have to hand over his parental rights? He has never been involved, so do I have to even inform him? Are my kids a little too old to be adopted by a step parent? Who can I talk to about all of this?

Thank you for your questions. Our family law expert from the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice has provided the following response:

A person married to the parent of a child, or who is a common-law partner of that parent, may apply to court to adopt the child if the child is living with and being cared for by them. This can be done jointly with the parent–or alone, but with the parent's consent.

This type of adoption is known informally as a "step-parent adoption." Usually, a lawyer will act for the person or persons applying for the step-parent adoption, and the lawyer will submit the required documents with the Court.

The other parent of the child must be notified of the application to court and may even be required to consent to the adoption. If the other parent is not prepared to consent to an adoption application, they have the right to oppose the application in court. In that case, the application would have to be determined by a judge at a hearing.

A judge may waive the requirement for the other parent to consent to the adoption application if he or she is satisfied that there are valid reasons to do so as contemplated by The Adoption Act of Manitoba.

In the majority of these types of adoptions, a child and family services agency is usually not involved in the court process. However in some cases, a judge may ask an agency to conduct an investigation and prepare a report for the court.

If an order of adoption is granted, the other parent may still apply to the court, either as part of the adoption application or separately, for an order allowing visits with the child.

It is recommended that a person considering an adoption application consult with a family law lawyer to receive appropriate legal advice specific to their situation.

For further information regarding adoption in Manitoba, you can visit the Manitoba Family Services and Labour website.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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8. My oldest child was adopted when she was 3 and we found each other 4 years ago. She resides with her adopted mother right now. At what age can she legally decide to leave the province to live elsewhere, without permission?

Thank you for your question. We asked staff of the Province's Child Protection Branch for their help with your question, and they have provided the following information:

"In Manitoba, all children under the age of 18 years remain minors. Therefore, they would still require the permission of their legal guardian or parent for things like registering for school and consenting to medical treatment. There is no legislation in Manitoba which removes parental/guardian responsibility at an earlier age.

Without knowing the specifics of your situation, we can advise that it is usually in the best interests of the child to find a cooperative solution to avoid placing the child in a distressing position of choosing between their adoptive or birth parent. In your situation, your birth child is legally the child of her adoptive mother. If you wish, you could seek legal advice as to what options you may have."

The Community Legal Education Association provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on family law matters, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

We hope this information is helpful. Best regards to you from ParentZone.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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9. I am the godfather of a young girl. I play a big role in raising her--providing financial and emotional support, but nothing has been formally documented or agreed upon. I've known her mother for many years – we are not in a relationship and I do not live with them. The mother does not want me around anymore for the child. Do I have any legal rights for visitation or even to pursue adoption option? I'm currently looking for a family lawyer that may be able to help me with this.

It is possible for individuals who are not the parents of a child to make an application for access to the courts. These types of cases each turn on their own facts and depend on the specific circumstances of each family. Adoption laws in Manitoba are very particular. There are multiple categories of adoptions and it would be necessary to establish if your situation fits into any of them prior to pursing this option.

If a court application is made, in either situation, it would up to the court to decide what is in the best interests of the child in the circumstances.

Issues around access and adoptions are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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10. My daughter is four years old. Her dad is supposed to pay $200 per month for child support and daycare fees. He is telling me he doesn't have to pay child support anymore because he has a three-month-old son with his current girlfriend, and she is pregnant again. Does child support change since he has had more kids?

Thank you for your question. No, the amount of child support does not change just because your ex has started a second family. He is still responsible for paying for his first family. If you have a court order for child support, only the court can make changes to the amount of child support and your ex would have to apply to court to ask for this change. A stringent test is applied by the court before the court would even consider lowering his child support.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca.

As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Healthy Child Manitoba in responding to this question.

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11. My daughter is due to give birth shortly after she turns 18. Does the boyfriend have any say at all? They are not married. He and his parents already want her to move into their house. My daughter wants to keep her last name for the baby. What is the law?

Thank you for your question. Your daughter does not have to move in with her boyfriend and his parents if she does not want to. If the parents of a child are not living together when the child is born, there is a legal presumption that the parent with whom the child resides has sole custody and can make decisions regarding the child, including where the child will live and whether or not the other parent will have access. However, the other parent has every right to apply to the court and ask the court to make an order giving that other parent some rights to either custody or access.

If the parents are living together when the child is born there is a legal presumption that they have joint custody of the child. If they separate, they will both have a say in where the child will live and how much access the other parent has.

It will also be up to her to indicate the baby's name on the registration of birth. She and the father can both pick a name together and sign the registration of birth together or, as they are not married, she can pick the child's first and last name and sign the registration of birth by herself.

In an unmarried situation, the father will not be listed as the child's father on the birth registration unless they both make a joint written request to Manitoba Vital Statistics.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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12. I am a single mom of a three year old child and have primary care and control. My ex has secondary physical control on his visits. We live in different cities and he provides the transportation which I help pay for. Currently in the court order I am obligated to give 30 days of notice if I plan on taking him out of province for over a period of 30 days or move out of province. I was wondering what kind of things will the court take into consideration if in the future I request to move out of province and the father does not agree? This would be, for example, if I was to get engaged or find a better job. I would not want to leave my child behind.

Thank you for your question. Moving a child out of province (or even to another community within the province) when another parent also has rights to custody and access can become complicated and frequently results in one of the parents applying to the court for a determination on whether or not the custodial parent can move the child. The parent who does not have primary care and control can ask the court to make an order that the child or children not be removed from the province or to another community as it would interfere with their rights of custody and access.

Situations where one parent wants to move are considered on a case by case basis and the court's decision will rely heavily on the facts of each particular case. The courts do not look at whether or not the move is justified but rather whether the move is in the "best interests of the child," as that is the overriding factor in all questions regarding custody and access. Greater attention will be paid to the effects of the move on the child rather than the effects on the parents or whether the move is justified. In determining the "best interest of the child" in the situation where one parent wants to move the child away from the other child, the judge will consider:

  • What is the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the custodial parent?
  • What is the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the access parent?
  • The desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents.
  • The view of the child.
  • The custodial parent's reason for moving, but only in the exceptional case where it will be relevant to the parent's ability to meet the needs of the child.
  • The disruption to the child as a result of a change in custody and by being removed from family, school and their community.

These can be complicated cases and it is recommended that you seek the assistance of legal counsel if you are contemplating a move with your child. You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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13. My 16 year old would like to move out. Can he move out with parent consent in Manitoba or without parent consent?

Thank you for your question. Moving a child out of province (or even to another community within the province) when another parent also has rights to custody and access can become complicated and frequently results in one of the parents applying to the court for a determination on whether or not the custodial parent can move the child. The parent who does not have primary care and control can ask the court to make an order that the child or children not be removed from the province or to another community as it would interfere with their rights of custody and access.

If you are concerned about the safety of your child or would like assistance in locating resources to help your family, please contact the child and family services intake agency for the community where you live. If you live in Winnipeg, the intake agency is ANCR (All Nations Coordinated Response), (204) 944-4200. If you live outside of Winnipeg, you can use the map at this link to determine which agency to contact: www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/dia_intake.html.

Other agencies have services to help families parenting teenagers, as well as resources for youths themselves. You may wish to contact the following organizations to enquire if they would have any services you would find helpful:

  • Macdonald Youth Services: (204)477-1722
  • New Direction for Children, Youth, Adults and Families: (204)786-7051
  • The Family Centre: (204)947-1401
  • Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre: (204)925-0300

You can find information on other community organizations which provide assistance and supports related to the parenting of adolescents or independent living at the listing managed by Volunteer Manitoba, which you can search at www.contactmb.org.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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14. My boyfriend's son moved in with him, but my boyfriend can't seem to get the child support to stop being garnished and sent to the ex-wife. We have looked into getting him legal aid but he makes too much to get legal aid. He cannot afford a lawyer either because he is still paying child support to the ex-wife while he is supporting that same child under his own roof with what money he has left after paying support.

In general terms, an existing court order addressing issues such as custody and child support will remain in effect until it is varied (i.e. changed) by a subsequent court order. A parent who wants to vary the terms of an existing court order can file a variation application with the court.

If a party is unable to afford to hire a lawyer to represent them with respect to a variation application, they can choose to represent themselves. Manitoba Justice publishes a booklet, A Guide to Changing Child Support Orders in Manitoba, for people who wish to represent themselves in a variation proceeding. The publication is available online at the Manitoba Justice website.

The booklet is also available at the Maintenance Enforcement Program or at the Family Law Branch, 1230 – 405 Broadway. The content of the booklet can assist a person who wishes to file an application to vary their custody and child support order.

The Maintenance Enforcement Program will likely continue to enforce an existing support order until they have received a new court order addressing a change to the child support such as a termination of a parent's previous child support obligation. A party can always seek a preliminary order suspending enforcement of their support obligation while their variation application is before the Court.

If a parent files a variation application, the other parent would ordinarily get notice of the application (by being served with court documents) and they would have an opportunity to respond. If the parents can't agree on the issue(s), then the matter would be scheduled for a court hearing before a judge. The court would decide upon any request to vary custody and child support.

