Everything That You Need To Know About Child Custody In Canada

Child custody refers to the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a child whose parents are not married. Parents can agree on child custody arrangements amicably when they separate in some cases. However, the couple must ensure that their agreements are appropriately documented in a legally binding separation agreement if this is the case.

In many cases, the parents reach an agreement on joint custody. However, there are times when a parent wishes to have sole custody of their children. For example, if a parent has never been involved in a child’s life, is unable to parent, or must leave the country permanently, it may be appropriate for one parent to have sole custody in these situations. The various types of custody and much more are discussed further in this article.

Understanding Child Custody in Canada

If you’re a separated or divorced parent in Canada, you may be wondering, “What are my child custody options?” Not only is the subject of custody itself emotional, but the laws that apply to it can make one’s head spin. Many people are also perplexed by the term “child custody,” which is also frequently used to refer to a child’s “residence.”

If you have custody of your children, you have the legal right to make all important decisions about their lives. These are decisions about education, religion, and medical treatment, among other things.

Types of Child Custody

  • Sole custody – When a parent has sole custody of a child, that parent is responsible for making all child decisions. The other parent has the right to request and receive information about matters impacting the child’s well-being.
  • Joint custody – When parents share custody of a child, they are both responsible for making decisions on that child’s behalf. This is also referred to as joint legal custody. If the parents disagree on an issue, they may consider mediation or delegating decision-making authority to a parenting coordinator. Courts will usually only grant this type of custody to parents who can cooperate on parenting issues. While both parents may have joint custody, the children’s residency and access arrangements may vary significantly.
  • Shared custody – This is when both parents have joint custody of their children and spend at least 40% of their time with them.
  • Split custody – When one parent has custody of some of the children while the other parent has custody of the remaining children. Courts make every effort to keep younger children from being separated from their siblings. On the other hand, older siblings frequently choose to live with different parents.


Taking Child Custody Without Going to Court

If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse want to skip the going to court part, there are certain professionals you can turn to who can help you reach a peaceful agreement. These professionals include:  

  • Family mediator – A mediator is typically someone with a background in law or social work.?A mediator assists both parents in discussing and deciding on the best arrangements for their children.
  • Lawyers – You and your spouse can hire separate attorneys to help you understand your legal rights and obligations and to negotiate an out-of-court parenting plan. Participating in the Collaborative Law process is another option. A team of collaborative family lawyers, which may include divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial specialists, will guide you through the process in this approach.
  • Therapist – Parents can consult with family therapists, counselors, child psychologists, social workers, or other professionals who specialize in the effects of divorce and separation on children. These professionals’ knowledge and guidance can be used by the parents to help them negotiate an agreement.
  • Parent-education sessions – Many courts in Canada will hold parent-education sessions. These sessions will present various options for resolving separation and divorce issues, as well as discuss the impact on children.

Child Custody Laws

The federal Divorce Act and provincial custody legislation are both part of Canadian custody laws. In Canada, a custody order must be made with the child’s best interests as the primary consideration.

If, for example, a child is at risk of harm and the governing laws do not account for that child’s unique circumstances, the court has inherent parens patriae jurisdiction to make a custody order.

Child custody is arguably the most critical issue in a divorce, and it should always be approached with the best interests of the child in mind. If the parents cannot make effective decisions for their child together or if there has been domestic violence, sole or full custody may be warranted. If the parents demonstrate the ability to parent cooperatively, joint custody may be appropriate. The overall custody/residence schedule must be tailored to each case’s specific circumstances.


Final Thoughts

In the end, while many of the considerations are similar to those that would be made in determining custody of an adult since children are still developing and a parent’s impact on that development is significant, a family lawyer can be useful when determining custody arrangements for your children.