Child Access and Custody

Today, we'll be clarifying a common misconception that the custodial arrangements for a child define how much time each parent will spend with the child.

Hello, my name is Shilpa Mehta and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein family Law Group.

I am here today to clarify the common misconception that the custodial arrangements for a child define how much time each parent has with the child. In particular, often times I meet with clients who are seeking shared or joint custody of their children in the misbelief that this will entitle them to an equal time parenting regime.

Custody and access are two separate and distinct concepts and the custodial arrangements for a child have no bearing on the type of access each parent has to the child. In contrast to Custody, which is about making major decisions for the child, Access is about time spent with the child.

I’ll go through four definitions that will help you understand these legal concepts. Here is what you need to know.

First, custody of a child refers to how major decisions for them will be made and by whom. This typically encompasses four major areas: healthcare and medicine, education, religion, and mobility.

Second, there are two types of custody: sole custody and joint custody. Sole custody means that one parent makes all of the major decisions regarding the children.

Third, Joint custody means that both the parents make the major decisions regarding the children together.

Fourth, Sole custody is appropriate where only one parent is able to make important decisions regarding the children or where the parents cannot communicate with each other (e.g. there is a history of abuse or the parents are simply unable to communicate productively).

Joint custody is appropriate where both parents are able to communicate in a productive fashion with one another regarding the children’s needs and best interests so that these important decisions can be made together. Both parents remain involved in making decisions about the children. For joint custody to be successful, parents have to be able to communicate with each other and to co-operate even after you are not living together.

It is important that parties recognize and understand that under the joint custody regime, the day-to-day decisions regarding the child are made by the parent whose care the child is in.

Accordingly, parents will only be required to collaborate when a major decision with respect to the child needs to made. Again, examples of major decisions include: where the child will go to school, the type of education, the form of religious upbringing, and nonemergency medical decisions. As such, so long as parents are willing and able to make such decisions together, joint custody remains the most appropriate parenting regime in your matter.

Regardless of the custody arrangements for the child, both parents maintain the right to spend time with him unless the court decides that this is not in the child’s best interests. A court is only likely to refuse a parent access to their child only if there is a fear that the parent will harm them or harm the custodial parent, or if there is risk that the access parent will not return the child to other parent.

If you would like to learn more about this or any other family law topics, visit our website. If you need legal advice about your own situation, please call us at (905) 581-7222 to schedule an initial consultation. Thanks for watching.

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