Ontario Custody and Access Schedule Guidelines

The laws about custody and access 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 custody and access schedule.

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If parents have joint custody, the child may spend time living with both parents.

If one parent has sole custody of the child and/or the child lives with one parent, the other parent has access. Access is the right of the parent to spend time with the child.

You need to include information about parenting time and access arrangements in your parenting plan.

Custody and access arrangements

The most common way to include information about parenting time and access in your plan is to make a fixed access schedule.

A fixed access schedule contains:

To easily see when each parent has time with the child, you can make your schedule in a custody and access calendar.

If you don't want to make a schedule, your plan can say that both parents agree to reasonable access arrangements. With reasonable access, parenting times are open and flexible and the parents set up parenting time every week or so. The parenting times are informal and easy to change.

Reasonable access only works when parents are able to cooperate and communicate well. If there is conflict over parenting time, an access schedule works better.

Ways to make a schedule

You and the other parent can negotiate a schedule together or you can use family law lawyers to help you negotiate.

If you have conflicts about the schedule, you can attend mediation. In mediation, you meet with a neutral third party who helps you and the other parent agree on the schedule. The mediator does not make decisions for you.

If you can't make a schedule in mediation, you can go to arbitration. In arbitration, you meet with an arbitrator who will listen to both parent's ideas and then decide on the schedule. The arbitrator's decision is binding if both parents agree to go to arbitration.

You can also allow the court to decide on your schedule. If you go to court, each parent will present a proposed schedule to the judge. The judge can accept either parent's schedule or create a new one. The schedule from the judge becomes a court order and both parents must follow it.

Supervised or no access

If you have concerns about your child's safety when the child is with the other parent, you can have supervised access. With supervised access, the child can only spend time with the other parent when there is another adult present.

A judge can also order no access for a parent if the judge feels that it is in the best interest of the child.

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

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