PARENTING AND CONTACT ORDERS MARKHAM
(FORMERLY CUSTODY & ACCESS)
Parenting and contact orders were formerly known as child custody and access orders. This change was made on March 1, 2021, to better reflect the nature of the orders and what they define.
A parenting order is a court order that determines who is responsible for making decisions for the minor children. It also includes parenting time with the children for the parents and contact orders for people such as grandparents, stepparents, etc.
Contact orders replace access orders for non-parents, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. that want visitation and access to the children. Contact orders are court orders that allow others to have contact with the minor children, stipulate what type of contact is permitted, and the frequency of visits.
The new terms reflect the Family Court’s concern about what is in the child’s best interest and the responsibilities and role each parent will have in caring for their children. Before the change, many felt the terms “custody” and “access” equated the children as property with ownership by the parents.
What Happens to Existing Custody and Access Orders?
You do not need to do anything. Your existing order remains valid.
Do I Need to Make Changes to My Existing Orders?
You do not need to make any changes to your existing orders. They will automatically be updated to the new parenting order. However, suppose there are significant changes since the existing orders were issued. In that case, you may want to consult with a Markham family lawyer to determine if changes are needed to the existing orders.
Does My Parenting Duties Change for My Existing Orders?
Both parents will continue to be involved in the children’s lives as prescribed by the current orders. For new proceedings, each party involved must adhere to the specific requirements as detailed in the parenting order for decision making and parenting time.
Who Needs a Parenting Order?
Whether married and going through a divorce, married and separating but not getting divorced, cohabiting, or ending a cohabitating relationship, any couple with minor children needs a parenting order. A parenting order is required for a parent of a child, a legal guardian that stands in the place of a parent, or any other person who takes on a parental role for the minor child, such as a grandparent.
What is Parenting Time?
Parenting time is the amount of time the children spend with each parent, whether physically present or not. Essentially, it is when the parent is responsible for their children, including when they are in school, attending extracurricular activities, etc.
What Responsibilities Do Parents Have During Parenting Time?
Parents are responsible for the care of their children. They are allowed to make day-to-day decisions for the children, like what they will eat, what clothes they wear, what time they will go to bed, and so on without consulting the other parent. However, the parenting order can contain specific requirements regarding certain day-to-day decisions when it is in the children’s best interest.
Who Makes Significant Decisions for the Minor Children?
Decision-making responsibility for major decisions for the minor children regarding health, education, religion, and significant extra-curricular activities will depend on the terms of the parenting order as follows:
- Sole Decision-Making – Formerly known as sole custody, one parent is responsible for making all major decisions for the children either after meaningful consultation with the other parent, or without having to consult the other parent.
- Joint Decision-Making – This was previously known as joint custody. Both parents are responsible for making major decisions for their minor children together.
- Parallel Decision-Making – This arrangement is where one parent makes certain major decisions for the minor children and the other parent makes other significant decisions. For instance, one parent decides where the children will go to school and what extra-curricular activities they will participate in while the other parent makes decisions regarding religion and health.
Who Decides on the Decision-Making Method Used?
Typically, the family court empowers the parents to come to an agreement on their own about major decision-making that is in the best interest of the children. However, when there is conflict between the parents or an imbalance of power, the courts will determine which decision-making method is in the children’s best interest.
How Is Parenting Time Established?
The parents establish parenting time by determining a schedule that is in the children’s best interest and promotes stability, predictability, and structure for the children. The family court may allocate parenting time when parents cannot reach an agreement, or the agreement is not in the children’s best interest.
What Are the Types of Parenting Time Arrangements?
The different types of parenting time arrangements reflect changes from previous child access orders as follows:
- Majority Parenting Time – where parenting time is 60% or more with the same parent.
- Split Parenting Time – where each parent has 60% or more parenting time with one or more children. To illustrate, when there are two minor children, one parent will have one child 60% or more, and the other parent will have the other child 60% or more.
- Shared Parenting Time – where each parent has about an equal amount of parenting time with the minor children that is at least 40%.
What Else Can Be Included in Parenting Orders?
Parents can include other stipulations in parenting orders such as how the parties will communicate with each other, restrictions on switching schools, relocating outside a specific region, and so on.
How Is Parenting Time Determined?
The law requires each parent to be allowed as much time as possible with their children based on what is in the children’s best interest. It is important to remember that even maximum parenting time does not equate to a shared parenting time order.
In some cases, parents can have almost equal parenting time and have a parenting order reflecting that. The prevailing consideration used by the family court is always what is in the children’s best interest.
The court will also consider the conduct of parents when determining parenting time. Suppose the parent’s conduct is not in the children’s best interest, such as a parent with a substance abuse problem or physical violence towards the children. In that case, the court will issue the appropriate parenting time order.
The court does attempt to ensure both parents have parenting time with their minor children, as long as it is in the children’s best interest. In cases where one parent is not considered responsible enough to have unsupervised parenting time, supervised parenting time may be ordered.
Supervised parenting time is where the parent is allowed to visit with their children while under the supervision of another adult, like a social worker, extended family member, or the other parent.
What Is a Contact Order?
A contact order is a court order for a person who has a special relationship with a child or children, yet is not a parent or guardian, who wants to continue to spend time with the child or children.
Who Can Apply for a Contact Order?
Any person other than a parent or guardian can apply for a contact order with the family court. Upon review, if the court agrees the person should have contact with the children, they will issue a contact order. The contact with the children can consist of scheduled in-person visitations and other forms of communication, such as text messages, video chats, and telephone calls.
How Do I Apply for a Parenting Order or Contact Order in Markham?
For people without existing child custody and child access orders, you can apply for a parenting order or contact order with assistance from a Markham family lawyer. Parenting and contact orders are determined following guidelines established by the Divorce Act and CLRA (Children’s Law Reform Act).
The Divorce Act applies to parents filing for divorce. The CLRA applies to cohabitating couples and married couples who are separating but not filing for divorce, as well as non-parents seeking a contact order.
Parenting Order and Contact Order Statutory Factors
The family court will determine parenting orders and contact orders based on the best interest of the children. The court only determines what is in the children’s best interest, regardless of the wishes of the parents, non-parents, or children.
The court will review all factors pertinent to the circumstances of the children, with primary consideration given to the children’s emotional, psychological, and physical safety, well-being, and security. The court also considers the child’s specific needs, age, and relationships with their parents and non-parents.
Additional factors can be considered when they are relevant to the particular circumstances of your case.
How Are Parenting Orders or Contact Orders Enforced?
There are various measures in place for enforcing parenting orders and contact orders. The family court considers not adhering to an order, contempt. Some orders can contain specific language where police agencies can assist in removing the children from the non-compliant party and have them returned to the other party named on the order.
In Markham, your family lawyer may also assist by contacting the other party’s legal counsel and enlisting their assistance to have the children returned without involving the police. You should attempt to remain as courteous as possible should issues arise and determine what type of enforcement is needed if any.
To illustrate, say the other party failed to notify you they were running late and return a few hours late with the children. Rather than involving the police, you could simply remind them about the importance of returning the children on time and that they should have notified you they were running late. If this sort of behavior persists, then you should consider an enforcement motion, and ultimately, a contempt motion.
Are you separating? Are you currently separated and filing for divorce, or divorced and have a parenting issue? Please feel free to contact AP Lawyers in Markham for a confidential consultation and assistance today!
Our Markham family law firm has assisted clients with negotiating parenting and contact orders, as well as litigating matters in family court on complex cases, as well as appeals and modification to existing orders.