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Working with the legal system to determine your time with your children can be difficult, especially when there are multiple terms to understand and adhere to. Depending on the situation you are in, the court may have appointed different schedules or custody agreements than you’re used to. Terms like custody, access and guardianship get thrown around but what do they really mean? Here’s what you need to know. 

What is custody of a child or children?

In Ontario, this role is usually called decision-making responsibility (although it previously was called custody). This role is related to making major decisions for your child(ren) and how to care for and raise them. There are different types of decision-making responsibility:

  • Sole decision-making responsibility 
    • This is where only one of the parents is responsible for making major decisions in the child’s life. The other parent may or may not be involved in the child’s life or spend time with them. 
  • Joint decision-making responsibility
    • In this case, both parents have to agree on the decision and make it together. 
  • Shared decision-making responsibility 
    • This type focuses solely on who the child lives with and when because it will impact how much child support needs to be paid to the other parent. 
  • Split decision-making responsibility 
    • This happens when one parent has decision-making responsibility over one (or more children but not all shared children) and the other parent has decision-making responsibility over the other child(ren). 

Custody, or decision-making responsibility, is not just about where the child lives. For example, you could have sole decision-making responsibility, but your child spends equal time with you and your former spouse. 

What is a guardian for your child(ren)?

As a parent, it is your responsibility to properly care for your children – even if you aren’t here to do it. In family law, both parents are usually the guardians of the child(ren), however if something were to happen and both parents are gone there needs to be someone appointed to care for the child(ren) in the parents’ absence. 

The legal guardian will be the child’s caregiver and make decisions about where they live, where they go to school and so on. So it is important to make sure someone is appointed who you trust to make the right decisions for your child in your absence. 

Parenting time (or access)

This term refers to the right to be able to visit with your children and spend time with them. Many people use this term interchangeably with the term custody (or decision-making responsibility) however they do not mean the same thing. 

While access means you have the right to get information about your child’s health, education and well-being it does not mean you can make decisions about these subjects. 

There are a few different types of access

  • Fixed parenting time 
    • Visits with your children happen at fixed, regular times (for example, you spend every other weekend and every Wednesday night with them).
  • Reasonable parenting time
    • There is not a set schedule, and visiting times are left open and flexible for the parents to decide what works best. These visits may not always happen at the same time, and may adjust to fit the parent’s schedules as needed. 
  • Supervised parenting time 
    • This can happen if there has been abuse or neglect of a child, and the visits have to happen with someone else present. 
  • No parenting time
    • If it has been shown that the child’s safety is at risk or child abuse has been proven, one parent may not get any parenting time or access to their child. 
    • This decision may or may not be permanent, if the parent can show improvements. 

Contact Minhas Lawyers today

Do you need help with the parenting agreements for your children? Contact Minhas Lawyers today to book a consultation with one of our family lawyers!

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Minhas Lawyers Professional Corporation is a multi-practice law firm based in Mississauga. We advise and represent clients across various segments and practice areas.

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