An option for general legal information is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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15. I have a three year old daughter. Her father and I were never in a relationship, nor did we live together. I went to legal aid when she was a baby to try to obtain child support, but since he had no source of income I couldn't get anything from him. He hasn't made an effort to find a job, however, he is now living common law and she is his source of income. Would she have to pay his child support if they are listed common law?

Child support is based upon the paying parent's income. Income earned by a spouse or common law partner is generally not relevant to a determination of the amount of child support the person is obliged to pay.

That being said, the law does provide that income can be imputed to a person for the purposes of paying support where a person is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. What this means is that if the court finds that a person is not employed or is minimally employed because they want to minimize their income and avoid child support obligations, the court can attribute reasonable income to them and base the amount of child support payable on the amount so attributed.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba..

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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16. If my 15 year old is pregnant what are her rights? I would like to know her legal right to keep the baby or give it up for adoption & would I be responsible for both if she decides to keep the baby?

Thank you for your question. Our consulting experts from Manitoba Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch have provided the following response:

If your 15-year-old became pregnant, the child and family services agency for the area where you live would be notified. All expectant mothers under the age of 18 in Manitoba are referred to a child and family services agency for assessment and supports.

The role of the child and family services agency is to assess the situation for the young woman, determine what their plan is for the pregnancy, and to ensure there are adequate supports and information available. Sometimes that will mean the agency refers the young person to other community services for help. In some cases, the agency will stay involved with the family to provide ongoing support and assistance.

The decision about whether to plan to parent a child or place a child for adoption is a difficult one. The child and family services agency would provide information to expectant mothers about all of their choices, but the final decision about this plan would be made by the expectant mother.

You would have the opportunity to talk more with the child and family services agency about what the rights and responsibilities would be for both you and your daughter, if she was pregnant. If you live in Winnipeg, the child and family services intake agency is the All Nations Coordinated Response Network (ANCR), and can be reached at (204) 944-4200. If you live outside of Winnipeg, you can locate the appropriate child and family services office using the map at the following link: http://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/dia_intake.html.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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17. I was together with my ex and her child since the child was ten months old. I have raised her as my own daughter till the age of three. We have now been separated for seven months and the mother is denying me visitation with my stepdaughter, whom I raised and whom the child knows as daddy. Do I have any rights to see my stepdaughter?

Under The Child and Family Services Act of Manitoba you may apply to court for access to the child. The court will determine if access is in the best interest of the child applying the criteria set out in the Act and will specifically consider:

  • The mental, emotional and physical needs of the child;
  • The nature of any pre-existing relationship between the applicant and the child;
  • And where the application if made by a grandparent, that a child can benefit from a positive, nurturing relationship with a grandparent.

Depending on the circumstances, you also may be able to ask the court to for a declaration that you are in loco parentis (standing in place of the parent) to the child. You would need to speak to a lawyer to determine if this is applicable to your case.

It would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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18. My son is turning 13 in April. He has an 8 year old sister and a 3 year old brother. His mom and I are divorced and both remarried. She lives in Headingley and I live in St. Vital. The two older children currently go to school in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division. The 13 year old wants to change schools for the 2013 school year in September. I support him but his mother will not. He had wanted to change last year but we agreed for him to try one more year in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division. He plays all of his sports and activities in St. Vital. Does he have the legal right to change schools? Will the 8 year old and 3 year old have to change school divisions also?

The parent or parents who have legal custody of a child have the responsibility to decide important issues about the child's upbringing, including where the child will attend school. If one parent has sole custody, that parent alone makes the decision. If the parents have joint legal custody then they must make the decision jointly. If the parents do not agree, either parent may apply to court for an order addressing this aspect of the custodial arrangements. Please remember that "legal custody" is not the same as "physical custody" or "care and control," which describes how much time the child spends with each parent. Generally speaking, young children are not asked to choose where they will attend school or which parent they will primarily live with as it can be harmful to a child to be placed in that position.

Issues around child custody are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get advice if you are considering making a change to your custody arrangements. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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19. I am a single Dad who has custody of three children, aged 11, 8,and 6. I work 7 – 4:30, and the kids are in school 8:45 – 3:30. My sitter is hit and miss, sometimes claiming sickness etc, and therefore interrupting my work from time to time. This ultimately results in smaller paycheques for me to provide for my family. My children are well behaved, and they are very close. My work, their school, and our home is all within approximately 4 blocks, so I am just a phone call away. My question is, at what age, is a mature sibling allowed to watch their siblings for short periods of time? To be exact, it would be approximately 1-1/2 hours in the a.m., and one hour after school.

In Manitoba, The Child and Family Services Act states:

"Section 17 (2) ...a child is in need of protection where the child... (g) being under the age of 12 years, is left unattended and without reasonable provision being made for the supervision and safety of the child."

It is important to be clear that under the law in Manitoba, your 11-year-old is not yet old enough to babysit the younger siblings.

If emergency personnel, such as Fire or Ambulance, attended your home and found children under 12 without supervision, they would not be able to let them remain in the home. If a child and family services agency is notified that your under-12-year-old children are left alone, the agency would have to become involved, and various interventions, including requiring the parent returns to the home or the possibility of apprehension, could take place.

You can ask your local child and family services agency for help in planning for the supervision of your children and learning about possible resources for you in the community. Please use the map at this link to determine which agency covers your community: View the map.

Ensuring safe and appropriate supervision can be a real challenge to families. I hope the resources above are able to help you in planning for the care of your children.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.


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20. I got pregnant at the age of 16. I had my daughter when I was 17, then her dad left me for another girl when she was one-year-old. Now my daughter is 2 years old and she doesn't know her dad at all. Her dad never once bought her pampers, milk, clothing, birthday presents or Xmas presents. When I do ask him to buy my child something he says she's not his kid. How can I get full custody and take him for child support?

In order to obtain a court order for custody and child support you would need to apply to court by filing the appropriate documentation and serving it on the child's father.

  • A court order of sole custody means that the parent has both legal and physical custody of the child. The parent makes all the decisions for the child.
  • A court order of joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of the child – joint decision making power – but one parent looks after the child most of the time and makes everyday decisions concerning the child. This is the parent with primary care and control.
  • A court order of shared custody means that the parents have both joint legal custody and joint physical custody of the child.

You could discuss with your lawyer what type of custody scenario would be best for your child.

In the event that the father continues to deny paternity you may need to arrange for paternity testing. This is generally done through DNA testing. If the father refuses to go for DNA testing you can obtain a court order requiring him to go. If he still refuses to go the court may draw an adverse inference from the refusal to go to DNA testing.

Both parents have an equal duty to provide financial support for their children, whether or not there is a court order. In the event the matter proceeds to court, the court will decide the amount payable for child support based on the Manitoba Child Support Guidelines. The father would be required to provide financial disclosure to the court to prove his annual income. The court may impute income where financial information is not provided or the court finds that a person is under-employed.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca.

As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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21. In our custody order it does not state that either parent needs permission to leave the province with the child. Can we legally leave the province on our scheduled time and return our daughter at proper drop off time for a weekend camping trip?

Assuming there is nothing in your court order which restricts travel during your periods of care and control, there would likely be no issue with leaving the province on a vacation during your time with your children. As with any proposed trip with children, it is always best to let the other parent know where you are going, how long you will be staying and how you can be reached in case of emergency. If you are proposing to leave the country or proposing to travel by air, you should obtain a signed travel consent from the other parent. While not always requested by air carrier or border services staff, a travel consent letter is often requested and failure to produce one could lead to you being refused boarding or refused entry into another country. For more information on this please refer to the following government of Canada website: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/consent-letter.

If the non-travelling parent refuses to provide a travel consent letter, you may wish to speak to a family law lawyer to discuss your options for obtaining a court order permitting you to travel with the children.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

You might also wish to contact the Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) to discuss your situation. CLEA provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these issues, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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22. My ex and I have joint custody of our toddler daughter, and I have primary care and control. He has access to her every other weekend. My daughter came home from her last visit and mentioned that she slept in the same bed as her dad and his girlfriend. She has been sleeping with her daddy on all of her visits. When the court order for access and custody went into effect, my understanding was that she was to have her own bed and even her own bedroom when she goes for her visits with her dad. It creeps me out that she sleeps in the same bed as both her father and his girlfriend. How old is too old for a little girl to be sleeping in the same bed as her father? Does he need to provide our daughter with her own bed at his house?

Thank you for your question. It is not clear from the information you provided whether there was a condition attached to your court order for access and custody as to specific sleeping arrangements for your child. If your agreement stated that your daughter was to sleep in her own bed and bedroom, then you can discuss this aspect with your former partner or with a lawyer to speak on your behalf.

There is no clear legislation in Manitoba that speaks to sleeping arrangements for children. However, having healthy and appropriate boundaries helps children to develop healthy and positive relationships with adults. It also helps children to protect themselves by knowing when boundaries have been crossed and when they may be at risk. If you are not able to talk directly with your former partner about your concerns related to your daughter's sleeping arrangements, you may wish to ask your lawyer to speak on your behalf or you could contact Family Conciliation Services to see if they are able to offer assistance. You can locate information about Family Conciliation Services and contact information at this link: www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/family_conciliation.html.

