Ontario Custody and Access Schedules
You can create your own custody and access schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents. Use the free download to see how it can help you.
You can also use Custody X Change to:
- Explore options for your visitation schedule
- Negotiate a schedule and agreement with the other parent
- Show your attorney schedules that you like
- Prepare sample schedules and plans for mediation
- Make a schedule and plan to present in court
Yes. When you separate from your child's parent, you are required by Ontario law to arrange for the care of your children.
Arranging for this care usually means making a custody agreement or parenting plan that outlines each parent's responsibilities of providing for the children after you are no longer together.
Part of the custody agreement or parenting plan that you will need to make is a schedule that shows when your child will spend time with each parent. This is called a custody and access schedule or a parenting time schedule.
You can make a detailed schedule that shows the specific parenting time, or you can agree to an open schedule where you determine parenting time every week or so.
You will find some guidelines for creating the right kind of schedule for your situation in the sections below.
The Ontario government has published a booklet of information about family law in Ontario.
This booklet, called "What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario" has the rules and guidelines in Ontario concerning child custody and parenting time schedules.
The information for this page has been taken primarily from this booklet, which can be found on the government web site.
If you are able to work with the other parent when creating your Ontario parenting arrangements and access schedule, it is in everyone's best interest to do so.
Separating or divorcing parents are encouraged to cooperate and work together to come up with a parenting plan or custody agreement for how they will continue to provide for their children.
Generally, parents are happier with schedules that they work out themselves and these schedules last longer.
However, if you and the other parent are not able to agree on the custody and access schedule or other parts of the parenting plan, the court encourages you to attend mediation or arbitration.
If mediation or arbitration is not successful (or not an option), then you can appeal to the court to decide your custody arrangements. For these cases, the judge will consider what is best for the child and determine a proper parenting time schedule.
In Ontario, you have the option of making a specified child access schedule or an informal one.
Most parents find it easiest to show when the child will spend time with each parent by making a specified parenting time or custody and access schedule. This schedule can then be included in the parenting plan as part of the separation agreement or court order.
If the schedule is made official by the court, it is a legal document and the law can help enforce it.
You may also choose to have an informal custody schedule that you simply agree on or figure out as time goes on. This open type of schedule works if you are able to communicate and cooperate, but if one parent does not adhere to the standards of the schedule, the law cannot help enforce it.
When deciding your schedule, you should first decide the custody arrangements you want. The following options are available in Ontario:
- A custody and access arrangement where one parent makes decisions for the children and the children live with that parent and the other parent has access (the right to spend time) with the children
- A joint custody arrangement where both parents make decisions for the children and both parents spend significant time with the children and are involved in raising the children
The type of custody arrangement you choose will impact how you make your parenting time schedule.
For a custody and access schedule, the child lives with one parent and you make a schedule of access, or visitation, when the child spends time with the other parent.
For a joint custody schedule, you can divide the time the child lives with each parent, or you can make a schedule that shows the child living with one parent but still spending significant time with the other parent.
If you want to make sure you have an effective schedule, you will want to include the following:
- A residential schedule or everyday schedule that shows where the child is during the week and on weekends
- A holiday schedule that shows where the child is for holidays
- A special event schedule that show where the child will be for school breaks, family vacations, birthdays, and other special events
- Rules or provisions about the practical implementation of the schedule
Some common rules for the schedule include the way the parents will handle transportation for exchanges, a process for changing parenting time, a method for resolving disputes, a way to decide or approve extra-curricular activities for the child, etc.
If you want to make sure that your custody plan and access schedule are accepted by the court, you will need to keep in mind that the court's main concern is the well-being and best interests of the child.
The court considers many factors when determining the child's best interests:
- The wishes of the child's parents
- The wishes of the child
- Whether or not each parent is willing and able to properly care for the child
- The mental and physical health of the child and the parents
- Any special needs the child may have
- The history of the child's care
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- Any other relevant factors
Thinking of your child's needs when you create your schedule and incorporating them into your parenting plan is essential if you want to have your plan approved by the court.
The top twenty cities in Ontario (by population, Statistics Canada) are: Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, Brampton, London, Markham, Vaughan, Windsor, Kitchener, Oakville, Burlington, Richmond Hill, Sudbury, Oshawa, St. Catharines, Barrie, Cambridge, Kingston, Guelph.