What is custody?

Custody is the term that has traditionally been used to describe a bundle of rights that separated or divorced parents exercise in the process of raising their children. This includes such things as the right to have a say or make decisions about their education, religious training and health care, and generally control where they go and what they do. Both parents are presumed to be equally entitled to custody both during the relationship and at the beginning of the separation. However, this presumption will be set aside if, over a period of time, one party allows the other to have the child living primarily with them or allows that party to unilaterally make the day to day decisions for the child.

Custody is not an absolute right and our courts always have an over-riding jurisdiction to decide what is in the best interests of a child. The court can award custody to one parent instead of the other or award custody to someone other than a parent, such as grandparents or the Children's Aid Society. As children mature, their opinions about where they should live are also given increasing weight. It is always expensive and extremely stressful for family members involved in a court proceeding for the determination of custody of children. As an alternative, people are increasingly turning to mediation and are developing parental arrangements within their Separation Agreements to constructively share the responsibility of raising their children following a separation.

Joint custody, sole custody, shared custody and split custody are all various terms for different types of parenting arrangements. Parents who can set aside their needs and communicate respectfully and fairly can usually resolve these difficult issues with much less difficulty. However, when communication is difficult and trust and respect are stretched thin, a skilled family law lawyer can be of great assistance helping their client come to a resolution or assist in obtaining Court Orders as necessary.