Defining Child Custody and Child Access

Custody and Access schedules sometimes known as “decision-making” and “parenting plans” are the two key concepts that guide parents on how they are able to raise and see their children. 

Custody relates to the determination of which parent makes the major decisions when raising their child and how those decisions are made.

Such decisions could include:

·         where the child will be educated

·         the type of education they will receive

·         where the child will live

·         the child’s religion

·         the extracurricular activities the child will engage in and

·         any health-related decisions

These decisions are not concerned with the day to day specifics – they relate to the broader concept of upbringing. A parent can have sole custody while the child sees both parents, or they can have joint decision-making responsibilities while the child only spends time with one parent. 

Access or a parenting plan is how the parents spend time with the child. Who sees the child when, and for how long. Questions regarding how time is spent during school breaks and statutory holidays are also considered. 

Both access and custody are important aspects to child rearing, and one is not more important than the other. Parents are able to come to an arrangement for access and custody through mutual agreement informally or in a written separation agreement 

If parents are not able to negotiate and come to a mutual understanding, bringing an action in court or through Alternative Dispute Resolution (see our separate blog post on ADR) are the only other options.

Taking Court Action

For court action, the court hears both parents’ arguments and allocates decision-making authority and a parenting plan to the parties.

The court will look at a number of factors but the primary one is what is in the child’s needs and best interests. Other considerations can include:

•       The relationship between the child and each parent

•       Who the primary caregiver was while the parents were together

•       The parent’s ability to provide for the needs of the child

•       If the child has been able to live in a stable household

•       The child’s own desires

•       Each parent’s prospective plan for the child

•       If there are any existing custody arrangements

•       Does the child have any siblings and will they be split up

•       The parents’ ability to cooperate

Each family is different, and the circumstances that surround the parents and the children are important. Each arrangement is tailored to the specific needs of the family in question.  

Forms of Custody

There are a variety of forms of custody and the following are the most common forms of arrangement:

Sole Custody: decision-making powers rest with one parent. They are able to make any important decision without consulting or receiving approval of the other parent. 

Joint Custody: Both parents have the ability to make decisions for the child. In situations of dispute, one parent may hold the ultimate decision-making authority. Alternatively, final say in times of dispute will vary between the parents, depending on the type of issue.

Shared Custody: Each parent is able to be with and present in the child’s life for at least 40% of the child’s life. This can affect entitlement to child support. Please see our Child Support blog post for more information.

Split Custody: If there are multiple children, custody is split between the parents, where each parent receives full and sole custody of one child.

Forms of Access

Types of Access Arrangements can include:

Reasonable Access: A schedule is created, but parents are flexible with the time. Allowing for access to be more free-flowing. The schedule is not detailed or rigid. 

Fixed Access: There is a specific and detailed schedule that must be adhered to, but if something unexpected occurs, parents are able to communicate and find a solution. The scheduling will usually cover holidays, special events, and school breaks.

Supervised Access: One parent must be supervised while with the child. Supervision does not need to be by the other parent. It can be another family member, a friend of the family, or a social worker. There are supervised access locations where parents may drop off and pick up their child, while they spend supervised time with the child.

No Access: A parent is not able to have any contact or spend any time with their child. It has been determined by the court or by written agreement that one parent should not or does not want contact with the child.

At Tailor Law, we understand how important custody and access is to your child’s/children’s wellbeing and that every family situation is different. As experienced family lawyers, we can help you negotiate and obtain the best child care plan that minimises disruptions to your child’s life/children’s lives and puts their best interests at the heart of your separation and/or divorce. 

Call us today to arrange a free consultation at 905-366-0202. Alternatively, you can reach us online here.

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