PARENTING AND CONTACT ORDERS SCARBOROUGH
(FORMERLY CUSTODY & ACCESS)
As of March 1, 2021, child custody and access orders have been modified and updated to parenting orders and contact orders to better reflect the role and responsibilities of the parents and those with contact with the children and children’s best interests.
Parenting orders replace existing custody and access orders. Parenting orders detail which parent or parents have decision-making responsibilities and include parenting time – i.e. access – to the children for both parents.
Contact orders are for non-parents who have court-ordered visitation with children and replace existing access orders. Aunts, uncles, stepparents, grandparents, etc., can seek contact order in order to maintain relationships with children.
Why the Change in Terminology?
The Family Court felt the terms “access” and “custody” equated children as property owned by the parents. The new terminology better defines the role of each parent and non-parent in their duties and responsibilities to their children.
How Is My Existing Custody and Access Orders Affected?
Your existing custody and access orders have been automatically updated to reflect the new terminology. Your order has not changed regarding the terms and conditions. Now, you have a parenting order that includes parenting time and decision-making authority instead of custody and access orders.
Is It Necessary to Request Changes to Existing Orders?
There is no need to request changes to existing orders. However, if significant changes warrant a request or update to the existing orders, you should consult with our Scarborough parenting and contact orders lawyers for assistance.
Have Parenting Duties for Existing Orders Changed?
No, both parents need to continue to follow the existing order and prescribe parenting duties. Suppose you are filing for divorce or separating and do not have an existing order. In that case, you will need to obtain a parenting order to ensure that each parent’s parenting time and decision-making responsibilities are legally enforceable.
Who Can Obtain a Parenting Order?
Whether cohabitating or married, any couple separating or filing for divorce should obtain a parenting order. The parenting order is necessary for the child’s parent, legal guardians with parental authority, or anyone in a parental role.
What Does Parenting Time Mean?
Parenting time is essentially the time each parent has with their minor children, whether the children primarily live with the parent or only see the parent on a prescribed visitation schedule. Parenting time is the time when a parent has responsibility for the care of their children, regardless of whether the children are physically present or not, like when they are at school or participating in extracurricular activities outside the home.
What Responsibilities Are Part of Parenting Time?
Parenting time requires parents to be responsible for their children when they are in their care. Parents can make day-to-day decisions for the children without consulting the other parent, such as what they will eat, establishing bedtimes, and deciding what their children will wear.
Although, depending on the particular circumstances of your case, your parenting order could contain unique requirements regarding day-to-day- decision-making based on the child’s best interest.
Which Parent Is Allowed to Make Significant Decisions?
Significant decision-making authority will be defined in the parenting order based on the child’s best interest. It could include making decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, health, language, culture, and so on. The extent of this authority is dependent on the following conditions of the parenting order:
- Divided-Decision Making – This is a type of joint custody, now joint decision-making authority where one parent will make certain significant decisions, and the other parent will make the other significant decisions. To illustrate, one parent may be allowed to make decisions regarding healthcare and education, and the other parent may be responsible for making decisions regarding extracurricular activities and religion.
- Joint Decision-Making – Formerly known as joint custody, joint decision-making is when both parents are tasked with jointly making significant decisions for their children.
- Sole Decision-Making – Previously known as sole custody, this is where one parent has the authority to make all significant decisions for the children without having to consult or obtain approval from the other parent.
How Is Decision-Making Authority Established?
Parents are empowered by the Family Courts to establish a decision-making agreement that reflects the child’s best interest. In cases where there is conflict, or the agreement would create a power imbalance, the Family Court will decide what type of decision-making authority each parent will have.
How Is Parenting Time Determined?
Family courts want parents to have sufficient parenting time with their minor children. The parents can create a suitable parenting time schedule as long as it maintains structure, promotes stability, and ensures predictability for their children while also being in their best interest.
However, the court will get involved when parents cannot reach a suitable agreement or the agreement is not in the best interest of the children.
How Have Access Arrangements Changed?
Previous access arrangements have been updated to reflect one of the new parenting time arrangements as follows:
- Shared Parenting Time – This is the new term to refer to joint custody or shared custody. Each parent is given at least 40% of parenting time with their children to ensure children get about the same amount of time with each parent.