If you believe your child is at risk of harm or has been harmed, you should report your concerns to the child and family services intake agency for the area where you live. If you live in Winnipeg, you would contact ANCR (Child and Family All Nations Coordinated Response) at 204-944-4200. If you live outside of Winnipeg, please consult the map at the following link which will show you the intake agency for your community: www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/dia_intake.html.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question./


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23. How do you go about applying for sole custody?

Anyone who wants the assistance of the court for determining family law issues must ask for it by applying to court. This is done by filing specific documents in the court office. Once these documents have been filed, the court proceedings have started. Other parties involved in the dispute (such as a spouse or the other parent) usually must be notified of the application so that they will also have an opportunity to present their position to the court.

Family Law in Manitoba, 2008 is a legal information booklet that contains general information about family law topics. It includes a chapter (Chapter 2) describing the court system in Manitoba and the general steps in a family law court proceeding. You can view this booklet online at:

Family Law in Manitoba

If a parent applies to court for custody of their child, a judge will determine what type of custody order would be appropriate based on what arrangements are in the best interests of the child. This involves an evaluation of what will promote the child's physical, emotional, intellectual and moral well-being.

The court will take into account a number of factors, such as:

  • care arrangements before the separation (Ex: Who looked after the child most of the time? Who took the child to the doctor and dentist? Who arranged extra-curricular activities? Who dealt with the child's school and teachers?)
  • the parent-child relationship and bonding
  • parenting ability
  • any family violence or other conduct that relates to parenting ability
  • the parents' mental, physical and emotional health
  • the parents' and the child's schedules
  • support systems (Ex: assistance and involvement from grandparents and other close relatives)
  • sibling issues (Ex: brothers and sisters should generally remain together, but under some circumstances, it may be necessary to consider separating them)
  • the child's special needs (Ex: the child has a serious medical condition and one parent is better able to handle the care required).

If you require further information relating to family law issues, you can contact the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Healthy Child Manitoba in responding to this question.


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24. I have a three-year-old son. The father has been absent for the most part of my son's life. We lived together for seven months after my son was born so he has joint custody and he is on my son's birth certificate. I do not know how to get a hold of the father or have a very hard time getting a hold of him. Do I need his signature on a passport or a note from him allowing me to cross the border for a short period of time? I plan on going to legal aid for sole custody but figure it will take awhile because I know it will be hard to get a hold of the father and that he will not show up in court. If I contact the father and he agrees, can I get a lawyer to write up a legal paper allowing the father to relinquish parental rights?

The rules for obtaining a Canadian passport for a child are determined by the federal government. According to the Passport Canada website, both parents are requested to participate in obtaining passport services for their child and to sign the application form.

Where a court order or agreement exists referring to custody of the child, only the person with custodial rights may apply. All documents that refer to custody or mobility of, or access to, the child must be provided. If a divorce has been granted, a copy of the divorce judgement or order must also be provided. Where joint custody provisions exist, either parent may apply. However, the consent of the other parent is generally required.

For more information on the rules and process for seeking a passport for a child, please see the Passport Canada website as follows: http://www.ppt.gc.ca/info/16-.aspx#custody

You've indicated that your ex-partner and you lived together for a period of time after your son was born. Therefore, you are correct that the father and you would currently have joint custody of your son pursuant to Manitoba law, The Family Maintenance Act, unless there is a court order granted which provides for a different custody arrangement.

If you are unable to obtain the consent of the other parent with respect to getting a passport for your son, then you will have to apply to court to request sole custody of your son.

As for whether you may be able to travel with your son to the United States by vehicle without the need for your son to have a passport, you should contact Passport Canada to receive information in that regard. Ultimately though, legal admission into the United States is determined by the rules and practices of the appropriate American authorities.

Applying for custody of a child can be a complicated process and it would be best to consult with a lawyer who practices family law if you require advice specific to your situation. You may can contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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25. My ex-husband and I are making arrangements to end our marriage. We have not yet gone to court; however, he is looking for properties for himself in the city. I was told that divorced parents must live a certain distance apart for the children. Are there any laws about this?

In general, there are no laws in Manitoba that require separated or divorced parents to live a certain distance from one another. Many individuals may choose for their own personal reasons to live within a certain proximity of the other parent of their child. For example in a shared custody situation where the parents have equal time sharing of their child, it is not uncommon that the parents agree or choose to live near one another so that their child can attend one school or daycare while alternating between the care of their parents. Conversely, due to the some of the difficult emotional issues that may arise out of a relationship breakdown between parents, one or both parents of a child may decide that they would prefer to live some distance away from the other parent.

As long as parents live close enough that they can abide by the terms of a custody or care and control arrangement or court order, each parent basically has the right to live where they would like. In some instances, parents in Manitoba may live in different parts of the same town or city or they may live in different municipalities. However, if each is able to travel by automobile or other means to give effect to their care and control responsibilities respecting their children, then they have the right to live where they would like.

The one notable exception from a family law perspective would be if there are terms in a family law court order or a civil protection order requiring that the parents must not have contact with one another or must remain a specific distance apart due to past instances related to domestic violence or stalking. Similarly, there could be no-contact provisions contained in an order from a criminal court if there have been criminal charges of a domestic violence nature involving the parents.

If you require further information relating to family law issues, you can contact the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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26. How do I go about contesting a maintenance order?

A party who disagrees with a court decision has the right to seek an appeal of that decision to a higher court. If the original order was made in the Court of Queen's Bench (Family Division) then an appeal would go to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. However, there is no guarantee that an appeal would be successful or that you would be any more satisfied with the Court of Appeal's ruling. You should also be aware that there are strict timelines for launching an appeal. If the original order was a final order (as opposed to an interim order which is only intended to be in place until a trial/final hearing) and there has been a material change in circumstances since the original order was made, there may also be the option of applying to vary the order.

Your lawyer is in the best position to advise you about the merits of either an appeal or a variation application and the process for each. You may also want to look at a Manitoba Justice publication called A Guide to Changing Child Support Orders in Manitoba. It offers step-by-step instructions for self-represented litigants, but is not meant to be a substitute for legal advice. The booklet is available online at:
http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/changembsupportorder.html

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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27. I have the primary care and control of my kids, and I want to know if I need the consent of my ex to take my kids with me for a vacation to Mexico? I'm a Canadian citizen and so are my kids.

"Primary care and control" generally describes the time that a child will spend with a parent, rather than who has custody. In order to answer your question, it is necessary to know what the custody arrangement is for the child. If one parent has sole custody then that parent would have authority to make major decisions affecting the child, such as whether the child can travel out of the country. If the parents have joint custody then they have authority to make major decisions jointly and one parent cannot ordinarily decide on their own to take the child out of the country. If there is a court order that specifies who can make such decisions then the court order would override these general rules.

If there is no court order dealing with custody, then under The Family Maintenance Act (a Manitoba law), parents have joint custody of their child as long as they lived together for any period of time after the child was born. If parents never lived together after the birth of their child, then the parent with whom the child lives has sole custody, unless a court orders something different. This is known as 'sole custody by operation of law'.

Questions about child custody are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association (known as 'CLEA'), which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. Through their lawyer referral program, CLEA can refer you to a lawyer who practices family law and who will give you a free half-hour preliminary consultation. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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28. I was wondering if it is wrong for the dad, who sees his daughter twice a month, to drive every second Sunday to pick her up and drop her off? From his place to mine, it is approx. 25 – 30 minutes. The majority I have spoken to said it is the father's responsibility to pick his daughter up and drop her off.

Unless the parents have agreed to, or the court has ordered a different arrangement, generally a parent exercising access to a child has the responsibility for transporting the child to and from access visits. However, a court may order parents to share the transportation duties and/or costs or may specify some other arrangement. For more legal information on family law issues, including parenting arrangements, see Family Law in Manitoba.

Chapter 5 of this booklet deals with custody, access and guardianship.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question


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29. I have guardianship of our 16 year old daughter. Both my ex and I agree she should move back with my ex (her mother) as she seems to have straightened out her life. Must I pay a lawyer to give her back, or can I just sign an agreement of some kind.

Under Manitoba law, parents have rights of "custody" as opposed to "guardianship". "Custody" encompasses all the rights and duties related to the care of a child. This includes "legal custody" which refers to the right to make all important decisions about the child's upbringing and "physical custody" which is the right to the day to day physical care and control of the child. What should be done to reflect a change in physical custody of a child from one parent to the other depends on what formal arrangements are in place. If there is a custody order in place, it can only be legally changed by another court order. This means applying to the court that made the custody order for a variation of the original custody order. If there is a written agreement in place, it can be varied by negotiating and signing a further agreement.

In either case, it would be best to seek some legal advice before commencing a court application or signing an agreement, by consulting with a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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30. I am going through a custody battle with my ex girlfriend and I just found out that she has recently left the province with my two girls (ages 2 and 6). I didn't give her my permission and I want to go to the police because I'm scared for their safety and well being. What should I do?

