Michael David Lannan B.A., LL.B. Barrister and Solicitor firstname.lastname@example.org
Custody and access can be dealt with in either the Ontario Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice. The criteria is essentially the same in both. The court will make the determination based on the best interests of the child. In determining the best interest of a child the court will look at factors such as the length of time the child has been in a stable home, the ability of each parent to care for the child, the relationship between the parent and child, the views and preferences of the child (depending on age and maturity), the plans that the parent have for raising the child and the ability of the parent to maintain a relationship between the child and the other parent.
Custody is the ability to make decisions in regard to the child and does not mean the amount of time that the child will spend with each parent. Joint custody, which is the usual presumption the Court starts with, is that each parent will have an equal input into the decision making for the child. Sole custody allows the one parent to make the decisions without consultation with the other parent. Major decisions are things such as which school the child will attend, medical decisions, counselling, activities and some other things. Both parents can raise the child in the religion of their choice regardless of the custody. When parents separate they both have an equal entitlement to custody of the child until such time as there is an agreement or court order.
The court, or the parents by agreement, will decide which parent's home will be the child's primary residence. The parent that does not have primary residence will have access. Access will be structured in such a way as to maximize the contact between the child and the access parent while ensuring that the times are appropriate based on the reality of the child's schedule. An access parent has the right to information regarding the health, welfare and education of the child. As such an access parent can arrange with the Doctor, Dentist and School to be provided with information about the child directly and don't have to rely on the custodial parent for that information.
If there has been domestic violence, or there are concerns about the safety of the child or the ability of the parent to properly care for the child, there can be supervised access. In Waterloo Region there is a facility called the Child and Parent Place where a parent can have supervised access.
Because custody and access are determined in the best interests of the child they can change over time based on the changing needs of the child or because of a change in the parents life.
The Court can appoint the Office of the Children's Lawyer (O.C.L.) to represent the children and express the children's views and preferences. The O.C.L. is a free service.