In family law, “custody” refers to a parent or guardian’s legal responsibility to make decisions for a child related to health, education and religion. In comparison, “access” refers to the time spent with the child.
When a couple decides to separate or divorce, one of the very important issues to be decided is each person’s custody and access rights with regard to their child(ren). Custody and access arrangements will have a huge impact on your child(ren)’s well-being. Also such decisions may influence spousal support, child support and the division of property. For these reasons, it is helpful to receive legal advice about custody and access plans early in the process of separation, in order to ensure that you not only understand but also protect your legal rights.
At Origin Law Group, we provide effective legal representation during custody and access disputes, designed to your individual needs. We follow to empower clients to make sound decisions regarding custody and access, while also assertively litigating on their behalf when necessary. Our lawyers strive to provide exceptional legal counsel as well as a positive customer service experience for our clients. It is our job to put you at ease and ensure your rights are protected while navigating through the family court system that can often be daunting.
The Difference Between Custody and Access
Most custodial and access procedures are made between the parents themselves with the assistance of professionals. If parents are not able to agree on custody and access, either on their own or with the assistance of lawyers or mediators, then the courts will do it for them. In deciding custody and access disputes, the courts will consider the child’s “best interests”.
Some common factors considered by family law courts to determine what is in a child’s best interests include:
●wishes of the child (if old enough to capably express a reasonable preference);
●mental and physical health of the parents;
●religion and/or cultural considerations;
●need for continuation of stable home environment;
●age and sex of the child;
●adjustment to school and community
Planning for the care of children is a key goal of most parents choosing to end their spousal relationship. Negotiating an acceptable arrangement regarding parenting time, time with a child and authority over key decisions in a child’s life is of utmost concern to many parents when they seek a lawyer. The child custody lawyers at Origin Law Group help parents to understand their options and responsibilities, and represent their clients in achieving an arrangement that meets their interests and their child’s.
Understanding Custody and Access
Custody and access is an often confusing and emotionally stressful aspect of divorce or separation. As a starting point, the terminology requires definition. Custody does not refer to where a child resides; rather, it describes who has decision-making authority with regard to the child. Custody means a parent has the legal right to make major decisions for and regarding their child. These decisions include those about education, non-emergency medical care, religion, and recreational activities.
Most commonly, one of or both of a child’s parent will ask to have custody. However, in certain cases, another person could ask for, and get, custody. This could include a step-parent, a grandparent, a relative, or another person with a connection to the child. Grandparents, specifically, have recently been recognized in the Ontario legislation as being parties that can apply for custody of a child. Several other provinces and territories have given similar legislative recognition to grandparents. Call our Associates to find out more.
There are different kinds of custody arrangements which determine who gets to make these decisions. The most common types are sole custody and joint custody.
Lets be clear on term “joint custody”. It does not refer to equal time spent at each parent’s house. It refers to joint decision-making. It is also possible for one parent to have sole custody — which means sole decision-making authority — while the child splits his or her time between each parent’s house.
Custody and access arrangements, therefore, are flexible and can vary widely from family to family. In recent years, many professionals in the field, including lawyers and judges, are moving away from the traditional labels of custody and access and using terms such as “decision making” and “children’s residency schedule” or “parenting time.”
In certain cases, parents can agree to which custody plan will work best for them. In this case, it’s important to get a written agreement which describes custody as well as other aspects of parenting, like access. In those cases where parents cannot agree, the child’s best interests will need to be considered. This means that, the decision that’s made has to be child-focused and considerate of what is best for the child. Parents can try consultations with lawyers, mediation or another collaborative process, or court to come to this decision.
It’s important to also acknowledge that custody arrangements can change. A child’s needs do not always remain stationary as they age. These change over time and these kinds of changes may mean that the existing arrangement might need to be reassessed and revised. Again, this is something that the parents will have to work through, while keeping the child’s interests at the forefront of their minds.