Separating parents must figure out a parenting arrangement for during and after the separation. Who will the child(ren) live with? Who makes the parenting decisions? How much parenting time does each parent get?
The word custody can refer to a parent’s right to make important life decisions for their child, or it can refer to a parent’s right to have their child live with them. When a parent has the legal right to make important life decisions for their child, this is referred to as “legal custody”. When a parent has the right to have their child live with them, this is referred to as “physical custody”.
Parents may have sole or shared legal custody of their kids, and may also have sole or shared physical custody of their kids. Parents who are both entitled to make important decisions regarding their child’s life are sharing legal custody. Parents who have their child reside with them for at least 40% of the time are sharing physical custody.
The most appropriate custody arrangement for a given case should be decided based on the best interests of the child. Sometimes it may not be in the child’s best interest to live with one of the parents, or to have that parent making life decisions for the child. Sometimes sole legal custody is awarded to one parent because the relationship between the parties is simply too volatile to be able to make parenting decisions together.
When a child lives primarily with one parent, but the other parent has the right to visit with the child or even have the child stay overnight at that parent’s home, the non-custodial parent is said to have “Access”. Access refers to a parent’s right to spend time with their child(ren). Access may include overnights or not, and may be supervised or unsupervised, depending on the circumstances.
Parents have an obligation to provide financial support for any children they produce. Child support payments are payments flowing from the parent without physical custody of the children, to the parent with physical custody of the children. Child support payments are paid monthly, and can be paid directly to the custodial parent, or through the Family Responsibility Office.
Child support is not something that parents can contract out of or agree not to pay. It is not the parent’s right to be financially supported by the non-custodial parent; it’s the child’s. The Family Responsibility Office can enforce the payment of child support by garnishing the payor’s wages, suspending the payor’s driver’s license, or revoking the payor’s passport.
Child support amounts are based on the payor parent’s income and calculated according to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. When parents share physical custody of their kids, child support payments may flow both ways, based on each parent’s respective income. Child support obligations continue until the child reaches 18 years of age, unless the child is enrolled in full time schooling or there is some other reason why the child cannot be financially independent.
Spousal support is a method of ensuring that the less financially secure spouse is able to support him or herself until he or she can become financially independent. Spousal support payments generally flow from the spouse with the higher income to the spouse with the lower income. These payments are usually made monthly, but spousal support can also be paid as one lump sum if the parties are agreeable to it.
The length of time that one spouse may need to pay spousal support to the other is generally determined in relation to the length of the marriage. Other considerations that can affect the duration and amount of spousal support payments include: the ease with which the less financially independent spouse could rejoin the full time workforce or otherwise provide for him or herself, the age and health of the spouse, and the non-monetary contributions to the relationship made by that spouse.
It’s hard to know what your options are when you’re faced with separation. This isn’t a time to take any risks regarding your rights as a parent and you deserve to understand exactly what is going on with your case. Tailor Law’s spousal support, child support and child custody lawyers serve clients in Toronto and throughout the GTA with compassion and vigor. Give us a call at 905-366-0202 to book your free consultation with one of Tailor Law’s family lawyers.