The Difference between Custody and Access
Among other things, Jeremy and Melissa have agreed to joint custody of their 9 year old, and have further agreed that he will spend 30% of his time with dad.
For those who do not understand the intricacies of family law, the Meeks' arrangement could be confusing: wouldn't joint custody entail that the child lives with both parents equally? The answer to that question is NO.
For the purposes of family law, CUSTODY and ACCESS are two very different concepts.
The term"custody" refers to the right to make important decisions about the care and upbringing of a child (i.e. the child's religion, schooling, and medical treatment). There are several different types of custody, including "sole custody," "joint custody," and "split custody."
Specifically, and with respect to the Meeks' arrangement, joint custody generally entails that both parents have an equal legal right in making major decisions affecting their child. As such, neither parent would be able to unilaterally make a major decision about the child's care.
It is important to note that joint custody typically works best where there are low levels of conflict, and where parents are able to communicate effectively and make decisions either by consensus or by one acquiescing to the judgement of the other.
The term "access", also known as "parenting time" and/or "visitation", on the other hand, refers to a parent's right to visit with their child and make inquiries and seek out information about their child's health, education and welfare.
When making custody and/or access arrangements, in Ontario, the main consideration and determining factor is the "best interests of the child."
Given the difference and distinction between custody and access, it is possible for parents - much like the Meeks - to have joint custody of a child, and for the child to still live primarily with one of the parents.