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Family Law — Custody and Acess Rights to Children

What is joint custody?

Sometimes both parents want a divorce, but want to continue to share their responsibilities as parents equally. Joint custody means that both of you have custody of the children. In other words, you both continue to share in making all the major decisions concerning the children (about discipline, school, major outings, holidays, etc.). If there is joint custody, many different living arrangements are possible. The children may live with each parent about the same amount of time or live mostly with one parent.

What are my responsibilities if I have custody of my children?

If you and your spouse agree that you should have custody of the children, or if the judge decides that you should have custody, you have the responsibility for making the major decisions about your children’s upbringing and schooling. The children will usually live with you most of the time.

In most cases, the other parent still has responsibility to care for the children some of the time. Remember, the law says that there should be as much contact as possible with both parents as is best for the children. However, in serious circumstances, a judge may decide that it is in the children’s best interests not to spend time with the other parent.

Children benefit from the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with both parents and with other extended-family members as long as it is safe and positive to do so.

I don’t have custody. Can I still spend time with my children?

Generally, the parent who does not have custody of the children still has responsibility to spend time with them. If you cannot agree on these access arrangements, the court will decide for you.
A parent with access:

· usually spends time with the children, such as on a weekday evening, on weekends and on holidays; and
· may ask for information about the children—news about their health and well-being and about how they are doing at school.

As a parent with access responsibilities, you can ask the court to order the other parent to give you advance notice—at least 30 days—if he or she intends to move the children to another home.

Do I have to use the terms “custody” and “access” when deciding upon parenting arrangements?

The Divorce Act uses these terms, but this does not limit the types of parenting arrangements that may be included in written agreements or legal documents. Other words or descriptions can also be used to set out parenting roles and responsibilities.

Additional information about custody and access issues and other family law related issues can be found on my website at http://www.russellalexander.com/divorce.htm#3