Difference between custody/access in ontario family law

Custody vs. Access: What’s The Difference?

The process of a divorce is incredibly stressful on its own. Maintaining your children’s well-being under such circumstances is even more stressful. We understand that the well-being of children is often any parent’s first priority when they separate from their partner. As your family lawyer, this priority passes on to us.

The law recognizes that children may benefit from having as much contact as possible with both parents. Ideally, parents should share the parenting decisions related to their children, as well as time spent with their children. This is where issues of custody and access arise.

Most people are unaware that custody and access are actually two separate terms, mistakenly used interchangeably. “Custody” is a legal term that refers to the right to make major decisions that impact the child, such as religion, medical treatment, education, and where the child will live. “Access” (also known as “parenting time”) on the other hand, refers to the time that the child spends with the parent with whom they do not primarily reside with.

Issues of access go hand in hand with custody. For instance, if only one parent has sole custody of the children, the other parent is normally granted the right of access (sometimes called visitation). Additionally, if both parents have joint custody, but the child’s primary residence is only with one parent, the other parent is granted the right of access.

If parents can come to an agreement on how to split their time with their children, this can potentially prevent disputes regarding the sharing of the child’s time. Where parents cannot agree on the major decisions involving their children or on how the child’s time should be divided, a court can make an order to provide the parties with a solution.

If you would like to speak with one of our lawyers regarding further issues related to this topic please contact us at (416) 840-1475 or schedule your free initial consultation here.