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Who can get access to and spend time with my child?

Who can get access to and spend time with my child?
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CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ministry of the Attorney General

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Who can get access to and spend time with my child?
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July 15, 2019

Generally, it's best for your child to spend time with you and your partner after you separate or divorce. This doesn't mean your child has to spend an equal amount of time with both of you. But it should be enough time to allow your child to have a meaningful relationship with both of you.

If your child lives mainly with you, your child's primary residence is with you, and your partner usually has access.

Access is the time a parent spends with a child they usually don't live with. Access can be on a fixed schedule, such as every other weekend, or on a flexible schedule, such as whenever the parents agree.

Access can be supervised or unsupervised. If you have supervised access, this means there is someone watching while the access parent visits with their child.

Access includes the right to get information on the child's health, education, and well-being. But for some information, such as hospital records, the parent with custody may need to give their written permission first.

In some cases, other people might get access, such as a step-parent, grandparent, or other relative. Or, it could be someone outside the family who has a close relationship with the child.

If you and your partner agree on custody and access arrangements, you can put what you've agreed on in an agreement.

If you can't agree, you can ask a family law professional like a mediator to help you work out an agreement.

For example, each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at the court.

Or, you can go to court and ask a judge to decide.

The judge uses a legal test called the best interests of the child to make decisions about custody, access, and parenting. Judges usually assume it's better for a child to have a relationship with both parents after they separate or divorce.

Child support is separate from access

The right to child support and access are two different issues. They are both rights of the child. A parent cannot be denied access to their child because they do not pay child support. And a parent who does not have access may still have to pay child support.

You can only refuse to allow access in limited situations, such as if you're afraid for your child's safety. You may have to call your local children's aid society if you believe your child is being abused by your partner or someone in their home. If you're in this situation, get help right away.

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