If one parent takes or keeps a child under 14 years of age away from the other parent without the other's consent, he or she may be charged with parental child abduction under the Criminal Code of Canada. It doesn't matter if there is a Canadian custody order in place or not, however if there is no custody order then special consent is required from the Manitoba Department of Justice before a charge can be laid. If you live in Winnipeg, you can contact the Winnipeg Police Service Missing Persons Unit at 204-986-6250. Outside Winnipeg, contact the RCMP or municipal police service in your area.

In addition, each province in Canada has laws in place to help a parent enforce a custody or access order through the civil courts. Generally, these laws can help a parent enforce a custody or access order where a child under 18 years of age is present in the province. You would ordinarily have to hire a lawyer in the other province (where your ex has taken your children) to make a court application there on your behalf.

If you have reason to think your children are in danger from their mother, you may contact your local child and family services agency to ask them to contact their counterparts in the other province to request a child protection investigation.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, enforcement of custody and access and child protection, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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31. I am separating from my husband. Can I move my 2 sons to Brandon which is 1.5 hrs away or do I need a court order to do so… no custody arrangement in place as of yet.

Under The Family Maintenance Act (a Manitoba law), parents have joint custody of their child as long as they lived together for any period of time after the child was born, unless a court order has been granted setting out a different custody arrangement. Having joint custody means that the parents must jointly make major decisions affecting the children, such as deciding where the children will live.

Issues around child custody are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association (known as 'CLEA'), which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. Through their lawyer referral program, CLEA can refer you to a lawyer who practices family law and who will give you a free half-hour preliminary consultation. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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32. My husband was granted sole custody of his two boys and they live with us full-time. The mother has access "as can be agreed upon" and chooses to barely see them once very few months. What are my rights as a step-parent? They live with me and I am raising them… but do I have any rights? Do I have authority to make medical decisions? For example if my husband were out of town on business and I had to take one of the boys to the hospital – would I be authorized to make decisions? If not, what can I do to gain some authority since they live with me and I am fully responsible for them (along with my husband)? Is there some sort of power of attorney or guardianship we can request? They were actually taken from their mother by CFS and my worst fear is that somehow, if my husband were away, that she would have any authority over them.

If your husband has sole custody of his children, then he is solely responsible for making major decisions about their care and upbringing. He may be able to delegate certain responsibilities to you in writing, such as the ability to make urgent medical decisions in his absence. Alternatively, you could seek an order of adoption (known as a "step-parent adoption" or possibly an order of guardianship if you want to more formally assume parental rights respecting the children.

Issues around parental rights/responsibilities are very important and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law, to get some specific legal advice. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on these child-related issues, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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33. I just found out that I am pregnant. The father and I are no longer together. We never did live together. He wants me to terminate and I want to keep the baby. What legal rights does he have at this point? Can I request that he sign over all his parental rights before this child is born? How can I protect myself and this baby?

Under a Manitoba law called The Family Maintenance Act, parents have joint custody of their child if they lived together for any period of time after the birth of the child. If the parents never lived together after the child's birth then the parent with whom the child lives has sole custody. In either case, the court can make a different order as to custody, on application by either parent. The court can also make orders about access (visitation) and child support. When a court considers issues of custody or access, it must make its decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Child support is usually determined based on the Child Support Guidelines. Some courts have ruled that child support is a right belonging to the child and cannot be bargained away by a parent. Therefore, even if the father were to "sign over" his parental rights, it may not prevent a future application for custody, access or child support.

Issues around child custody, access and child support are very important and it is best to seek legal advice about your specific situation, from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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34. My 16 year old witnessed a crime at his workplace. He was questioned by the police without myself or my husband present. Is this legal as he is a minor? Also today I was informed that a photo taken from a security camera footage and a news story was posted on a local news website. His name was not released, but we were not contacted prior to this, regarding permission. So I just want to know what our parental rights are regarding minor children.

It is legal for police to question witnesses who are minors without their parents being present. If your son were a suspect as opposed to a witness, then police would have certain responsibilities respecting notice to parents and the right to legal counsel. These safeguards under the Youth Criminal Justice Act do not extend to young people who are witnesses to crimes.

The second part of your question, respecting a photo taken from a security camera and news coverage, is beyond the scope of family law. You may wish to consult with a lawyer who practices in the area of privacy law or you might contact the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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35. If a child lives full time with the mother and the mother wants to go away for a week (the father would have the child) does the father get to deduct that weeks child support payment?

Ordinarily, the paying parent would not be able to deduct a portion of the child support they are required to pay, unless a court order or written agreement specifies that child support is not payable in these circumstances. For more general legal information on child support, see Chapter 7 of Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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36. I am the father of a child who lives outside of Manitoba. I never lived with the mother as I live in Manitoba. What, if any, child support am I obligated to pay? Also, am I responsible for any extras that the mother decides to put my daughter in?

You would be responsible to pay child support based on the Manitoba Child Support Guidelines, which uses the Federal Child Support Guidelines tables. The table amount of child support is determined using the total gross income (before taxes) of the paying parent and the number of children to be supported. The following link will take you to the simplified federal tables (note there are different tables for each province; look at the table for Manitoba) and an on-line look-up tool:
http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/legis/fcsg-lfpae/index.html

As well as the table amount, parents may be required to share the costs of 'special or extraordinary expenses' which includes things like child care expenses, health-related costs over $100 per year, extraordinary expenses for school or other educational programs or extracurricular activities. If a court is deciding whether to order an amount for special or extraordinary expenses the court will consider whether the expense is necessary for the child and whether it is reasonable considering the parents' means. As a general rule, parents share the special expenses according to their income.

For more general legal information on child support, see Chapter 7 of Family Law in Manitoba, 2008 at:
http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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27. We have a 16 year old granddaughter that lives with her birth mother and her common law husband. They live a couple of hours out of Winnipeg. We live in Winnipeg. Our grand daughter is very unhappy where she lives and has asked us if she can move into our place in the city and complete her high school in the city. Her relationship with her step dad is like oil and water. They have never seen eye to eye in the 10 years he has been in her life. She is very unhappy where she is and she really wants to come and live with us. My wife and I have a great relationship with our grand daughter and we are in agreement that her moving in with us would be a positive move for her. Her mother is willing to let her move in with us. My question for you is this. What would it take for us to get legal guardianship of our grand daughter? Seeing that she will be living with us until she finishes school, we feel that this is something we should be looking at.

Part VII of The Child and Family Services Act deals with legal guardianship and access to a child by non-parents. It provides that any adult may apply to the court for an order of guardianship respecting a child. Formal notice of such an application must be given to the parents of the child, any other legal guardian and the child if he/she is over twelve years of age, as well as any child and family services agency that has care of the child. The court must decide a guardianship application based on what the court finds to be in the child's best interests.

Applying for guardianship of a child may be a complicated process and it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on guardianship, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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38. My son is 15, and wants to live with his dad in another province. Our divorce agreement states any major decisions that we cannot agree on in regards to our son, with me being the primary caregiver, the final decision is mine. Does this apply in this situation?

There is no specific age at which a child gets to decide where he or she is going to live. The court gives more weight to the child's wishes as the child matures. An older teenager's wishes will often be decisive. However, children shouldn't be put in the position of having to choose one parent over the other because it may be psychologically damaging. Children should never be placed in the middle of their parents' legal dispute. If the court needs to know the child's wishes, a parenting expert can be called on to interview the child and report to the court. The Family Conciliation office of Family Services and Labour has trained social workers who can conduct this type of interview, when it is ordered by the court.

Issues around child custody, including decision-making authority, are very important and if you have questions about what the provisions of a custody order mean or what your rights and responsibilities are generally, it is best to seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral program. They can be reached at 943-2305 for legal questions and 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca.

For more information on child custody, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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39. I have joint custody with my son's father, I am the primary caregiver. He has decided he wants to take our son one week me another week. My son doesn't really like going for a week as he has been with me so much. (he's 7) also I am pregnant and feel as though my son will feel pushed aside making him go for the week visits. Do I have the right to say no as our custody agreement states his father visits were to be every second weekend.

Joint custody means that the parents share the responsibility to make major decisions about their child's care and upbringing. It does not necessarily mean that the child is to spend equal time with each parent. It appears you have a formal custody agreement that specifies the father is to have your son every second weekend and you have the right to say no to a change in those arrangements.

A parent who wants to change custody arrangements that are set out in a formal custody agreement could seek to negotiate a new agreement or he could apply to court for a custody order. If he makes a court application, you would ordinarily get notice of that application (by being served with court documents) and you would have an opportunity to respond. Judges deciding custody cases must do so based on what they consider to be in the best interests of the child involved.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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40. I have a 3 month old son who lives with me, I financially support, and have made all decisions for. The father and myself were never together or common law. He has not financially helped in anyway and lives in a building which does not allow children. I have not yet submitted the birth certificate as he was requesting a paternity test. The results came back that he is the biological father but is requesting to not be put on the birth certificate nor plans to financially or emotionally help out. What are the legal repercussions of not having his name on the birth certificate? Could I still file for child support? Would that give me sole custody of my son or would I still need to go to court? Are there ways for him to legally sign over all paternity rights to me so he legally has no connection to my son? If he doesn't want anything to do with my son, what are the benefits to putting his name on the birth cert?

