Custody and Access

The goal in any family law matter is to seek a final resolution of all issues in a timely and cost effective manner.  Custody and access are among the most important issues in a family matter as these issues directly impact your children.  Custody refers to major decisions regarding a child such as where the child attends school. The term “access” refers to how much time each parent spends with the children.  A Parenting Plan is a written agreement setting out the agreeable terms of custody and access as agreed by both parents.

There are 3 types of custody arrangements, namely joint custody, sole custody, and parallel parenting.  In a joint custodial arrangement, both parents have joint decision making regarding their children. In this arrangement, both parents must consult the other parent and obtain their consent to any major decisions regarding their children.  In this arrangement, both parents must come to a consensus on all major decisions in respect of their children.

On the other hand, there are some circumstances that support one parent having sole decision making in respect of their children.  In a sole custodial arrangement, one parent has the right to make major decisions in respect of their children without seeking the other parent’s consent.  These decisions may include where the children attend school, a change or initiation in which doctor or medical professional the children attend, whether the children participate in extracurricular activities, and moral training of the children.  There are a number of circumstances in which the Ontario family law would support a sole custodial arrangement.

In addition to the two custodial arrangements mentioned above, parents may choose to seek what is known as a parallel parenting arrangement.  A parallel parenting arrangement refers to a situation where each parent has sole decision making ability regarding different spheres of decision making.  For example, one parent may have sole decision making ability regarding education of the children and where they attend school, while the other parent may have sole decision making over where the children attend for their medical appointments.  Parallel parenting may be appropriate where two parents are not able to come to a consensus on major decisions regarding the children.

The term access refers to one parent’s right to have parenting time with their children.  An access schedule refers to specific dates and times over a calendar year when each parent will have care of their children.  There are many different access schedules that families employ. One such parenting schedule is where one parent has primary care of the children and the other parent has access to the children every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening.  Another example is a shared parenting schedule in which each parent spends equal parenting time with the children. The parenting schedule implemented must be in the best interests of the children. A well developed and comprehensive parenting schedule will define: (i) when each parent is spending time with the children on a go forward basis; (ii) when each parent is to spend time with their children over holidays and special occasions (such as March Break, Easter, and Christmas); (iii) details as to pick up and drop off of the children during access exchanges; (iv) a summer schedule; and (v) a detailed travel protocol.

Shared parenting is a popular phrase used to describe a parenting arrangement where both parents have joint custody of the children and they each spend equal time with the children.

Just like all issues in family law, the parties may negotiate the issues of custody and access.   

It is crucial to pursue resolution of issues of custody and access as it is in the best interests of the children to have a stable and predictable parenting schedule and regime.  

Two parents may pursue resolution of the issues of custody and access through negotiating the terms of a parenting plan.  A parenting plan will set out the negotiated terms regarding decision making of the children and it will set out the parenting schedule.  Negotiation of a parenting plan is often preferable because it fosters stability and predictability in defining the parenting schedule and incidents of custody regarding the children.  The terms of custody and access can be included in a comprehensive Separation Agreement between the parties.

However, if the parties are unable to successfully negotiate the terms of custody and access, one party may choose to take the other party to Court.   A Court in Ontario will impose a custody and access regime on the parties if they are unable to agree.

In most family law matters, a resolution may be sought and achieved without a Court proceeding.  However, there are some circumstances where it may be necessary or in the best interests of the children for one parent to commence a Court proceeding regarding issues of custody and access.  For example, a Court proceeding may be required in emergency circumstances or circumstances of urgency.

Our goal is to provide you with timely and cost effective legal advice in your family matter.  We will provide you with compassionate guidance to assist you in finalizing issues of custody and access.  In our initial consultation, all of your questions regarding your family law matter will be answered including any questions you may have regarding custody and access.  We will assist you in putting a plan in place to move forward in your matter.

To discuss your matter, please call 905-720-0777.

Let us know how we can help you!