Sharing minor children with your soon-to-be ex can make the divorce or separation process much more complicated. If you and your spouse decide on the terms of parenting time in an amicable agreement that both of you feel is fair and reasonable, you must still receive court approval to use the schedule you designed independently.
Whether you and your spouse agree or not, it will be necessary to go to court and let a judge decide the best parenting time schedule for your child, which may deviate from or match the agreement you made. An experienced Ottawa parenting time lawyer could help protect your parental rights and ensure that you get the time you deserve with your kids. Let our skilled family lawyers help.
Parenting time is how Ontario law now refers to the time a parent has physical custody of a child. In the past, it was called custody or parental access. Decision-making responsibility was previously known as legal custody.
Custody issues often become an important subject of divorce proceedings when children are involved. A separation agreement or court-issued parenting order could award one parent more parenting time. That parent is considered to be the child’s primary custodian, meaning the child lives with that parent for a majority of the time. The non-custodial parent will have parenting time. Parents could also share parenting time, meaning the child will be with each parent at least 40 percent of the time.
A parent’s right to make significant decisions in their child’s life is known as decision-making responsibility. These decisions typically have to do with medical care, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, educational issues, and more. A parent with more parenting time does not necessarily have the greater decision-making responsibility. Decision-making authority could be joint, or a court could award decision-making responsibility to the other parent. Even when decision-making responsibility rests with only one parent, however, both parents have the right to information about significant issues in the child’s life. Each parent may make daily decisions, such as what the child eats or how often they must bathe when the child is in their care.
A shared parenting time arrangement could include the child splitting time at each parent’s house, whereas a sole custody arrangement allows the non-custodial parent to spend parenting time with their child. If a parent is responsible for a child during a specific period, that time counts as parenting time even if the child and the parent are not together because the child is at school, participating in an extracurricular activity, or a similar reason.
An Ottawa parenting time lawyer understands that you know your child better than anyone and could help you advocate for a parenting time schedule that works for you to ensure your child’s needs are adequately met.
When parenting time is fixed, each parent cares for the child on a schedule set in advance. Courts favor fixed parenting time when feasible because it offers the child structure and a reliable routine.
An open parenting time plan means the non-custodial parent has a specific amount of time with the child on a schedule to be determined. Open parenting time is more difficult to enforce than fixed parenting time but is necessary when one parent’s schedule is unpredictable or changes frequently.
Supervised parenting time means another responsible adult must be present when the non-custodial parent visits with the child. The supervisor could be a relative or friend—courts prefer if the supervisor is someone the child is familiar with and trusts. However, in some cases, the supervisor could be a social worker or other trained child protection professional.
Supervised parenting time is only appropriate if the visiting parent:
Supervised parenting time is intended to be temporary; the parent may gain more access if the supervisor reports consistently appropriate behavior at visits.
Parents and children have the right to a relationship with each other. Courts will deny parenting time only when contact with the parent poses a credible threat to the child’s well-being.
Both the Divorce Act and the Child’s Law Reform Act recognize the usefulness of parenting plans in making decisions about child custody and parenting time. If the parents can agree on a parenting plan in advance of a divorce trial, the parents retain more control over how to divide to parenting time and make decisions affecting the child.
You and your co-parent could include detailed arrangements for the care of your children in the parenting plan. A parenting plan could set the child’s primary residence and the time spent with each parent, as well as hand off times and locations. It could address whether others can be present when the parent has parenting time and if so, who. The plan could establish the parents’ expectations regarding discipline, bedtimes, homework, and similar issues. The parenting plan could describe the methods the parents should use to communicate with each other and resolve disagreements regarding the child.
A court could reject or modify a parenting plan if it believes the plan does not serve a child’s best interest. An Ottawa legal advisor could help you and your co-parent prepare a parenting plan that will meet with court approval.
When determining whether a parenting time agreement reached by parents is legally enforceable, the court will determine whether it meets the child’s best interests by examining several factors. Judges typically want to keep siblings together and try to promote stability in parenting time schedules.
Examples of factors that make up the analysis into a child’s best interests include:
Often, both parents will present evidence relating to the child’s best interests to show that their recommendations should be adopted by the court. A well-versed Ottawa parenting time lawyer could help fight for a parent’s legal rights.
A divorce can be one of the most difficult times in your life but can also have a negative effect on your children if it becomes highly contentious. It is crucial to ensure your parenting time rights are protected and you are afforded ample opportunities to be with your children, but not at their expense. Let one of our knowledgeable Ottawa parenting time lawyers help you secure a reasonable and fair schedule that works for your family so you can continue to be in your children’s lives. Set up your parenting time case evaluation at any time.
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