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Protecting The Best Interests Of Children
It is usually better for everyone involved if parents can work out an amicable solution through either a Parenting Agreement or a Separation Agreement. This will allow parents to remain in control of the process. You will have to continue to co-parent in most cases, making decisions on education, health care and other needs. Working out a settlement will provide a strong foundation for the years ahead.
In situations when the parents are unable to reach an agreement, we are able to represent clients in court to advance their access, support or custody interests. Matters dealt with through a Separation Agreement or a Parenting Agreement will then be dealt with in court. Items such as decision making, vacations, school holidays, extraordinary expenses, and day care costs will all be dealt with before a judge and the judge will make a final ruling.
Sorting out child custody and support is not a simple matter.
Under Canadian law, every biological or adoptive parent has a legal obligation to financially support his or her child. (Sometimes, this obligation can also extend to stepparents.)
While the amount owed will vary according to the circumstances, amounts are largely governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The obligation to provide support usually ends when the child turns 18, but it may be extended if, for example, the child has chosen to pursue higher education and remains dependent on the parents.
While you might think that “custody” refers to where the child lives, it actually refers to decision-making rights. There
are several different forms of custody. Here are the main ones:
“Sole” custody involves one parent making all the major decisions that affect the child, although the other parent will usually have the right to be informed of those decisions. In these situations, the child generally lives full-time with one parent, and the other parent is allowed access on a pre-determined schedule.
“Joint” custody, in contrast, means the parents are jointly responsible for making major decisions pertaining to the child (such as those affecting the child’s health, education, religious instruction and activities). Less important, day-to-day decisions about the child are still left to the parent with primary custody. Joint custody does not mean that the child spends equal time with each parent. Decision-making can be shared even though the child lives predominantly with one parent.
“Shared” custody and shared-custody arrangements focus on the child’s schedule and the proportion of time spent in each parent’s care. (This is different from joint custody, which focuses only on decision-making.) In an equal shared-custody arrangement, decisions are made jointly and the child spends about half the time with each parent.
The Role of the Courts
Parents can negotiate a custody and access arrangement in a separation agreement, which is part of the divorce and separation process for many couples. The primary focus of the court in any arrangement will be the best interests of the children. In general, courts favour keeping siblings together in the same home and maximizing the amount of time children spend with each parent.
To determine what is in the child best interests, a number of things would be looked at, such as:
The relationship between the person and the child;
The emotional ties between the child and the person claiming access;
The child’s views and preferences, if they can be reasonably determined;
The length of time the child lived in the stable home environment;
The person’s ability to provide the necessaries of life for the child;
What the person proposes as a plan for caring for the child;
The permanence and stability of the family where the child will live with the person;
The person’s ability to act as a parent for the child; and
Any familial relationship between the child and the person.
The person applying for custody will have to show evidence relating to the factors listed above and show why the custody arrangement being asked for is in the child’s best interests.
For a consultation with a Mississauga family lawyer to talk about protecting your rights and understanding your obligations in the event of marriage breakdown, call us today in Mississauga at 1 866 866 7078 or email us @ firstname.lastname@example.org.