Maintaining your children's well-being can be difficult during the breakdown of your relationship. We understand that the well-being of children is often a parent’s priority when they separate from their spouse.
The Divorce Act was updated in March 2021. The terms “custody” and “access” were replaced by “parenting order,” “contact order,” “parenting time,” and “decision-making responsibility.”
What Is Parenting Time (Formerly Access)?
Parenting arrangements or parenting time refers to the time that a child spends with a parent. Parenting time was previously referred to as “access” under the legislation. Put simply it's the agreement or court order as to where the child resides and how the child’s time is shared between the parents or caregiver.
Parenting time will include the right to make inquiries about the child and to be given information about the child’s health, education, and welfare.
What is an Order or Agreement for Parenting Time and Decision-Making Responsibility?
Decision-making responsibility (formally known as “Custody”) refers to the right and responsibility of a parent or caregiver to make major decisions for their child. Major decisions generally include those concerning education, religion, and health care. There are two popular types of decision-making responsibility: sole and joint.
We will assist you with creating a parenting plan that puts your child first.
Commonly Asked Questions About Parenting Arrangements (Access)
There are two common types of decision-making responsibility used in Ontario.
- Sole decision-making responsibility - One parent is the primary caretaker for the majority of the time and that parent makes most of the major decisions.
- Joint decision-making responsibility - Both parents have legal custody and must make major decisions together.
Some cases may use split or shared decision-making responsibility. The decision-making arrangement is determined based on each family's specific needs putting the children first.
A parent must prove it's in the best interest of their child. As a general rule, a child has the right to a relationship with both parents.
A parent is deemed unfit when they cannot “provide proper guidance, care, or support.”
A parent is not allowed to keep a child away from another parent unless it has been deemed acceptable by the courts. Parents cannot withhold decision-making for issues around child support or by choice. Common reasons a parent loses decision-making responsibility include:
- Child Abuse
- Child Abduction
- False allegations of child abuse towards the other parent
- Child Neglect
- Substance Abuse
Some parents can lose decision-making responsibility if co-parenting or parallel parenting is not in the child's best interest. It is also common for parents to lose decision-making responsibility or cause issues for themselves if they are causing parental alienation.
Reasonable parenting time or as it was formally known as reasonable access, is a type of decision-making where the parent must offer a parenting schedule, to each parent. This is an open type of decision-making where the parents decide the schedule and living arrangement of the child.
When a child turns 12 the Office of the Children’s Lawyer is appointed to help determine the best interest of the child. The living arrangements are the first step in listening to a child's wishes.
When it comes to visitation it depends on the situation. Between 16 to 18 years of age, a child can start making decisions and the courts will listen to the child before proceeding with court-ordered visitation. The child's best interests are always put first.