single parent information in ontario family law

Misconception of Sole Custody

The Meaning of Sole Custody 

To get to the misconceptions of sole custody it is important to outline its meaning. Sole custody outlines how decisions are made for the child and who can make them. It does not outline the physical care or the amount of time spent with the child. Sole custody is also sometimes referred to as full custody. Sole custody allows one parent the exclusive decision-making authority regarding major decisions, such as education, health, special and extracurricular activities and religion. 

Sole custody is often confused with joint custody which on the other hand allows both parents to make important and major decisions about the child together.

The verbiage around sole custody in Ontario has recently changed. What was once called custody is now referred to as the decision-making responsibility.  

Common Misconceptions of Sole Custody

  1. Access to Information

There are definitely a few misconceptions regarding sole custody. A common misconception is regarding access to information. A custodial parent must provide information regarding the child to the access parent. The access parent has the legal right to information about the child such as educators or health care professionals even though they do not have the right to provide instructions or make major decisions about the child.

  1. The Right to Move The Child

Another misconception is regarding mobility and the right to move a child’s residence. A custodial parent cannot relocate or travel with the child without obtaining the consent of the access parent, especially if the move will impact the access parent’s scheduled parenting time with the child. The access parent may not have the legal right to make major decisions regarding the child, but they do have a right to know where the child is residing.

  1. Consent

Consent also extends to the enrollment of the child in activities. The custodial parent must obtain the access parent’s consent if the scheduled activity interferes with the access parent’s time or if they would be required to contribute financially.  Sole custody does not eliminate consent in this regard.

How is Sole Custody Awarded in Ontario?

Family judges in Canada prefer to rule in favour of joint custody where both parents are equally involved in raising the child. The court will always side with what is best for the child. 

To get sole legal custody of a child you must prove that joint custody will have a negative impact on the child. There are a few major reasons a judge will rule in favour of sole custody. 

  1. Significant Financial problems
  2. Mental illness
  3. Alcohol abuse
  4. Drug abuse
  5. Domestic abuse

If a parent is incarcerated that will also result in a sole custody ruling. The best-case scenario for an exclusive custody arrangement is when both parties agree upon it. When both parties agree the judge is likely to agree with the decision of the parents. 

There are some cases when moving a child back and forth between two homes may negatively impact them. In cases such as this, it is best to talk to your lawyer about your case. Make sure to include all the important information about your situation and they can advise you further on how the case will proceed. 

There are a few other custody-based definitions you should understand if you are getting ready to apply for custody of a child. We outline the other three types of custody in this article. 

Physical custody – parents’ right to live with their child is usually used when one parent lives too far away, lives full time with that parent and only visits the other parent.

Legal custody – the legal authority to make all major decisions for the child including medical, religious, and schooling.

Is Sole Custody Permanent? 

The court can change a sole custody order if either party can prove a material change in circumstance. A material change in circumstances means that if the information being presented was known at the time of the original order the results may have been different. 

The courts will make changes as long as the changes are in the best interest of the child. 

How to Change Sole Custody to Joint Custody

It is essential to keep in mind there is a difference between custody and access to a child. If you are concerned about access rights you can take a look at our article on custody vs access. Access to a child is about the child’s time with a parent. 

Changing the order of the court is possible. It is important to discuss your unique situation with your lawyer to get a better understanding of whether the material change in your case is substantial enough for an order to be changed. 

If you feel you are being alienated from your child that is called parental alienation. Learn more about parental alienation in our article covering this topic. 

Sole Custody and Its Effect on Child Support

Parenting arrangements have a direct impact on child support. The parent with sole custody is often handling most if not all of the child’s financial expenses. When joint custody is ordered support will depend on the living situation of the child and how the financial decisions are being managed. To learn more read our article about child support

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.