Parenting Plans Lawyer in Toronto
While divorce can be difficult under any circumstances, when there are children involved, issues can compound exponentially. The language used to define the real-world relationship between a parent and their child during a separation and/or divorce, as well as to define the legal relationship is child custody. As of July 2020, the terms custody and access became parenting time and parent decision making responsibility. Decision-making responsibility refers to a parent’s right to make decisions for the child, along with the parent’s obligations to the child.
Essentially, decision making responsibility (“custody”) is the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf, including decisions regarding religion, education, health, and well-being. The term “parenting time” (once “access”) refers to the time the child spends in the care of each parent. The goal during a separation or divorce is to ensure the best care arrangement for the child’s well-being. The different types of decision making responsibility arrangements include:
- Joint decision making (once joint custody)—best for parents who are able to communicate and collaborate in a constructive manner for the best interests of the child. Joint custody allows both parents to equally decide major decisions regarding the child.
- Sole decision making (once sole custody)—one parent makes all major, fundamental decisions for the child. The other parent may express an opinion regarding these important issues and has the right to be informed of the decisions, however, the custodial parent has the final say.
- Split decision making (once split custody) means one parent has custody of some of the couple’s children while the other parent has custody of the other children. This is rather rare because courts are usually unwilling to separate siblings.
Types of Parenting Time
This is the right to spend time with the child, including the right to ask about and be given information regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child. While an access parent is allowed to request a copy of a child’s report card or meet with the child’s teacher, he or she may not make major decisions regarding the education of the child, including which school the child will attend.
- Shared parenting time (once shared custody) is a term often confused with joint custody. Shared parenting time refers to an access arrangement and has nothing to do with legal decision-making power. In a shared custody arrangement, each parent physically has the child for at least 40 percent of the time—time with the child is split as evenly as possible between the parents. A shared parenting agreement can exist apart from a decision making agreement.
- Parenting schedules (once access schedules) may be fixed—i.e., the access parent has the child on specific days at specific times, or the schedule can be open, meaning the schedule is flexible and determined by both parents. In other words, if one parent works shift work, which prevents a fixed access schedule, an open-access agreement might state the parent will have four overnight visits per month and one weekend visit—or whatever will work around that parent’s work schedule.
- Supervised access may be ordered when concern for the safety or well-being of the child while in the care of the access parent exists. So long as it is in the best interests of the child, The Divorce Act mandates maximum contact between the child and both parents. Supervised access may be ordered on a temporary basis, then the access could be changed to non-supervised. The person who supervises could be a relative, a friend, a social worker, or a Children’s Aid worker.
- No access orders occur only in extreme cases when there is evidence of child abuse or neglect, a serious drinking or drug problem, or when one parent has threatened to take or tried to take the child away from the other parent.
How Parenting Time Decisions are Made
When parents are in agreement regarding where the child will live, how major decisions will be made regarding the care of the child, how much time each parent will spend with the child, and the role each parent will have in caring for the child, they can memorialize those agreements in a written parenting plan. The living arrangement for the child can be virtually anything that is in the child’s best interests.
Some parents choose to have the child live primarily with one parent, with the other parent spending one mid-week day and every other weekend with the other parent. Others will find the best scheduling arrangement for access, depending on their individual schedules. Parents who cannot agree on a parenting plan can obtain help from a family lawyer, a mediator, or an arbitrator as well. The following factors will be considered:
- The plan for the child’s care and upbringing by each parent
- The ability of each parent to properly care for the child
- The emotional ties present between each parent and the child
- The relationship between each parent and the child
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment
- Special requirements of the child
- The ability of each parent to spend time with the child
- Scheduling logistics
- Whether either parent has attempted to interfere with the relationship between the other parent and the child
- Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the wishes and views of the child
- Whether any abuse against the child or another family member has been perpetrated by either parent
Child Support and Parenting Time are Separate Legal Issues
The issues of a parent paying child support and access are two separate issues. A parent who has not paid child support may not be denied formerly approved access, and even if a parent is not granted access, he or she may still be required to pay child support. It is important that a parent who has not received the child support check not deny access to the other parent; there are legal channels for dealing with non-payment of child support.
Other Issues Related to Ontario Child Custody
While it is relatively rare, in some cases, a stepparent, grandparent, or another relative could conceivably be granted custody of a child. The parent who is granted sole custody can choose who will receive custody of their child for the first 90 days following their own death—and this choice does not have to be the other parent. If a parent wants to travel with their child, it is important to check the agreement or court order to determine whether the other parent’s permission is required and whether the traveling parent must give the other parent travel information, including flight details and emergency contact numbers. A parent with sole custody could still require the permission of the other parent to travel with the child. To avoid any delays, or risk being refused entry or exit at the border, having a travel consent letter signed by the other parent is always a good idea.
Legal Assistance for Your Parenting Issues from Musson Law
At Musson Law, we have a deep understanding of how difficult it can be to resolve all the necessary issues during a divorce, particularly parenting time and decision making responsiblity. We also have more than fifteen years of experience, knowledge, and negotiation skills, even when challenging dynamics are included. We work with a combination of collaborative law, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and, when necessary, litigation. We firmly believe your child has the right to grow up in the best possible environment, and we are dedicated to helping your family determine what that entails. We can offer knowledgeable advice on child custody, parenting time, and co-parenting arrangements to help you achieve the right arrangement for your family. Contact Musson Law today for an evaluation of your family law issue.