Under The Family Maintenance Act (a Manitoba law), parents have joint custody of their child as long as they lived together for any period of time after the child was born, unless a court order has been granted setting out a different custody arrangement. If parents never lived together after the birth of their child, then the parent with whom the child lives has sole custody, unless a court orders something different. This is known as 'sole custody by operation of law'.

Your other questions about naming the father on your child's birth certificate and about child support, call for specific legal advice. In order to get specific legal advice, it would be best for you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association (known as 'CLEA'), which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. Through their lawyer referral program, CLEA can refer you to a lawyer who practices family law and who will give you a free half-hour preliminary consultation. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

For more general legal information on child custody and access, see Family Law in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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41. I have a court order giving me final decision making authority. Our son was sick with the flu and was suppose to visit his dad as stated in court order, but due to our son being sick I decided to keep our son home and RCMP told me I could not do that. Why could I not make that decision when I have final decision making authority?

When a court order provides that one parent has the final decision making authority with respect to their child, it is normally within the context of the parents having joint custody of the child. Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of their child and major decisions about the child, such as decisions relating to the child's education, health and religion, should be made jointly. If the court order of custody specifies that one parent has final decision making rights, it generally relates to such major decisions affecting the child, but would still require the parents to consult with each other on major decisions.

However, even in joint custody situations, each parent is typically responsible to make the everyday decisions about the child while the child is in his or her care. A parent with final decision making authority would not necessarily be entitled to have the final say about everyday decisions regarding their child while the child is in the care and control of the other parent. Parents should ideally try to come to agreement on things like when is bedtime, how much TV or computer time the child is allowed, etc., so that the child's routine is reasonably consistent and predictable in the two households.

Unfortunately, not all decisions regarding a child are clearly either an everyday decision or a major decision. The situation that you have presented where your child was sick at a time when the other parent was supposed to have a visit with your child may not be clear-cut. By that, we mean that both parents in such a situation may not necessarily agree that cancelling a visit due to a child being sick constitutes a major decision that would allow the parent with final decision making authority the right to cancel the other parent's care and control without their consent.

While common sense might dictate that it is prudent to cancel the other parent's visit when a child is seriously ill, the matter should still be discussed with the other parent to see if both parents can agree on the problem and perhaps the visit can be postponed by agreement with a make-up visit scheduled in its place.

If parents are not able to agree on certain kinds of specific issues, either may apply to the Court for an order granting them final decision-making authority with respect to the matter(s) in dispute. Sometimes, especially when parents have difficulty co-operating with one another, the court can order that each party's care and control periods with their child come with specific conditions. This kind of order can lay out in detail when and under what conditions a parent has the right to make certain decisions regarding their child that may affect the rights or care and control of the other parent.

It would be best to consult with a family law lawyer who can provide you with specific advice on your custody situation. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 204-985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral program. They can be reached at 204-943-2305 for legal questions and 204-943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource where a person can obtain information and advice regarding their legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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42. I have a four year old daughter with my ex partner. I lived with him for about 2 years and he has only seen my daughter a handful of times since we separated (2 years ago). He has apparently moved out of province and has paid me less than $200 (total) towards child support since our seperation. I have tried contacting him through a lawyer and over the phone, to arrange for a sole custody agreement but he is never where he says he is and cannot be served legal documents due to his unknown wherabouts. The one time I spoke to him, he advised me that he would never agree to such an arrangement. I would like his parental rights completely relinquished and I am not concerned about child support. I plan on moving to the states to live with my American fiance and we have not started the visa application yet because of this issue. Can I obtain sole custody if the "father" is uncooperative and is absent from my child's life? Someone told me that if he hasn't seen/contacted or supported her in two years that I can prove abandonment? Is that true? Thank you very much!

Since you have indicated that your daughter's father and you lived together for a period of time after she was born, you and he would have joint custody of your daughter pursuant to Manitoba's Family Maintenance Act. Under Manitoba law, parents have joint custody of their child as long as they have lived together for any period of time after the birth of their child, unless a court order has been granted that provides for a different custodial arrangement. Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of their child and major decisions about the child , such as moving the child out of province, should theoretically be made jointly. A court order made by a judge can provide for a different custody arrangement though such as giving one parent sole custody.

Notwithstanding that the father has moved away and is no longer in your child's life, you should consider filing an application with the court to obtain an order granting you custody of your daughter as well as the court's approval to your plan to move with your daughter to the United States. There are no "child abandonment" or "parental abandonment" provisions in the law that would prevent the father from contesting custody. However, the court would certainly consider what care and control arrangements have been in place since you separated from the father in deciding what type of custody order would be in your child's best interests.

Therefore, it would be best to consult with a family law lawyer who can provide you with specific advice on how to proceed with a court application. Your lawyer can also bring any necessary procedural applications to the court to address the issue of serving the father with your court application. In appropriate circumstances, the court can allow an application to be served in a substitutional fashion instead of the normal requirement for the other party to be personally served.

If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 204-985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral program. They can be reached at 204-943-2305 for legal questions and 204-943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource where a person can obtain information and advice regarding their legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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43. Should I be seeking sole custody as my ex has not given me any child support or even his contact information? He sees our son whenever it is convenient for him but if I ever needed to contact him in case of an emergency, I would not be able to do so, as I have no information regarding his whereabouts. We have only lived together for a short period of time (7-9 months). What are my chances of gaining sole custody when my ex has no job, no stable living place of his own, and has also been physically abusive towards me in the past?

Since you've indicated that your son's father and you lived together (albeit for even a brief period of a couple of months) after he was born, the father and you would have joint custody of your son pursuant to The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba. Under Manitoba law, parents have joint custody of their child as long as they have lived together for any period of time after the birth of their child, unless a court order has been granted that provides for a different custodial arrangement. A court order made by a judge can provide for a different custody arrangement though such as giving one parent sole custody.

In determining what type of custody arrangement might be in your son's best interests, you should consider the difference between the legal options available. Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of their child and major decisions about the child , such as education and health-related issues affecting the child, should be made jointly although one parent looks after the child most of the time (i.e. that parent has primary physical care and control). Sole custody means that one parent has both legal and physical custody of the child. He or she makes the important decisions about the child's education, extracurricular activities, health and religion, and the child lives most or all of the time with that parent. Family Law in Manitoba, 2008 is a legal information booklet that contains general information about child custody and access (Chapter 5) and enforcement of custody and access orders (Chapter 11). You can view this booklet online at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/.

It would be best to consult with a family law lawyer who can provide you with specific advice on your custody situation including what the likely outcome of the issue might be if you were to apply to court seeking a custody order. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 204-985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral program. They can be reached at 204-943-2305 for legal questions and 204-943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca. As well, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource where a person can obtain information and advice regarding their legal issues. Their website is www.legalhelpcentre.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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44. A few years ago my ex took me to court to stop me from moving our 2 children out of province. He was granted joint custody with primary care and control. 2 years later he gave the children back to me. I have had them living with me since and they are now 14 and 11. My 11 year old is visiting his father for summer holidays, and today he called and said my son would like to live with him. I said NO. What rights do I have? Did he lose primary care when he gave them back to me? Is my son old enough to make this decision?

A court order is not changed by the subsequent actions of the parties to that court order. This means that the order granting joint custody and primary care and control to your children's father is still in effect, unless it has been changed by a later order. However, whether or not the court would take action to enforce that court order may depend on what has taken place since it was granted. Also, the fact that you have had the children in your care for the last five years is a significant fact that the court would consider if you were to apply to change the custody order. Court decisions around child custody or access must be based on what is in the best interests of the child(ren) involved.

Applying to change a custody order can be a complicated process, and it would be best to seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. A lawyer retained by you can give you specific advice about your legal rights and options. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca.

For more information on child custody, see Family Law in Manitoba.

As to whether or not your son is old enough to decide where to live, there is no specific age at which a child gets to decide which parent he should live with. The court gives more weight to a child's wishes as the child matures. An older teenager's wishes will often be decisive.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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45. I was wondering if it is illegal to have an infant seat properly secured by the MPI guide in a regular cab half ton truck. One is with no air bags and the other we can turn off.

There is no legislation that states how child car seats are to be used in relation to airbag switches. Having said that, research indicates that it is safer for your child to be positioned away from front seat air bags in case they inflate during a collision. The safest place for a child to be is in the middle back seat position. If there are no second row of seats (ie. some truck models), it is strongly recommended that the air bag switch be turned off. It is also recommended that the car seat be positioned in the seat as far back as possible before installation. You should check both your car owner's manual and the child seat user guide for more information. Please call Manitoba Public Insurance at 204-985-8737 should you require further information.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs in responding to this question.


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46. My ex husband and I separated over 5 years ago. We have an 8 year old daughter together. We have no formal separation or custody agreement, and while he initially paid me some child support, he no longer does so. He rarely visits our child – once or twice a year on average. More often, he requests visits, but then cancels, or just doesn't show up. I've decided that it is probably better for my daughter if he has no contact, rather than getting her hopes up about a visit, then her being let down over and over again. I want to take my child on vacation and need some sort of custody document to do so. Child support would also be nice, too, but not if it means my ex has more time with my daughter. I would be willing to give up the right to child support if it means he will have no more contact with her. Is there some sort of clause that would allow me to do so? Is there a child abandonment clause that would mean that he wouldn't be able to fight me, anyway?

