Summary: An overview of child custody laws in Ontario.
Child Custody in Ontario
If there are children involved in a separation or divorce, then issues of custody and visitation rights or access are likely among your greatest concerns. Generally, the children will reside with the parent who has custody. The other parent will normally have visitation or access rights and, depending on the type of custody awarded, a share in making important decisions for the children.
The term child custody refers to care and control over a child. This can come in several forms which follows a spectrum from sole custody to joint custody to shared custody.
As the name implies, sole custody is when one parent has exclusive care and control of the child. The other parent may have visitation rights. The duration and frequency of visitations depend on a number of factors which are covered in our Access and Visitations article.
A parent with sole custody will make important decisions surrounding the children. That parent may take the other parent’s views into consideration. However, the final decision belongs to the parent with sole custody of the children.
With joint custody, both parents have legal care and control of the children. This means both parents will share in making important decisions for the children. However, this form of custody requires that the parents get along. The idea is for the parents to discuss and agree upon important decisions in a manner that places the best interest of the children at the forefront.
However, there are times when parents are unable to come to an agreement. It is therefore necessary that veto power be established at the outset. For instance, the father can have veto power over decisions related to extracurricular activities and religion while the mother has veto power over health and education. This can be made more detailed by, for instance, allocating specific extracurricular activities to either parent.
Shared custody means just that; both parents share custody and have an equal say in the care and control of the children. The foundation of a shared custody regime is the parents must have a good relationship.
What differentiates shared custody from joint custody is the residency of the children. In a shared custody arrangement, the children will reside with each parent for at least 40% of the time.
Shared custody will affect child support. Child support remains payable, but the obligation is shared by both parents. The father will pay child support to the mother in accordance with his income and the Child Support Guidelines. The mother will pay child support to the father in accordance with her income and the Child Support Guidelines. If there is a difference between what the parents pay to each other then the lower earning parent will receive that difference.
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