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Access vs Custody

July 20th, 2013 — Family

One of the most basic elements of family law in Ontario is the distinction between custody and access. However, many people still don’t understand the fundamental difference between the two concepts. This blog post will address the distinctions between custody and access as they relate to the children of a couple after separation.

Custody, in its most basic form, is the decision making power over the child. This can be anything from decisions on what school the child will attend to more mundane day to day decisions. Custody gives the parent legal authority to make decisions. There are two basic types of custody arrangements. Sole custody, as the name suggests, is when only one parent has custodial powers. Joint custody is when both parents have custody. Finally, shared custody is the last type of custody arrangement. A shared custody situation will give both parents custodial powers but their spheres of power will be much more defined. Shared custody is often used in situations where sole custody is not appropriate and the parents do not communicate well enough to have joint custody.

Access is the ability to spend time with the child but it does not give any legal decision making power. A custodial parent has access through their custody but a non-custodial parent must have an access order or access agreement. As with custody, there are many different types of access. An access parent will typically be entitled to information about their child such as their health, well-being, and education. It is relatively rare for a non-custodial parent to be completely denied access. In typical sole custody arrangements, an access order will allow the non-custodial parent ample access to their child.

Increasingly the courts and family law lawyers are moving away from the rigid distinctions between access and custody. Court orders may not even address these issues formally, preferring to let the parents to make the appropriate arrangements. However, in some instances, such as applying for a passport, the legal distinctions between access and custody play an important role.

If you are currently faced with child custody or access problems you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. An experienced family law lawyer will be able to resolve your legal issues in an efficient and effective manner.   You can contact us and call us at (416) 961-1981.