You could seek child custody and child support by making an application under Manitoba's Family Maintenance Act. Alternatively, you could seek a divorce as well as child custody and child support under the federal Divorce Act. Neither of these laws has 'child abandonment' provisions that would prevent your spouse from contesting custody. However the court would certainly consider what custodial arrangements have been in place since the separation in deciding what custody order would be in the best interests of the child.

As long as both parents live in Manitoba, child support is determined under Manitoba's Child Support Guidelines Regulation, which uses the federal child support tables to determine the base amount of child support. You should know that if you seek child support along with a divorce, the Divorce Act requires the court to satisfy itself that reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of any children. The court cannot grant a divorce unless and until it is so satisfied (see clause 11(1)(b) of the Divorce Act, reproduced below).

Divorce Act excerpt:

  • 11. (1) In a divorce proceeding, it is the duty of the court...(b) to satisfy itself that reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of any children of the marriage, having regard to the applicable guidelines, and, if such arrangements have not been made, to stay the granting of the divorce until such arrangements are made;...

For more information on child custody and child support, see Family Law in Manitoba, 2008 at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/

Child custody and child support can be complex issues and it would be best to seek some legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960. Another option is the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral program. They can be reached at 943-2305 for legal questions and 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll-free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website is www.communitylegal.mb.ca.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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47. What is the law in regards to moving to another province with my child? We have joint custody, with me (mom) being primary caregiver and final decision making rights.

Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of the child and major decisions about the child, such as moving the child to another province, should be made jointly. If a court order of custody specifies that one parent has final decision making rights, this would still require the parents to consult with each other on major decisions. This is because a move out of province can seriously affect other custody rights. In a joint custody situation, simply moving with the child to another province without consulting with the other parent is a very serious matter and can sometimes result in the moving parent being charged with parental child abduction. It is important that you consult with a family law lawyer to get some specific advice about your rights and responsibilities. If the other parent does not agree to the move, you may have to apply to the court for permission to move with the child. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca, or calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg, or toll free 1-800-261-2960.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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48. In joint custody situations, the primary parent makes the everyday decisions. Does that mean that parent can decide how much tv time the child can have, etc. with each parent? What are some examples of everyday decisions? Do household rules have to be exactly the same at both homes?

In joint custody situations, each parent is responsible to make the everyday decisions about the child while the child is in his or her care. Parents should try to come to agreement on things like when is bedtime, how much TV or computer time the child is allowed, what extra-curricular activities the child will be involved in, etc., so that the child's routine is reasonably consistent and predictable in the two households.

If parents are not able to agree on these sorts of matters, either may apply to the Court for an order granting them ultimate decision-making authority with respect to the matter at issue.

For more information on parenting arrangements and other family law issues, go to Family Law in Manitoba, 2008.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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49. My child's father seems to think now that I live with my boyfriend, he doesn't need to pay child support anymore. In my opinion, he would automatically be giving up his rights then, would he not? Can you please clarify this?

The fact that a parent with custody of a child enters into a common-law relationship will not ordinarily affect the other parent's obligation to pay child support. The only time the boyfriend's financial circumstances might come into play would be if the paying parent makes an application to court to change support on the basis that the amount ordered causes him "undue hardship." In that case, the court compares the standard of living of the two households to decide whether or not undue hardship has been proven.

Failure of a parent to pay child support does not cause the defaulting parent to give up his rights, such as the right to custody of or access to the child. Child support orders and enforceable agreements can be registered with the Maintenance Enforcement Program, who will monitor payment and take action to enforce amounts in default. This can include garnishment of wages or bank accounts, seizure of property, drivers licence denial and summonsing the payor into court to explain the default. Further information about the Maintenance Enforcement Program can be found at http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/mep/index.html or by calling the central processing (main) office in Winnipeg at 945-7133 or 1-866-479-2717 toll-free in Manitoba.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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50. Primary care givers make the day to day decisions. When parents disagree there is some clause that says the primary care giver can make the decision in special circumstances but does not give any examples. Could the primary care giver change counsellors for his children to one who would visit them at school rather than one where he must drive for an hour one way and the kids would have to miss a full day of school each month even if the other parent objected? We had this situation but Mental Heath would not take over the counselling of the children without both parents' approval or a clearer definition of the special circumstances (not sure of the exact term) as stated in the family law book. What are instances where the primary care giver can have final say with or without the other parent agreeing?

Neither the Divorce Act nor The Family Maintenance Act (the two laws applicable in Manitoba that deal with child custody) specify that the primary caregiver can make decisions in "special circumstances." When parents have joint custody under a court order, the custody order itself may specify which parent has the authority to make decisions in certain circumstances or about certain kinds of issues. Or the order may say that the parents must consult one another on certain issues but if they cannot agree, one parent has ultimate decision-making authority. However, if the court order does not say anything about decision making or if there is no court order and the parents have joint custody by operation of law, then it is presumed the parents will make all important decisions about their children jointly.

It is unlikely that a judge would consider the question of who should provide counselling services to the children to be a "day to day decision."

Issues around child custody, including decision-making authority, are very important and if you have questions about what the provisions of a custody order mean or what your rights and responsibilities are generally, it is best to seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca, or calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg, or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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51. I'm at a loss and no one seems to have the answers to my questions. What are the legal rights of a man who has been separated from his wife for three years but has no court orders as far as a legal separation or custody of the children, but pays child support? Also, does the other parent need his permission to take the children out of province? And if the other parent is choosing another person over the other which is not in the best interest of the children, how does he go about that especially when it involves police and RCMP???

Under Manitoba law, if there is no court order of child custody, the parents have joint custody by operation of law, as long as they lived together after the birth of the child or children. This is set out in The Family Maintenance Act, which says:

Joint rights of parents in children

  • 39(1) Subject to subsection (2), rights of parents in the custody and control of their children are joint but where the parents have never cohabited after the birth of the child, the parent with whom the child resides has sole custody and control of the child.

Either parent may apply for custody of child

  • 39(2) Either parent of a child may make an application
    • (a) for custody of the child; or
    • (b) for access to the person of the child;
  • and upon the hearing of the application the court may order that
    • (c) custody of the child be committed to the applicant or respondent or both;
    • (d) the non-custodial parent have access, at such times and subject to such conditions as the court deems convenient and just, for the purpose of visiting the child and fostering a healthy relationship between parent and child;
    • (e) a party pay costs in such amount as the court may determine.

No matter how long the parents have been separated, if they lived together after their children were born and there is no court order setting out a different custodial arrangement, then they have joint custody. Only a court order, not a written agreement, can change this right.

The legal term 'custody' refers to all the rights and duties relating to the care of a child and includes the right to make all important decisions about the child's care and upbringing (legal custody) and the right to the actual everyday care and control of the child (physical custody). Joint custody means that the parents have joint decision-making power about major decisions involving the child or children.

Moving the children out of the province would certainly be a major decision and would require either the agreement of the other parent or a court order (made after giving notice to the other parent) permitting the move. Where the parents have joint custody and one parent moves the children out of province without the other parent's consent and without permission from the court, that is a very serious matter. In fact, the moving parent could face charges of parental child abduction under the Criminal Code.

Issues around child custody are very important and if you have questions about your rights and responsibilities around child custody, it is best to seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca, or calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg, or toll free 1-800-261-2960.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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52. I have a child who is 12 years old. His dad chooses not to pay any school expenses or child support. I am in a common law relationship and my partner supports us including a one year old from my partner. I got offered a job in Manitoba outside of Winnipeg; can I move two hours from Winnipeg without asking the court?

Whether or not a parent can move with a child depends on the custody arrangements that are in place for that child. Custody refers to all the rights and responsibilities related to the care of a child including the right to make important decisions such as where the child will live.

If the parents have lived together after the birth of the child and no court order has set out a different arrangement, then under The Family Maintenance Act, the parents have joint custody. If the parents never lived together after the child's birth, then the parent with whom the child lives has sole custody. If a court has made an order that provides for custody, then the court order may override these provisions. When parents have joint custody, whether under a court order or under The Family Maintenance Act, neither parent has the right to move the child without the other parent's consent or the court's approval. Even when one parent has sole custody, if the other parent has been granted specified access (the court order sets out when and under what conditions the non-custodial parent has contact with the child) the parent with sole custody should not move the child without the other parent's consent. It is very important to consult a lawyer and have him/her review any custody orders well before a move is to take place, as a court order approving the move may be necessary.

In some cases, moving a child without the consent of a parent who has custody rights or specified access rights is a criminal offence and the offending parent may be charged with parental child abduction or breaching a court order.

Family Law in Manitoba, 2008 is a legal information booklet that contains general information about child custody and access (Chapter 5) and enforcement of custody and access orders (Chapter 11). You can view this booklet online at:
http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/

Issues around child custody are very important and you may wish to seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law. If you don't think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting their website at www.legalaid.mb.ca or by calling 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll-free at 1-800-261-2960.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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53. My toddler son's mother, grandmother and great grandmother all seem to think it's ok to smoke in the house. I also see them smoking in the same room as my son. Are there any laws in order to protect children from this?

