Types of Child Custody in Ontario

Divorce is one of the most difficult situations in which a couple can find themselves. In Ontario, Canada, there are certain laws that pertain to child custody. If the marriage produced children, custody issues will arise during a separation or divorce. Generally speaking, the courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Factors that a court may review when making a decision regarding the custody of a child are:

  1. The love and emotional bonds between the child and each of the parents;
  2. The relationship that each parent has with the child;
  3. The primary caregiver of the child during the marriage and post-separation;
  4. The abilities and limitations of each parent to provide for the child;
  5. Each parent’s ability to spend time with the child;
  6. The post-separation residence of the child; and
  7. The standard of life that each parent can provide to the child.

Please note that the above list is not exhaustive, and each case is decided on a case by case basis. A Toronto Divorce Lawyer can provide you with insight into the practices and procedures that are required in your case based on the particular court that is handling the case. 

You should also remember that custody orders can be changed the situation of the child or parents changes. If there is a final court order already in place, you may need to bring a “motion to change” an order and will proceed through the court system. Our Toronto Family Lawyers can provide you with more information regarding this process.

Child Custody

What is Custody?

The term “custody” in Canadian law pertains to the parent who has the responsibility of making decisions that directly affect the child. There are a number of areas that can encompass that, including matters such as the child’s health, education, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities and even basic things like sleep, food and social matters.

When custody arrangements are made between divorcing parents, the court will then hold a hearing between the parties. The order dictates which parent is responsible for what regarding the child, determines each parent’s rights and any issues with the non-custodial parent depending on the circumstance.

Custody arrangements can be changed in Ontario if the criteria don’t meet the needs of the child or parents. To change an arrangement, there must be an order filed, but a parent cannot request changes based on a sudden whim. The judge will only accept a request for changes when there is a legitimate reason, such as one parent moving to another province.

Different Types of Child Custody

There are different types of custody in Ontario. Generally, there is confusion over the meaning of “custody” as many people automatically assume it simply means the amount of time a parent spends with their child. In reality, child custody can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Sole custody: Sole custody involves major decision-making that is done by one parent. Usually, the child lives primarily with this parent, but they may live with the other parent. The court may decide on sole custody when one parent has been the primary parent throughout the course of the marriage based on the best interests of the child.
  • Joint custody: With joint custody, both parents are equally involved in major decision-making on behalf of the child. This type of custody also means that one parent cannot make a decision without the other agreeing with it. There are also two types of joint custody: joint legal custody and joint physical or shared custody. Parents both make major decisions that affect the child, but with joint legal custody, residence and visitation vary, and with joint physical or shared custody, both parents make major decisions affecting the child and spend at least 40 percent of the time with them.
  • Split custody: In some cases of divorce in Ontario, there may be a situation of split custody. This type of custody occurs when there are multiple children and one parent has custody of some while the other has custody of the other children. This usually occurs when the children are at least of preteen age and decide they would prefer to live with one parent versus the other.

How Does the Court Decide on the Best Arrangement Regarding Custody?

During a divorce in Ontario, your divorce lawyer will explain that the court can decide on an arrangement that best benefits the child. The wishes of the parents are secondary but are also taken into consideration secondarily. A variety of factors come into play to determine the best custody arrangement, such as the ability of the parents to co-parent in a way that can benefit the child while making decisions that affect them for the long term.


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