Custody and Access

When You No Longer Live Together as a Family

If you have a child with another person, you both have rights and responsibilities to the child. This includes having the right to spend time with the child and be involved in decisions about the child’s life. If you and the child’s other parent are no longer living together, you both need to decide how these rights and responsibilities will continue when you no longer live together as a family. The legal terms for these rights and responsibilities are “custody” and “access".


Custody
Custody focuses on the care of the child. This includes who makes the major decisions about achild’s life, such as their education, religion and health care. Custody also includes the physical care of the child, including where he lives and the daily decisions about how he is raised.


There are four types of custody arrangements:
• joint custody,
• sole custody,
• shared custody, and
• split custody.

Joint Custody

With joint custody both parents continue to be involved in the major decisions of the child’s life. He can live with only one parent or may spend time living with both parents, but usually one parent has day-to-day care and control of the child. The focus of joint custody is on both parents working together to make decisions about their child; one parent can’t make major decisions about the child on their own.


Sole Custody

With sole custody, the child lives with one parent who makes the decisions about his life. The other parent usually has access to the child.


Shared Custody

With shared custody, the child lives with both parents roughly the same amount of time: for example, he might spend two weeks with one parent, then two weeks with the other. This works well if both parents live in the same community. This is sometimes called “joint and shared custody”.

Split Custody

Split custody is when there is more than one child, and one child lives with one parent, while another child lives with the other parent. Each parent is responsible for the child or children in their care, and the other parent has access to the child or children.


Access

Access is the legal term for the right of the child and parent to spend time together. Usually, a parent who does not have custody will have access to the child. Although she may not have a role in making decisions, a parent with access has the right to receive information about the child’s education, health and well-being. Other family members, like grandparents, can also have the right to access. The right to access is also the child’s right. The parent with custody can’t refuse access to the other parent because of bad feelings between them or the failure to pay child support.

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