Child Custody & Access
Hello. My name is Anna Troitschanski and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group. Today I am going to talk about child custody and access. I will review the different types of child custody and discuss access.
When two people have a child together, each parent has an equal responsibility to take part in the upbringing of the child. The equal responsibility to make decisions about their child’s care and how their child is raised exists whether or not the parents are married.
Typically in a two-parent, intact family, parents share the decision-making authority. When parents separate, however, they must arrange how they will share or divide their respective parenting rights and responsibilities. In other words, separating parents must make arrangements for child custody and access.
What is custody?
Custody is the right to make the important decisions about the care and upbringing of a child. Custody includes the right to make decisions regarding the child’s religion, school and educational programs, and medical treatment.
Different types of custody include sole custody, joint custody, shared custody and split custody:
If a parent has sole custody of a child, it means that only one parent has the responsibility and legal authority to unilaterally make major decisions about the child’s care and how the child will be raised. Most commonly, the child lives primarily with the parent who has sole custody.
Sole decision-making authority is often given to only one parent where there is serious parental conflict; concerns of abuse, violence, drug or alcohol abuse; mental illness or demonstrated poor judgment. A sole custody arrangement helps mitigate concerns or limit risks in the life of the child.
Where separated parents are in agreement on major issues affecting the life of their child and they have few or no concerns about each other’s judgment, they can opt for joint custody. Under this custody arrangement, both parents legally have an equal say about the major decisions affecting their child. Where there is a joint custody arrangement, neither parent has the right to unilaterally make major decisions about the child’s care. With joint custody, it is assumed that the parents can reach decisions either by consensus or by one acquiescing to the judgment of the other.
Typically joint custody works best where there are low levels of conflict between the parents, or even where there is moderate conflict but the parents can resolve disputes maturely. When parents have joint custody of a child, the child may either live primarily with one parent or there may be a shared custody arrangement.
Unlike the other custodial arrangements, shared custody has to do with the amount of time the child spends with each parent for the purpose of determining each parent’s respective child support obligation, and not with decision making. Under the Child Support Guidelines, shared custody exists where a child lives at least 40% of the time with each parent. The 40% time can be comprised of weekends, overnights, and parts of vacations.
Although not very common, another type of custody arrangement is split custody. This exists where the parents have more than one child together, and each parent has one or more of the children living primarily with them.
What is Access?
When one parent is awarded sole custody of the children, the other parent is normally granted the right of access. This is sometimes called visitation. In addition, if both parents have joint custody of a child, but the child’s primary residence is with one parent, the other parent is granted the right of access.
Access visits can either be unsupervised or supervised, depending on what is in the best interests of the child. Most often access is unsupervised. This is where the child goes to visit the parent, and no one else needs to be present while the child and the access parent are together.
A typical access schedule involves the child spending alternate weekends and one or two evenings or nights per week with the parent not having primary care and control of the child. Typically, the access parent will also share holidays, including statutory holidays (long weekends), Christmas school break, March break, and summer holidays.
That’s all for today. Thank you for taking the time to watch this video. I hope that I have answered some of your questions about child custody and access in the Province of Ontario. You can also find more information on our website at www.separation.ca. if you would like to meet with one of our family law lawyers, please call us at 905-581-7222 for an initial consultation.