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Modifying an Existing Custody or Access Order in Ontario

In family law, circumstances can change over time, leading to the need for modifications to existing custody or access orders. These modifications are essential to ensure that the best interests of the child are met while reflecting the evolving dynamics of the family. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to modify an existing custody or access order in Ontario, this article will guide you through the necessary steps and resources to proceed with the process effectively.

We have noted the factors that determine custody in Ontario. If you are concerned about how custody is determined you can review the factors or contact our office for a free consultation. 

Understanding the Need for Modification

Life is dynamic, and changes in circumstances can impact the feasibility and practicality of an existing custody or access order. It is important to note that custody and access are two different things in the eyes of the law. We have outlined the key differences between custody and access

Common reasons for seeking modification include:

Relocation: One parent may need to move for work or personal reasons, necessitating changes in the access schedule.

Change in Work Schedule: Shifts in employment or work-related responsibilities might require adjustments to the existing arrangement.

Child’s Preference: As a child matures, their preferences and needs may change, prompting modifications in custody or access.

Safety Concerns: If one parent’s behaviour poses a risk to the child’s safety or well-being, a modification might be warranted.

Health Issues: Medical conditions affecting either the parent or the child might require alterations to the custody or access arrangement.

Co-Parenting Conflicts: Ongoing disputes between parents can make it necessary to modify the order for the sake of the child’s stability.

Steps to Modify an Existing Custody or Access Order

Assess the Need for Modification: Before proceeding, evaluate whether the change is essential and in the best interest of the child. If the change is minor, consider negotiating with the other parent directly. To note: If a parent has sole custody of a child they do not have the right to move the child without due consideration and may be required to modify custody. To learn more read about the misconceptions of sole custody

For substantial changes, legal intervention may be required.

  1. Consult with a Family Lawyer: Seeking professional legal advice is crucial in family law matters. A family lawyer experienced in Ontario’s family law regulations can guide you through the process, assess the viability of the modification, and provide insights into possible outcomes.
  2. Mediation: In Ontario, mediation is often required before bringing the matter to court. A neutral third party can help both parents reach an agreement without resorting to litigation. The province provides a list of accredited family mediators who can facilitate this process.
  3. Filing a Motion: If mediation is unsuccessful or not applicable, you may need to file a motion to modify the existing order in court. Your family lawyer can help you prepare the necessary documentation, outlining the changes you’re seeking and the reasons behind them.
  4. Serve the Other Party: Ensure that the other parent receives the documents you’ve filed with the court. This is a legal requirement that provides them with an opportunity to respond.
  5. Attending a Court Hearing: If an agreement isn’t reached during mediation and the other party disputes the proposed modifications, the matter will go to court. Both parties will present their cases, and the court will make a decision based on the child’s best interests.
  6. Providing Evidence: During the court hearing, present evidence that supports your need for modification. This could include documents, witnesses, or expert opinions that validate the necessity of the changes.
  7. Court Decision: The judge will consider all the presented information and make a decision. The court’s decision will be legally binding, and both parties must adhere to the modified order.

Resources for Modifying Custody or Access Orders

Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General

The ministry’s website offers valuable information about family law processes, including custody and access modifications. You can find resources, guidelines, and forms that will assist you in navigating the legal procedures.

Family Law Information Centres (FLICs)

FLICs are located in various courthouses throughout Ontario. They provide free information and assistance to people involved in family law matters, including guidance on modifying custody or access orders.

Legal Aid Ontario

If you meet the financial eligibility criteria, Legal Aid Ontario offers subsidized legal services for family law matters. This can significantly alleviate the costs associated with legal representation.

Accredited Family Mediators

The Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM) provides a directory of accredited family mediators who can help facilitate discussions and agreements between parents. Horra Family Law is part of the OAFM. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out. Our office offers a free consultation. 

Modifying an existing custody or access order in Ontario is a complex process that requires careful consideration, legal expertise, and adherence to the best interests of the child. By following the appropriate steps and using all available resources, you can navigate this process effectively. Remember that consulting with a knowledgeable family lawyer is essential to ensure that your rights are protected and that the modifications you’re seeking align with the legal framework of family law in Ontario.