Ontario Parenting & Contact Orders

Parenting orders are court orders that detail how divorced or separated parents are to handle decision-making responsibility and parenting time. They usually include a parenting time schedule.

Nonparents can get decision-making responsibility and contact orders if they care for a child whose parents are unavailable, unable or unwilling to provide care.

You'll need to apply for a parenting or contact order before the court can give you one.

Getting a court order isn't necessary if you reach an agreement with the other parent. The following are among the reasons you might want to get a court order:

  • You and your spouse cannot agree on decision-making responsibility and parenting time.
  • You worry the other parent won't make decisions in the best interest of the child.
  • You worry the other parent won't let you spend time with your children.
  • You worry the other parent will take the child out of the province without your permission.

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Temporary parenting orders

Temporary orders dictate who has decision-making responsibility and parenting time before your trial. They can also cover things like child support. The orders stay in effect until the court replaces them with other temporary orders or makes a final decision.

Though not all parents receive them, temporary orders are recommended because they get you answers early in the long legal process.

To get a temporary order, you need to bring a motion. You'll have to wait until after your case conference to bring a motion unless the matter is urgent or you agree with the other parent on the order.

The first step to bringing a motion is calling or going to the courthouse to ask the court clerk for a motion date. What you'll do next depends on whether you're requesting an urgent or nonurgent motion.

Bringing an urgent motion for a temporary order

You can bring an urgent motion any time after you open a case. Your situation must fall into one of the following categories:

  • The matter is urgent. (e.g., The other parent threatens to remove the child from the province.)
  • You will face hardship if you wait until after the case conference to address the issue. (e.g., You can't provide for your child's needs without child support.)
  • It's in the "interests of justice" that the issue is heard before the case conference.

Before the motion date, you'll need to serve and file an Affidavit (Form 35.1) to explain your situation in detail. You'll give a Confirmation of Motion to the court clerk at least three days before the motion to confirm your court date and what you're arguing about.

When you appear before the judge, you must provide evidence that the matter is urgent and that an order is necessary.

Whether the other parent will attend the hearing depends on whether you bring an urgent motion with notice or without notice.

With notice, you'll have to serve the other parent with a Notice of Motion (Form 14) and a copy of your affidavit no more than six days before the motion date so they can attend the hearing.

Without notice, you won't have to notify the other parent of the motion date, and they won't attend. You can request to bring this type of motion only if:

  • Serving a notice is unnecessary or unreasonable. (e.g., You can't locate the other person.)
  • The child is at risk of being removed from the province, and waiting to notify the other parent would endanger the child.
  • The child's health and safety are at risk, and waiting to notify the other parent would endanger the child.
  • Serving a notice would have serious consequences.

If you receive permission to make a motion without notice, you'll list the orders you want the judge to make on an Order on Motion without Notice. File it with the court and serve it to the other parent before your hearing.

If the judge agrees with your requests, they will sign the order. Then there will be a follow-up hearing some time later where the other parent can tell their side. The judge will either stay (keep), change or end the order. Keep in mind, you might have to pay the other parent's legal fees if the judge terminates the order.

Bringing a nonurgent motion for a temporary order

For nonurgent matters, you can bring a motion for a standard temporary order.

Complete the following forms:

You must serve copies of the first four forms to the respondent at least six business days before the motion date. File them with the court at least four business days before the motion date.

After receiving notice, the other parent can respond to the motion.

At the motion, each parent will present their affidavit to show the judge why they should get the orders they're asking for. Then the judge will make an order.

If you agree on temporary orders, you'll need to complete all of the aforementioned forms plus:

  • Order (Form 25)
  • An agreement (called minutes of settlement) signed by both parents. This can be your parenting plan or have your plan attached.

Typically, you don't have to appear in court if you agree. A judge will review your forms, then sign off if the terms are in the best interest of the child.

Final parenting orders

Final parenting orders detail long-term arrangements for decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Final orders can only address the matters you ask the court to decide. If parents agree on a parenting plan and it's approved by a judge, it will be part of the order.

For divorcing parents, your final parenting order will be covered in a final divorce order, which will also detail property division, support, etc.

To get a final parenting order, you will go through the full court process or you'll submit a parenting agreement to get an order by consent.

Contact orders

Contact orders give nonparents the right to have the child in their care. Someone who believes that they'd be a better caregiver than the child's parents or someone who wants to have regular visits with the child can apply for one. They will follow the same processes as a parent.

Changing a parenting or contact order

If a major change occurs, you can bring a motion to change a court order. If you ask for a change within six months of receiving a final order, the judge is unlikely to hear your case unless your change in circumstances was especially drastic.

Enforcing a parenting or contact order

You can bring a motion for contempt if the other parent does not follow its terms. They might, for example, be blocking your time with the child.

As with other motions, you'll need to call or go to the courthouse to ask the court clerk for a motion date.

Next, you must personally serve the other parent with copies of the Notice of Contempt (with the motion date written on it) and Affidavit you fill out. You'll file the original forms with the court. If the matter involves support, you'll also need to serve and file a Financial Statement and Certificate of Financial Disclosure.

If at the contempt motion hearing the court finds that a parent is disobeying an order without good reason, the court can give the parent a fine or even jail time.

Following court orders correctly

When a court issues orders, you must follow them. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, fined and more.

But orders are complicated, especially for parenting time. When exactly does "Week 2" begin this month? Which day marks the middle of summer break?

Use Custody X Change to plug your order into a calendar you can edit, share and print so you'll never have to wonder whether you're following the order correctly.

With the Custody X Change online app, you can combine schedules for the school year, summer break and holidays into one calendar.

You can even track how well court orders are being followed with our parenting time tracker and parenting journal.

Custody X Change has all the tools you need to set your new parenting arrangement up for success.

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