- Spilt Parenting Time – Previously referred to as split custody, split parenting time is where the amount of time with each parent is split between the children, such that each parent ends up having at least 60% or more time with one child. This type of arrangement can occur when a couple has two or more children.
- Majority Parenting Time – If you were the custodial parent or had sole custody under an existing order, you now have a majority parenting time arrangement. You have at least 60% or more parenting time with your children.
Is Child Support Now a Part of a Parenting Time Order?
No, child support is still considered a separate order and agreement. However, parenting time is used to determine the amount of financial support each parent should contribute towards their minor children following the appropriate Child Support Guidelines.
What Else Can Parenting Orders Include?
Parenting orders can include more than parenting time and decision-making authority. Parents can request their parenting order include other details, such as restrictions on child relocation, preferred communication method between the parent, switching schools, etc.
How Is Parenting Time Established?
The Family Court wants both parents to have as much parenting time as possible with their minor children. However, the amount of time each parent has will be based on the best interest of the children.
The court will consider each parent’s conduct when deciding what is in the child’s best interest. For instance, if one parent has a history of physical violence or substance abuse, the court will place restrictions on parenting time, such as requiring supervised parenting time. Supervised parenting time would be considered as being in the child’s best interest in this context as it allows the parent to spend time with the child while under the direct supervision of a responsible party, such as the other parent, a social worker, or an extended family member.
Do I Need a Contact Order If I Have a Non-Parent Access Order?
A contact order replaces your existing order. A contact order can also be requested by any person who has a unique relationship with a minor child yet is not regarded as their parent or legal guardian. The contact order may have been required in order to continue to have visitation with the child.
Who Needs a Contact Order?
Any person who is not regarded as the child’s parent or legal guardian who wants visitation with a minor child needs a contact order. Some of the more common relationships where a contact order is necessary include stepparents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
What Type of Contact Will I Have?
Contact orders can consist of different types of contact with the minor children. You could have scheduled visits that are unsupervised or supervised. You could have contact with other forms of communication, including scheduled phone calls and video chats. Text messaging may also be allowed.
How Can I Obtain a Parenting Order or Contact Order in Scarborough?
Suppose you do not have existing child custody and access orders. In that case, it is highly recommended to file for a parenting order or contact order with assistance from our family lawyer in Scarborough. Agreements regarding parenting orders and contact orders can be reached when both parties are willing to negotiate and cooperate.
However, if necessary and requested, the family court will review any agreements to ensure they follow the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) and the Divorce Act guidelines. The CLRA is used when parents are separating and not filing for divorce, for cohabitating couples that are separating, and for non-parents seeking a contact order.
The Divorce Act is used when the parents are seeking divorce and dissolution of the legal marriage.
Statutory Factors for Parenting and Contact Orders
The most important statutory factor the Family Court will use when establishing parenting and contact orders is deciding what is in the child’s best interest – not on what the parents, non-parents, or child wishes.
The court will consider the child’s physical safety, security, psychological and emotional state, and well-being. Additionally, the court evaluates the relationships, specific needs, and age of the child and their parents or non-parents. Other factors may be considered if they are relevant to your circumstances.
Who Enforces Parenting and Contact Orders?
The Family Court establishes specific conditions in parenting and contact orders when one party refuses to comply with the order. The court views any refusal to adhere to the order as contempt. The court can include language where parents can get assistance from police agencies to return and/or remove children from the non-compliant parent.
Your Scarborough parenting and custody order lawyer can also aid with the enforcement of the order. They can contact the other party’s lawyer to obtain their assistance with compliance. If need be, they can also file the non-compliance with the Family Court.
However, parents and non-parents should attempt to remain somewhat flexible when issues do arise. For instance, the children were not returned on time, and the other party failed to notify you of the delay.
Instead of involving law enforcement or your lawyer, you could simply remind the other party about notifying you when they are running late and the importance of maintaining stability for the children by returning them on time.
Filing for a Parenting Order or Contact Order in Scarborough
Are you getting ready to separate? Maybe you are already separated and preparing to file for divorce? Do you have concerns about your existing order? Get the help you need by contacting AP Lawyers in Scarborough to schedule a confidential consultation today!
Our family law firm in Scarborough has assisted parents, and non-parents obtain parenting orders and contact orders. We have worked on complex cases, modifications to existing orders, and litigating matters in court when necessary.