There are two laws addressing smoking in Manitoba. The Non-Smokers Health Protection Act prohibits smoking in enclosed public places and indoor work places. The Highway Traffic Act prohibits smoking in a private vehicle with anyone under the age of 16 present. Neither of these laws address smoking in a private residence and, therefore, do not apply directly to your question.

However, all Manitobans should be aware that second-hand smoke is a known health hazard and exposure should be avoided. This is especially so with regard to children who, due to their smaller lung capacity and higher breathing rates, are more susceptible to illness caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.

Assistance with quitting smoking is available by calling the Smokers Helpline at 1-877-513-5333. A trained quit-counsellor will provide advice and support with quitting at no charge.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors in responding to this question.


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54. When both biological parents have joint custody, and one or both parents remarry, should the biological parents be making decisions without involving the stepparent? What authority does a stepparent have in decision making or over either biological parent? Also, is a stepparent considered a legal guardian?

If parents have joint custody of a child, this means the parents share the responsibility to make all important decisions about the child's care and upbringing. Each parent has the responsibility to make day-to-day decisions about the child while the child is in his or her care.

On a practical level, if the parents are making decisions that directly affect a stepparent (such as whether the stepparent has authority to pick the child up from school or whether the child will be in the care of the stepparent alone for significant periods of time) then the stepparent should be involved in this decision making. Apart from these sorts of decisions, the stepparent would not have decision-making authority about important matters.

Guardianship is the legal term that is used when someone other than a parent assumes formal and legal responsibility for the care and control of a child. A stepparent who wants to do this may apply for an order of guardianship under The Child and Family Services Act. A stepparent would not be considered a legal guardian unless they had obtained such an order.

For more information on parenting arrangements, see Chapter 5 of Family Law in Manitoba, 2008, which can be accessed at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/family/law/.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.


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55. At what age can a Child (primary residence Manitoba currently) decide which parent he wants to live with?

There is no specific age under Manitoba law at which a child can decide which parent he or she wants to live with. If the parents cannot agree, either may apply to the Court to decide who should have physical custody of the child. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the judge may consider the child's wishes in deciding custody issues. The judge is more likely to give greater weight to the child's wishes as the child matures. An older teenager's wishes will often be decisive.


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56. I was a resident of Manitoba but have moved to Saskatchewan. My Ex-wife demands that if I want to see my children I MUST travel to pick them up every 2nd weekend. Is it not appropriate that we meet half way distance. She also is telling me she can chose when I see my kids. The agreement states every second weekend but she says since I moved that once a month or once every 5ish weeks is sufficient. Am I just out of luck? My children what to see me more often and I want this too.

If there is nothing specified in a court order or agreement about sharing the travel necessary for a parent to exercise access, then generally the access parent is responsible for picking up and dropping off the child. A parent can apply to the Court for an order (or variation of a previously made order) that specifies where and when the children will be picked up/dropped off for the purposes of access. This can include requiring parents to meet in the middle when they live some distance apart. If there is a court order or an agreement that sets out when a parent may have access, neither parent can unilaterally change the frequency. You may wish to seek some legal advice from a lawyer who practices family law, about what options might be available to you. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Saskatchewan to see if you qualify for their services. Go to www.legalaid.sk.ca for further information.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to these questions.


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57. Are there any policies or guidelines in Manitoba regarding age of children for staying home alone? What about length of time or time of day/night?

Section 17 (2) of the Child and Family Services Act states: "a child is in need of protection where the child," subsection (g) "being under the age of 12 years, is left unattended and without reasonable provision being made for the supervision and safety of the child."

This means that police and child and family services agencies consider children under the age of 12 as needing supervision; they cannot legally stay home alone.

After a child is 12 years old, there is no specific policy or legislation that says how long they may be alone, or at what time of day. Parents or guardians need to make those decisions depending on the maturity and skills of each individual child. Some children over the age of 12 years are mature enough to watch other children, while other children over the age of 12 years might still require considerable supervision themselves.

A parent or guardian would need to look at the maturity level and other factors to make the best decision regarding leaving the child home alone:

  • what is the child's comfort and confidence in being left alone?
  • how does the child react to unexpected situations?
  • is the child independent and does he or she make good decisions?
  • does the child notice when a situation is getting out of control?
  • is the child able to initiate contact with someone else if they needed help?

When young people are left alone, they should be able to contact either a parent or guardian, or another trusted person in case of emergency. Parents and guardians should talk with them about how to handle emergencies, as well as who and how to call for help, and an escape plan. They should have all necessary provisions for the length of time they are alone – things like food and clothing –, and be in appropriate shelter for the weather. It is the responsibility of parents or guardians to ensure these are all in place.

There are programs offered in many community centres, agencies and schools that help to prepare children for being alone and for babysitting once they are over 12 years of age.

For a more lengthy discussion regarding the age of children for staying home alone, please click on the link below to go to ManitobaParentZone.ca's Middle Years tab concerning Behaviour and Learning Responsibility at Middle Years > Behaviour > Learning Responsibility.

-- ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Consumer Affairs in responding to this question.

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58. If the temperature outside is not hot and not cold, at what age is it OK to leave your kids in the car to run a quick errand? Are there laws about this?

Thank you for your inquiry about leaving a child alone in a car to run a quick errand when the temperature outside does not seem to pose an immediate risk.

You are right to be concerned about the air temperature inside a parked car. It can be many degrees higher than outside the vehicle, even with the windows down. This rise in temperature inside a car can happen very quickly and poses serious risks to infants and children left unattended in a car.

Although weather can pose serious risks to the safety of children left unattended in a vehicle for any period of time, equally as important are other potential hazards such as the car shifting out of gear and moving uncontrolled, possible choking/strangulation from seat belts, accidental self injury, or involvement in a motor vehicle accident (being struck by another car even though parked).

Many safety concerns for children can be addressed with direct supervision. In general, younger children do not have the ability to fully assess the risk of different situations on their own, such as how to react when approached by an unknown person. Unfortunately, people who are a risk to children with offending behaviours do seek out children who are unattended. In addition, a child left unattended in a vehicle would be at risk from a person who is seeking to break into a vehicle or to steal a vehicle. Therefore, it is never okay to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, regardless of their age or the time duration.

In terms of the laws around leaving your children unattended in a car, The Child and Family Services Act states that children would be considered in need of protection if they are under 12 years of age and do not have supervision. Section 17 (2) (g) of the Act provides the following example of a child in need of protection: "being under the age of 12 years, is left unattended and without reasonable provision being made for the supervision and safety of the child."The issue of lack of supervision of a child left in a vehicle unattended would be considered in the same light as a child left in any other situation without supervision.

If a child under the age of 12 years is reported to have been left alone, whether in a vehicle or another location, then emergency personnel and Child and Family Services (CFS) staff would need to follow up with the family to ensure the child's current and ongoing safety.

In each situation, all potential risks need to be considered as they can affect the safety of a child.

Tragedies related to leaving children unattended in a vehicle are highly preventable; be safe and never leave your child unattended in a vehicle.

Call 911 immediately if a child is in danger from being left unattended in a vehicle.

Once again we thank you for your question and we hope that the above information is helpful to you.

Manitoba Parent Zone acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Family Services' Child Protection Branch and Health Links – Info Santé in responding to your question.

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59. I have a 1948 dodge coupe that did not come with seat belts. What's the legal ruling if I let my kids ride in the back seat (ages 9 and 12). I plan on putting them in (seatbelts I mean!), just wondering what would happen if I got pulled over?

Thank you for your question.

Seat belts became mandatory in vehicles starting in 1971. Some vehicles came equipped with seatbelts prior to 1971.

If the vehicle is all original, older than 1971 and did not come with seatbelts from the manufacturer it can be legally operated without seatbelts. Factory installed seatbelts should not be removed.

It is not mandatory to install seatbelts unless the vehicle has been modified. If it is now a street rod, hot rod or other configuration/modification (not original or restored) then it must have, at minimum, a Type 1 seatbelt (lap belt) installed for each passenger. The seatbelts must be in compliance with the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 209.

If seatbelts are being installed it is recommended to check with a mechanic to ensure the seatbelts are adequately anchored to the vehicle.

If you have any further questions, you may direct them to: Manitoba Public Insurance – Vehicle Standards and Inspections at 204-985-0920 or by emailing vsi-stationinfo@mpi.mb.ca

Once again, we thank you for your question and we hope that the above information is helpful to you.

Manitoba Parent Zone acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Public Insurance in responding to your question.

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60. I found out I was pregnant after my boyfriend and I broke up. We have never lived together and do not plan to after the child is born although he does want to have an active role in the child's life. Will I automatically have sole custody of the child and what rights will he have?

Thank you for your question.

Under The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba where parents have not cohabitated after the birth of a child, the parent with whom the child resides has sole custody of the child. This is known as 'sole custody by operation of law'.

However, either parent may make an application to the court for custody or access and the court can make an order that custody of a child be committed to either or both parents. The court can also order that the non-custodial parent have access.

