What is Custody?

“Custody” refers to the rights and duties entitled to a parent or other person regarding the major decisions to be made for a child or children under their care. Such major decisions include education, religion, and health care, along with everyday decisions. When parents are living together, they are both entitled to custody of the children, as it is presumed that they will act with cooperation and trust in making decisions together.

Sole Custody

When parents separate and the children reside with one parent who is primarily responsible for caring for them on an everyday basis, the primary parent is said to have “de facto” custody of the children. In granting sole legal custody to one parent, the court will consider who is the children’s primary caregiver, ie: who is responsible for bathing, dressing, feeding, taking them to school, doctor’s appointments, assisting them with homework, comforting, nurturing, arranging social activities, etc. The court will also consider which parent is best able and willing to encourage a positive relationship between the children and the other parent. The children’s primary residence will usually be with the custodial parent, with an access schedule to be arranged with the other parent.

Joint Custody

A court may make an order awarding joint custody to both parents in cases where the parents are able to communicate with each other in a positive, open and civil manner regarding the decisions for the children’s day-to-day care and upbringing as well as major life decisions. Joint custody orders are more rare as the court must be convinced that this would be in the best interests of the children.

Once a custody arrangement has been determined, it may be helpful for parents to seek the assistance of a parenting coordinator or counsellor to help them resolve any ongoing parenting conflicts. Such resources may be useful in helping parents avoid having to continually go to court for these issues.

Please contact our office for more information about custody.