Common questions & answers about child custody law


Probably not. Ontario law strongly favours child custody remaining with birth parents and maximizing child custody with each parent. 

What Does Custody Mean?

"Custody" means have care of your child at least 40% of the time. Anything less than 40% is "access," rather than custody. 

What Does Shared Custody mean?

"Shared custody" means joint decision making over children, together with each parent having the child an approximately equal amount of time. However, a separation agreement can allocate some decisions to one parent (like medical) and different decisions to the other parent (like schooling), and it still be shared custody. 

What Does Sole Custody Mean?

Sole custody means making most decisions for the child by yourself and having care of the child most of the time. Access to the child by the other parent can still be generous, and the other parent could still have input on some key decisions. 

Do I Have to Agree to Shared Custody?

No. However, you might raise the risk of your case having to go to court if you demand sole custody. And you need to be prepared to justify to a judge why shared custody is not appropriate. Ultimately, you will be arguing the "best interests of the child" test. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with Custody Issues?

Unlike one-time property division or support issues, child custody issues endure in a former relationship until its children reach their early 20s. For young children, this means decades of having to get on with your ex-spouse over child rearing issues - as difficult as that might be.

So a lawyer is highly advisable to assist you in developing a workable separation arrangement over custody of children right from the start and to advise you on your best alternatives to a negotiated agreement in terms of what a court-based outcome might look like.