PARENTING, CUSTODY & ACCESS
Parenting is a broad phrase which covers the division of time the child spends in the care of each parent, as well as how decision making is to be shared between parents. There are related phrases such as residential care and control, primary care and control or day to day care and control which refer to an arrangement where the child resides primarily with one of the parents.
Access or Contact is the opportunity to visit with a child who lives primarily with the other parent. Access to a child is often described as generous and liberal, and may or may not be in accordance with a set schedule or may be more open and flexible, depending on the best interests of the child or children.
Shared Parenting is an arrangement in which the child lives with each parent on an approximately equal basis over the course of a year.
Custody, like parenting, encompasses both the parenting schedule and how decision making authority is divided between the spouses.
Joint Custody refers to the joint decision making authority of parents as to all major decisions involved in the parenting of a child, such as medical treatment, education, mobility and religious upbringing.
Sole Custody, which is currently a rarity and, if granted or agreed upon, refers to one parent having 100% of the decision making authority for the child or children.
Guardianship is a similar concept. It is a legal right and duty to care for a dependant child, which includes the right to make major decisions for a child.
CUSTODY AND ACCESS
Custody and Access remain the legal phrases that are contained in the Divorce Act. However, many lawyers and mediators prefer to use the term parenting and how the responsibilities of parenting will be divided as these terms are less contentious suggesting a more cooperative and less adversarial approach to this most important issue of children. If the parties are unable to otherwise reach an agreement with the assistance of their respective lawyers and oftentimes, a mediator, then the Courts may be asked to make a decision, whether it is interim, final or ultimately, both.
The Courts’ only consideration is the best interests of the children. The Courts endeavour to maximize the time the children spend with each of their parents as they view a meaningful relationship with both parents as being the right of the child or children. Older children, depending on their age and maturity, may also be given an opportunity, usually through some type of parenting expert, to voice their wishes which a Court may take into consideration.