When considering issues of custody and access, the court makes a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. This involves an evaluation of what will promote the child's physical, emotional, intellectual and moral well-being.

Some of the factors that the court may consider include:

  • care arrangements before the separation (examples: Who looked after the child most of the time? Who took the child to the doctor and dentist? Who arranged extra-curricular activities? Who dealt with the child's school and teachers?)
  • the parent-child relationship and bonding
  • parenting ability
  • any family violence or other conduct that relates to parenting ability
  • the parents' mental, physical and emotional health
  • the parents' and the child's schedules
  • support systems (example: assistance and involvement from grandparents and other close relatives)
  • sibling issues (example: brothers and sisters should generally remain together, but under some circumstances, it may be necessary to consider separating them)
  • the child's special needs (example: the child has a serious medical condition and one parent is better able to handle the care required)

Issues around custody and access can be complicated; therefore we strongly encourage you to consult with a lawyer who practices family law. Your lawyer will be able to advise you regarding the options available to you and also represent you in court.

If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the Portage Place mall (second floor), is another resource for information and advice about legal issues.

For more general legal information on custody related issues, see the Family Law in Manitoba - 2014 Public Information Booklet

We thank you once again for submitting your question and we hope that the above information is helpful to you.

Manitoba Parent Zone acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to this question.

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61. I have a re-calculaton order for child support. The father was in Ontario for a year but is back in MB. The last re-calculation was done in 2009. Does the Manitoba child support re-calculation service have the authority to award back pay?

The Manitoba Child Support Recalculation Service (CSRS) does not provide retroactive recalculations for periods of time a parent was not in Manitoba. However, if you have a court order which authorizes the Manitoba CSRS to recalculate your child support, please contact the service directly to obtain information specific to your situation. The CSRS can be reached at 204-945-2293 or CSRS@gov.mb.ca

To read a list of frequently asked questions on child support recalculation service, you may click here: Child Support Recalculation Service Q&As.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Child Support Recalculation Service of Manitoba Justice in responding to your question.

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62. My girlfriend and I have a 6 year old child. We have never lived together. I used to pay her child support privately since the birth of my son and later, through court ordered maintenance. I am in university, using student lines of credit. Initially I was working in Winnipeg and that is the amount my maintenance was based upon. I am now in a different country, finishing a graduate degree and I can only work part-time at the university because I am not a citizen of that country. I am no longer financially able to sustain the original maintenance amount. I do not wish to stop payments, just to have them adjusted. Is there anything I can do aside from withdrawing from my studies, I am one year away from graduating with my PhD?

A child support order remains in effect until it is varied (changed) or terminated by the court.

If you feel that you should be paying less child support it would be up to you to apply to the court to vary the order. Generally, the other parent would receive notice of the application and be able to respond.

As we are only able to provide you with general legal information through this "Ask an Expert" forum, we encourage you to seek legal advice about your specific situation from a lawyer who practices family law. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website can be found at Community Legal Education Association.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website can be found at Legal Help Centre.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to your question.

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63. I am moving out of province for a number of reasons. My 17 year old daughter wants to stay and finish her last year of high school. She would be 17 for 5 months. We know a family that she could live with. I would still pay for everything. I assume she needs a guardian for other things. What do we need to do to make sure she has everything she needs? What do we need to know? I did this myself in my last year of high school but my parents were closer. Actually my parents will be 2.5 hours away from her.

As children grow and develop, they become increasingly independent from their parents and want to spend more time with their peers. This is a part of the normal development that children go through as they move towards adulthood.

As we are only able to provide you with general legal information through this "Ask an Expert" forum, we encourage you to seek legal advice about your specific situation from a lawyer who practices family law. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website can be found at Community Legal Education Association.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website can be found at Legal Help Centre.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to your question.

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64. My son is now four years old, his father and I split while I was pregnant. He lives in a different province and I live in Manitoba. We have court ordered joint custody and I have primary care and control. The father contacted me recently saying he would like to relinquish his parental rights. I am all for this as I had originally wanted sole custody and he wanted joint custody. Do I need to go see a lawyer to write up these papers?

A parent who wants to vary (i.e. change) the terms of an existing custody order can file a variation application with the court that granted the court order. For example, you can apply to ask a judge to vary your existing court order to vary or delete the father's joint custody rights.

The father and you cannot just sign papers outside of the court process to legally vary your custody order.

You are not legally obligated to be represented by a lawyer when filing a variation application, but it is generally recommended that a person consult with a lawyer before commencing a court proceeding.

As we are only able to provide you with general legal information through this "Ask an Expert" forum, we encourage you to seek legal advice about your specific situation from a lawyer who practices family law. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800. Their website can be found at Community Legal Education Association.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues. Their website can be found at Legal Help Centre.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to your questions.

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65. What are a parent's legal responsibilities regarding a child's actions while not at home, can parents be held responsible and or charged with anything their child does?

Manitoba's Parental Responsibility Act provides that a parent of a child who deliberately takes, damages, or destroys the property of another person is liable for the loss suffered by the owner of the property as a result of the activity of the child, and the owner of the property may sue the parent to recover damages in an amount not exceeding $10,000.00.

However, it is a defence to a civil action (law suit) under the Act if the parent is able to establish that he or she:

  • the age of the child;
  • the prior conduct of the child;
  • the potential danger of the activity;
  • the physical or mental capacity of the child;
  • any psychological or other medical disorders of the child;
  • whether the danger arising from the child's conduct was reasonably foreseeable by the parent;
  • whether the parent was responsible for the care and control of the child at the time when the child engaged in the activity that resulted in the property loss;
  • if the child was temporarily out of the care and control of the parent when the child engaged in the activity that resulted in the property loss, whether the parent made reasonable arrangements for the supervision of the child in the temporary location;
  • whether the parent has sought to improve his or her parenting skills by attending parenting courses or otherwise;
  • whether the parent has sought professional assistance for the child designed to discourage activity of the kind that resulted in the property loss; and
  • any other matter that the court considers relevant to the determination.

The Parental Responsibility Act

As we are only able to provide you with general legal information through this "Ask an Expert" forum, we encourage you to seek legal advice about your specific situation from a lawyer who practices family law. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Justice in responding to your question.

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66. My children's paternal grandma has guardianship of my three boys ages 16, 14, & 8. She won't let me see or talk to them even though I am legally allowed to. The father has recently passed away and prior to his passing he gave up all rights. Can I get charged with kidnapping if I take my oldest (16 yr old) to come live with me? He told me he wants to.

If there is an existing guardianship order in favour of the children's grandmother and you want to regain custody of some or all of the children you should consult with a lawyer about applying to the court that granted the order to cancel it before you take any steps to unilaterally move the children to live with you. Unilaterally taking a child from the grandmother's care in contravention of her guardianship order could have serious legal consequences for you. A potential charge of kidnapping is a serious matter. It is strongly recommended that you consult with your own lawyer to discuss these matters before taking any steps as contemplated by you.

As we are only able to provide you with general legal information through this "Ask an Expert" forum, we encourage you to seek legal advice about your specific situation from a lawyer who practices family law. If you do not think you can afford to consult with a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Manitoba to see if you qualify for their services. Information on Legal Aid eligibility can be found by visiting the Legal Aid Manitoba website or by calling (204) 985-8500 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1-800-261-2960.

Another option for you may be the Community Legal Education Association, which provides a Law Phone-in and Law Referral Program. They can be reached at (204) 943-2305 for legal questions and (204) 943-3602 for lawyer referral or toll free at 1-800-262-8800.

In addition, the Legal Help Centre, a not-for-profit legal information clinic located at the University of Winnipeg, is another resource for information and advice about legal issues.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice in responding to your question.

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67. I would like to know if it is okay for me to drop my seven yr old daughter off at school 10-15 minutes before the school opens and leave her with the other children to enter the school.

The Child and Family Services Act states that children would be considered in need of protection if they are under 12 years of age and do not have supervision. Many safety concerns for children can be addressed with direct supervision. In general, younger children do not have the ability to fully assess the risk of different situations on their own, such as traffic safety or how to respond in case of an emergency.

Given your daughter's age, it would not be appropriate for her to be alone in the school grounds without supervision. Risks to her would include the possibility of injury without immediate assistance, risk from the streets and traffic surrounding the school and that people who are a risk to children with offending behaviours do seek out this kind of situation in this kind of setting. Young children are more vulnerable and do not have the ability to protect themselves in an emergency situation.

Many schools have a before and after school child care program either in the school or close to the school. You can check with your daughter's school office if they have this kind of program in her school. In addition, some schools will have a place where local parents advertise their availability to help with this type of child supervision. Another possibility is to ask a trusted neighbour or someone who lives near the school for assistance.

If you would like to search information on licensed child care in your community, you can find more information on the website for Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care.

You may also find it helpful to contact the Child and Family Services intake agency for your community to see if they are able to offer any services that may be helpful in your situation. You can use the map at Manitoba Family Services – Child Protection Designated Intake Agencies (DIAs) to determine which agency provides intake services for your community.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Family Services' Child Protection Branch in responding to your question.

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