Navigating a divorce is often tricky, but when you have children, the process can be even more difficult and challenging. Deciding on a custody arrangement for your children requires many choices to be made regarding the children’s upbringing, including education, religion, and other important issues.
There are several ways to decide on a custody arrangement. Family lawyers can help both parties arrive at an agreement, especially if the two of you are mostly on the same page to begin with. If there is some disagreement, a mediator can help you find an arrangement that both of you can be satisfied with. Sometimes, however, the parents simply cannot agree and will need to go to family court to have a judge make the final custody decision.
Types of Custody Arrangements
Every family is unique, and whatever custody agreement you settle on might not be the same as other families you know of. However, each agreement does tend to fall into one of these categories:
- Joint Custody: This arrangement, in which both parents have custodial rights, allows both parents to agree on situations regarding their children. In order for this to succeed, the parents must be able to cooperate and communicate well.
- Shared Custody: This is applicable when the courts grant the parents joint custody. If a parent spends 40% or more of their time with the children, this is considered to be shared custody.
- Split Custody: This is a situation in which the children are separated. One or more of them will live with one parent, and the others will live with the other parent.
- Sole Custody: This is exactly what it sounds like – the children are cared for by one parent, and all decisions regarding their care are made by that parent, even if the other one disagrees.
Depending on the type of custody arrangement and access granted by the court, the children may live with one parent or may split their time between both. Keep in mind that custody and access are different. The judge will grant access, or visitation rights, based on the parents’ ability to cooperate with one another. In cases where there is a history of neglect or abuse by one parent, the judge may not allow that parent access to the children at all.
At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With in Ontario?
In the past, custody of children almost always went to their mother, with little consideration for the father’s desire and ability to care for his children, and sometimes to the children’s detriment. This is no longer true, and custody decisions are considered much more evenly than they used to be.
As for the child’s wishes in the matter, here in Ontario there is no specific age at which a child can decide unilaterally which parent they’d prefer to live with; however, their wishes are certainly taken into consideration. The final decision is based on a variety of factors that the judge will consider carefully in order to decide which parent will gain custody of the child. These factors may include:
- The child’s emotional ties to each parent
- The child’s preferences as to which parent to live with
- The stability of each parent’s home
- Overall parenting abilities of each spouse
- Criminal backgrounds of both parents
At the end of the day, the most important factor is the best interests of the children. If you are requesting sole custody, you must be prepared to show evidence that this is what would be best for your children.
The laws that apply to custody cases are the Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act, and the judge will abide by these laws. The judge will also use a Best Interests Test in order to help with the final decision.
Does Adultery Affect Child Custody in Canada?
While adultery is certainly a valid reason to end a marriage, being unfaithful to your partner does not necessarily make you an unfit parent. In most cases, the reasons for the divorce and the parents’ behaviour toward each other will not affect the judge’s decisions regarding custody. The court will not consider past behaviour unless it is relevant to that person’s ability to care for a child; for instance, a history of abusing or neglecting the children.
The Canadian Department of Justice compiles child custody statistics showing the arrangements that parents have made for their children following a divorce or separation. These statistics show that at the time they were compiled, nearly 80% of children under 12 years old were in the mother’s custody, 7% were in their father’s custody, and 12% were in a shared custody arrangement.
However, these numbers change depending on the age of the child and show that older children are more likely to be in their father’s care or in a joint custody arrangement. 74% of children over 12 were with their mother, 8% were with their father, and 16% were under shared custody.
Call Galbraith Family Law for Child Custody Help
Deciding on custody of your children is a very difficult and emotional task, and it can be hard to remember every little detail. Having an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer on your side will make this process much easier and less stressful. To get in touch with Galbraith Family Law, you can fill in the contact form on our website or give us a call. If you live in the Newmarket area, call (289) 802-2433; if you’re in Barrie, call (705) 302-1102.