Ontario Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws about custody and parenting plans are found in the Children's Law Reform Act and the Family Law Act in the Ontario laws.

Here are some guidelines from these acts to help you make your parenting plan.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Ontario Plan Now

Custody and access

Custody is the right to make decisions about your child's upbringing, education, religion, name, health care, etc.

You can have joint custody or sole custody. With joint custody, both parents have the authority to make decisions. They can make all major decisions together, or each parent can make decisions about certain areas. Joint custody works best when parents can cooperate and communicate well with each other.

With sole custody, one parent has the authority to make decisions for and about the child. Usually, the child lives with the parent who has sole custody.

When the child lives with one parent, the other parent has access. Access is the right of the parent to spend time with the child.

The father and mother are equally entitled to custody of the child and the parent who has custody usually lives in the family home so the child has stability.

Information to include in your parenting plan

Your parenting plan is the plan for how you and the other parent will continue to care for and raise your child after you separate.

Your parenting plan should include:

  • A custody and access schedule that shows when each parent spends time with the child
  • Information about joint or sole custody and how parents will make decisions for the child
  • Other provisions that show how the parents will divide and share responsibilities

Your plan can be informal and flexible where both parents address issues as they arise, or you can write out your plan in detail as part of your separation agreement or court order. Informal plans that aren't filed with the court are difficult to enforce.

If you and the other parent need some time to work out a final plan, or you are waiting for the court to decide on your plan, you can make a temporary parenting plan until you have a permanent plan.

Ways to resolve disputes about the plan

As you and the other parent negotiate your plan, you can use the following to help you resolve your disputes.

You can use family law lawyers to help you negotiate or to negotiate for you. Usually each parent hires a lawyer and the lawyers work out the details of the plan.

You and the other parent can attend mediation. In mediation, you meet with a mediator who listens to both parents and helps you reach an agreement. The mediator does not make decisions for you or take sides.

You can go to arbitration where you will meet with a neutral party who will make decisions about your plan. If both parents agree to arbitration, the decisions made by the arbitrator are binding and will be held up in court.

The courts encourage parents to try other ways of resolving their conflicts, but as a last option, you can go to court and have a judge decide on your plan. The plan the judge makes will become a court order.

Process to make your plan official

If you and the other parent have a plan you both agree on, you can both sign it and have a witness sign it. You can then submit it to the court as part of your separation agreement and the court will make it a court order.

If you and the other parent do not agree on your plan and you go to court, each parent will show the judge a proposed parenting plan. The judge will decide to accept either parent's plan or make a new plan. The plan the judge accepts becomes a court order.

Factors the court considers

The judge will make all decisions about custody and the parenting plan in the best interest of the child.

The judge will consider the following when thinking about what is best for the child:

  • The love, affection, and emotional ties between the child and each parent
  • If the child has any views or preferences
  • How long the child has lived in a stable home environment
  • Each parent's ability to provide the child with guidance, education, and necessities
  • Any special needs of the child
  • Each parent's proposed parenting plan
  • The permanence and stability of each parent's family unit

You should consider these factors as you make a plan or prepare a plan to present in court.

Additional help

Local family courts have Family Law Information Centres that provide information and services for people who need help with a family law case

The website for Family law in Ontario

The booklet What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario

The booklet Separation and Divorce: Child Custody, Access, and Parenting Plans

Legal Aid Ontario

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Ontario Plan Now

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.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Plan