For most parents, child custody and access are the most stressful aspects of divorce. Determining which parent the child will live with and who will make certain decisions for them can cause many divorces and separations to get extremely heated.
When parents can negotiate an amicable solution through a separation agreement or parenting agreement, everyone benefits. Not only do you maintain control over the process, but you’ll continue to have a say in how your children are educated, what health care they receive, and other decisions that affect their future.
While this is the ideal outcome, sometimes things can get complicated. Your spouse may be uncooperative or determined to punish you for injustices (real or imagined) committed during the relationship. In this situation, the children can be caught in the middle unless a resolution is achieved.
At Galbraith Family Law, we know how important it is to maintain a strong and loving relationship with your children. Our child custody lawyers have years of experience negotiating custody agreements and parenting plans and will protect your rights in and out of court. To speak to a child custody lawyer in Toronto, call 647-370-8965.
Why Choose Galbraith Family Law for Your Child Custody Case?
At Galbraith Family Law, you are always our number one priority. Our Toronto family lawyers have decades of combined experience in negotiating and trying child custody cases. We use our extensive knowledge of Ontario family law to:
- Advocate for your rights as a parent
- Serve your best interests while also making sure that you feel understood and heard
When you’re uncertain how much time you will get with your children moving forward, you’re going to be worried and afraid. We know what you’re going through (our owner Brian Galbraith went through a divorce of his own with three children), so you can trust us to support you and work with you to maximize your time with your family.
Child Custody and Access - An Overview
Generally speaking, child custody refers to a parent’s ability to make key decisions for their children. This includes but may not be limited to what health care they receive, where they live and go to school, and what religious faith they observe. In Ontario, there are several potential custody arrangements:
- Sole Custody: A parent with sole custody is responsible for most major decisions in the children's lives. The non-custodial parent usually has access to information about the children's welfare, health, and education.
- Joint Custody: With joint custody, both parents make major decisions together. In most cases, the children live primarily with one parent or spend equal amounts of time with both.
- Shared Custody: Shared custody involves the children spending at least 40% of their time with each parent. Since shared custody arrangements are treated differently under the Child Support Guidelines, they can affect child support payments. Your Toronto child support lawyer can provide you with more information.
- Split Custody: A split custody arrangement is when one parent has sole custody of one or more children and the other has sole custody of other children. This type of arrangement is most commonly seen when the children are older.
Access, which is often called parenting time, refers to the time each parent spends with the children. A typical access schedule involves the children residing primarily with one parent and having access to the other parent on alternate weekends or during the week. Holidays and other special events are often shared between parents.
In some cases, an access order will specify when and where you may visit your children, as well as whether that time needs to be supervised. The best interests of the child are always the foremost consideration when determining an access schedule and arrangement.
Who Decides Child Custody Arrangements in Ontario?
Unless circumstances recommend otherwise, parents are allowed to negotiate a custody and access schedule that works for them. In most cases, the courts will not alter or intervene in an arrangement that you and the other parent put together. However, if you can’t come to an agreement, you’ll have to go to court.
Ontario courts base their custody decisions on the best interests of the child standard. When determining what the outcome should be, the judge will take factors like the following into account:
- The child's needs based on his or her developmental stage and age
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to meet those needs
- The financial situation and earning potential of each parent
- Each parent's physical, mental, and emotional well-being
- How willing each parent is to work with the other
- The nature and strength of each parent's relationship with the child
- Each parent’s willingness to support the other parent's relationship with the child
- The child’s preferences (to a certain extent)
- The child’s bond with siblings
- Whether there is a history of neglect, abuse, or family violence
If you and your spouse or partner are unable to reach an agreement, a divorce lawyer in Toronto can advance your interests in court. At Galbraith Family Law, we will make every effort to help you negotiate an acceptable arrangement and protect your children from conflict, but should that prove impossible, we can advocate for you in family court.
How Do I Get Custody of My Children?
The Children's Law Reform Act of Ontario gives both parents equal right to seek custody. Generally speaking, a court will award you custody if doing so is deemed to be in the best interests of the children. You can show that your children’s well-being is your priority by:
- Demonstrating a willingness to work with your former spouse or partner whenever possible
- Maintaining steady contact with your children
- Limiting their exposure to conflict
- Maintaining the status quo as much as possible
Courts strive to maintain as much stability as possible for children during separation and divorce. The parent who was the primary caregiver during the relationship will be more likely to receive sole custody or have the children live mainly with them in a joint or shared custody arrangement. Occasionally, a judge may request that a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist assess the case and inform their decision.
Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With?
Your son says he wants to live with you while your daughter insists on staying with your spouse because it’s closer to her school and friends. Can your children actually decide which parent they want to live with? Are their wishes legally binding?
Not exactly. They can express a preference, either to the judge directly or through their representative, but how much weight their wishes will be given may depend on their age and maturity, with more importance placed on the preferences of older children. Ultimately, it is the judge's job to decide what custody arrangement is in their best interests. If you have questions in this regard, a child custody lawyer in Toronto can help.
Facing Divorce or Separation? Speak to a Child Custody Lawyer in Toronto
The stress of divorce and separation can have a significant impact on children. Creating custody plans that are proactive and thoughtful can ensure your children's quality of life and future success.
With so much at stake, you deserve to work with the best custody lawyer in Toronto. At Galbraith Family Law, our goal is to protect your parental rights, whether that means negotiating an initial custody agreement or taking your case to trial. We will give you an honest assessment of where you stand at each stage and recommend the best course of action moving forward.
For more information or to schedule a consultation with a child custody lawyer in Toronto, please call 647-370-8965 or contact us online. We also serve clients in and around Barrie, Newmarket, Oakville, and North York.