Some of the most important decisions that must be made during a separation and divorce are those relating to the care of children. When parents separate, arrangements must be made around dividing parental duties and responsibilities towards their children or, in other words, child custody and access.
Custody and access can influence other logistics in a separation and divorce, including child support, spousal support, and division of property. Custody and access can also become one of the most contentious and emotional aspects in a split, regardless of how amenable or acrimonious the end of a relationship is.
If there are children involved in a separation or divorce, it is essential to obtain legal advice from an experienced family lawyer early in the process. NULaw’s divorce lawyer, Lex Arbesman, regularly helps parents understand their rights so they can make informed, rational decisions. We take pride in our reputation for focused, personalized client services and provide pragmatic and honest advice with the goal of reaching a timely and cost-effective resolution.
At NULaw, we have specific experience assisting clients with high net worth divorces, and child support where income exceeds $100,000.
Contrary to what many believe, “custody” does not refer solely to where a child lives following the end of his/her parents’ relationship. Rather, custody refers to a parent’s legal responsibility to make decisions about a child’s care (including where they live but also regarding their health, education, and religion among other things) and the parent’s general obligations towards that child.
In a sole custody arrangement, one person has the legal authority to make major decisions about a child’s care and well-being, as well as decisions about where that child will live. Usually, the child will reside primarily with the parent that has sole custody.
Sole custody is generally granted to one parent only where there is an insurmountable conflict between the parents and/or concerns about drugs, alcohol, abuse, violence, mental illness, or poor judgment. A grant of sole custody is intended to limit risks to the child.
In a joint custody arrangement, both parents have equal legal decision-making capacity regarding major decisions about their child. Decisions are either made by consensus or are deferred to the other parent. In such an arrangement, where the child lives and how often each parent can spend time with the child will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the family.
Joint custody works best where there is little conflict between separated parents, where they agree about major issues in their child’s life, and where they have little concern for the judgment or decision-making of the other parent.
Whereas custody refers to a parent’s legal decision-making responsibility relating to their child, access refers to time spent with the child.
If one parent is awarded custody of a child, the other parent is generally granted a right of access (also known as visitation rights). Depending on the circumstances, access visits are either supervised or unsupervised.
In many separations, custody and access arrangements are made between the parents with the help of family lawyers and/or mediators. In situations where parents are unable to agree on custody and access, the court can decide which parent has custody as well as the terms of custody and access. The golden rule of family law is “a child’s best interests”, and courts will always consider this when making custody or access decisions.
If you are contemplating a separation, or are already in the process, and there are children involved, your first step should be to consult with a family lawyer who has experience with custody and access matters. NULaw and its predecessors have been helping clients in Toronto since 1953. We provide clear, practical advice so that clients can make informed decisions about their parental rights. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.