Debunking 7 Myths About Child Access/Custody
Dividing childcare responsibilities is often a contentious issue for couples separating. If one parent resides a long distance away from the child, access arrangements may be limited. Access and custody can also be limited if there is abuse or unfit parenting practices conducted by a parent.
We have set out and debunked some myths we often hear about child access and custody so that you are more informed about your parenting entitlements. Should you have any specific questions however, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.
(1.) I am entitled to access because I pay child support.
Paying child support does not entitle a parent to access. Nor does non-payment deny a parent access.
Child support does have some relationship with access, specifically when determining the payment amount. If the access arrangement has both parents spending 40% or more time with the child, then a parent may no longer have any entitlement to child support. This is because, in these situations, both parents are taking an equal share in child rearing.
(2.) Only biological parents can have custody and access rights.
Grandparents and step-parents may be able to make decisions or be a part of the parenting plan under certain circumstances. The Children’s Law Reform Act sets out the necessary requirements for bringing forth an application for a non-biological parent. Case law also supports non-biological parents and grandparents in obtaining custody and access to the child.
One of the main considerations is if this individual has stepped into the role of a parent and if the relationship between the individual and the child is akin to that of a parent/child relationship.
(3.) The child has the final say for which parent has custody.
Children do have some say in respect of which parent(s) has/have custody and the extent of access. It is one of many factors that a court considers. However, the child’s wishes are not always taken into account. What the child desires is not always in their best interest, and a judge usually aims to have both parents involved in the child’s life if possible.
(4.) The best interests of the child in relation to their care depend on the financial stability of each respective parent.
Determining the child’s best interests is a fact-driven exercise and specific to every child. Circumstances, the family dynamic, the parents themselves, and the type of life a child has lived all influence a child’s interests and needs.
Legislation and case law both offer insights into what influences the best interests of the child. Some factors the courts have considered are:
- the love and affection between the parent and the child,
- the living conditions of the parent and
- the siblings of the child.
The courts look to have the child spend as much time with each parent as reasonably possible, but in certain circumstances it is not advisable for the child to have contact with the parent. When making any custody or access arrangement, in court or through a separation agreement, parents, lawyers, and judges must always keep centre of mind the best interest of the child.
(5.) Childcare/parenting arrangements can largely be agreed by the parents alone.
This is somewhat true. The Children’s Aid Society (“CAS”) however also keeps the best interest of the child in mind when fulfilling their government duties of child protection. If a child is mistreated or endangered, CAS will remove the child from the parent’s custody. CAS will look to see if they can place the child with the other parent or another family member where further endangerment of the child is unlikely to occur.
If a family member is not able to look after the child, the child will go into foster care. CAS and child apprehension cases have a different interpretation of best interests and the contextual factors that apply. Tailor Law has family lawyers who can help you represent your position and child’s interests in cases involving CAS. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your matter confidentially with us.
(6.) Parenting plans must be set by the court to be legally binding.
Parents are able to make a parenting plan without the court imposing one on them. A parenting plan is an agreement between separated parents on how they will parent their children. Parents should always consider their child’s needs when making decisions.
Custody and access arrangements should be clear and predictable, but they should also be flexible enough to adapt to unexpected circumstances that may arise for the parents and the children. Parents can turn to the courts to make decisions if they are unable to agree on changes.
(7.) Custody and access only deal with which parent the child stays with and which parent has visitation rights.
Alongside living and visitation arrangements, there are many other key issues to bear in mind such as:
- School schedule for the child
- Extra-curricular events
- School field trips
- Work schedule for the parents
- Where the child will live primarily
- Going on out-of-country trips with one of the parents
- Considerations if one parent wishes to move to a different city, province, or country
- Communicating with the child while with the other parent
- Health care Decisions
- Emergency Care decisions
- What type of education will the child receive
- Cultural Events
- Discipline of the child
- What sort of food should the child eat
- Languages spoken in the home
- Religious upbringing
- How to resolve disputes between parents
- Allowance for the child
- Gifts for the child
- How will birthdays be spent
- Clothing for the child
If you are looking for more information or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. As experienced family lawyers based in Mississauga, we can help you understand how child custody and child access laws apply to your situation. We will be happy to discuss your matter over a free consultation.
You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or you can contact us through our website here.