Child Custody and Types of Parenting Arrangements

Although separating from a spouse can be a difficult and emotional time, separating couples that have children need to consider how their children will be affected by the breakdown of the relationship and prepare accordingly.

For a married spouse who has filed an application for divorce, child custody issues fall under the Divorce Act, which is the federal legislation. Conversely, the Children’s Law Reform Act governs custody and access issues for cohabiting couples or married couples who separate but do not divorce in Ontario.

Custody and access are terms that are often confused with one another but have vastly different meanings. Having custody of a child means that the parent has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child (which includes religion and where the child will live). On the other hand, access is the amount of time that a parent will spend with the child, but does not grant that parent any decision-making authority. In Canada, both parents are entitled to apply for custody of a child.

Types of Parenting Arrangements

A key aspect of parenting arrangements is who will make important decisions about the child. There are various types of parenting arrangements that are used when dealing with custody of a child, which are listed below:

· Sole custody means that one parent has the legal authority to make major decisions about matters such as the child’s education, religion and health care. The child will usually live primarily with the parent who has sole custody.

Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody of the child and share equal responsibility for making decisions about the child. A key aspect of granting sole custody is whether the parents can cooperate to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. If the parents cannot communicate effectively or put their differences aside when making parenting decisions, joint custody is unlikely to be granted by a court.

· Split custody means that there is more than one child and each parent has sole custody of at least one child. For example, if there are three children of the relationship and the mother has sole custody of two of the children while the father has sole custody of one of the children, there is split custody.

· Shared custody means that the child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent. Shared custody does not have anything to do with decision-making authority and is normally used when making determinations about child support.

It is important to note that the term custody is also used in parenting arrangements in the context of child support to describe the amount of time the child spends with each parent and does not refer to who has the legal authority to make major decisions about the child. It is important to know this to avoid confusion. For more information on parenting arrangements in terms of child

support, please view our article entitled “Child Support and Child Support Guidelines” available on our website.

Best Interests of the Child Principle

In determining whether to grant custody of a child to one or both parents, the court must take into consideration the best interests of the child. Although there is no precise definition of the best interests of the child, there are several factors to consider with the goal of encouraging the child’s development, success and happiness. In deciding on a parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of the child, some of the factors that are considered are listed below:

a) The child’s relationship with each parent;

b) Any special needs the children may have;

c) The age and stage of development of the children;

d) The child’s views and preferences, if they can be reasonably ascertained;

e) The length and time the child has lived in a stable home environment; and

f) Each parent’s ability to parent the child.

The court also cannot consider the past conduct of each parent in making a determination about the best interests of the child unless it relates to their ability to parent or family violence.

Navigating a separation can be difficult, especially where there are children involved. The lawyers at Tailor Law understand these concerns and are here to help families find suitable solutions to their legal issues.

If you are looking for more information about the types of parenting arrangements and finding one that may be suitable for you and your child, do not hesitate to contact us and one of our specialists in Family Law can discuss your matter in more detail over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

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