Child custody (now known as decision-making responsibility) battles can be emotionally challenging for both parents.
Fathers in Ontario often wonder about their chances of securing 50/50 custody of their children. The misconception that decision-making responsibility is only given to mothers is rooted in a not-so-distant reality. In the mid-90s’s The Government of Canada reported, that only 8.4% of children coming from divorced parents lived with both parents, with another 83% living with only their mothers. We now understand that sufficient time with each parent is important for children to maintain relationships with their parents.
The family law system in Ontario strives to prioritize the best interests of the child, and this includes ensuring that both parents have the opportunity to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children.
To understand the factors that influence a father’s chances of getting 50/50 custody in Ontario, we will explore the process of getting decision-making responsibility in Ontario.
What is Decision-Making Responsibility?
Decision-making responsibility (formerly custody) is the legal and practical responsibility for the care, well-being and upbringing of a child. Decisions are related to health, education, religion and other important matters in your child’s life.
When it comes to decision-making responsibility for your child, it is important to understand the different types of decision-making responsibilities. There are three different types of decision-making responsibility options in Ontario, Sole Decision-Making Responsibility, Joint Decision-Making Responsibility, or De Facto Decision-Making Responsibility.
When speaking of 50/50 custody, we are referring to joint decision-making responsibility between both parents. This allows both parents to share the right to make important decisions about their child’s care, and remain involved in decision-making for the child.
What is Parenting Time?
Another aspect of parenting to consider in a divorce agreement is the time a child will spend with each parent. While decision-making responsibility refers to the decision-making power, each parent is also entitled to parenting time (unless the court decides it is not in the best interest of the child) and information about health, education, and certain general information.
In March of 2021, there was an important update to the Divorce Act which states: “In allocating parenting time, the court shall give effect to the principle that a child should have as much time with each spouse as is consistent with the best interests of the child.” This change was implemented to ensure that parenting time takes into consideration the best interests of the child. So, even if you are not granted joint decision-making responsibility, you may be able to arrange shared parenting time.
The three different types of parenting time available in Ontario are, shared parenting time, split parenting time and supervised parenting time.
Read our article on the Different Types of Parenting Agreements to understand which options are available to you.
How are Parenting Time and Decision-Making Responsibility Determined?
In Ontario, decision-making responsibility and parenting time can be resolved outside of the court if parents are able to come to an agreement. Parents are encouraged to engage in mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods to reach an agreement before going to court. This is often preferable for both parents because it will allow you and your lawyers to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement with your spouse, rather than a court-imposed decision. These processes often result in shared decision-making responsibility and parenting time or parenting plans that provide both parents with significant time with the child.
If you are unable to come to a mutual agreement on parenting time and decision-making responsibility, you will need a court order called a parenting order that sets out both. Getting a parenting order can be a lengthy process that involves assessments of both parents, a police record check and many forms.
Whether you and your spouse can come to an agreement or need to go to court, it is important to consult a lawyer to ensure you are properly represented throughout.
The Best Interests of the Child
In Ontario, the primary consideration in child custody matters is the best interests of the child. None of the factors that affect decision-making responsibility or parenting time are related to gender. The court examines several factors to determine what arrangement will be in the child’s best interests, including:
- The child’s age: Younger children, children with disabilities, or children with medical needs may require more consistent routines and may spend more time with one parent to ensure their stability and well-being.
- The child’s wishes: If a child is old enough to express their wishes, the court will consider the child’s preferences and determine if doing so is in their best interests.
- The environment: The court will examine each parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving environment. Both parents will be evaluated regarding their ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
- Maintaining Relationships: The court will assess the willingness of each parent to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent. Encouraging a positive relationship between the child and the other parent is vital to the best interests of the child.
- The history of care and involvement: The court may consider which parent has been the primary caregiver and is more involved in the child’s life.
It is essential to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you are properly represented and able to advocate in the best interests of your child.
Factors that May Influence the Chances of a Father Getting 50/50 Custody in Ontario
Several factors influence parenting arrangements for both mothers and fathers. For a father looking to gain a 50/50 parenting arrangement, you may want to consider:
- Demonstrated involvement: Fathers who can show they have been actively involved in their child’s life such as attending events or being a caregiver may create a stronger case for equal decision-making responsibility.
- Stability: You should demonstrate that you are able to provide a stable living situation and a consistent schedule for your child.
- Supporting documents: Evidence of a strong and healthy relationship with your child, such as letters, photos, or witness statements, can strengthen your case.
- Willingness to cooperate: Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with your previous spouse and prioritize your child’s best interests is essential.
- Child’s age and needs: Your child’s age and specific needs may influence the court’s decision. Older children and those who benefit from shared custody arrangements may be more likely to result in a 50/50 split.
A court may refuse you parenting time with your children if there is a fear that:
- you will harm your child;
- you will harm the parent with decision-making responsibility;
- you will not return the children to the other parent.
If any of these criteria are met by either parent, a court may revoke their parenting time in the best interests of the child. It is important to note this applies to mothers and fathers equally.
In Ontario, the decision-making responsibility and parenting time are chosen based on the best interests of the child. There is now a deeper understanding of the essential role both parents play in children’s lives. Fathers have equal rights and opportunities in child parenting cases, and the court’s decisions are based on various factors, including the child’s age, the parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving environment, and their willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent.
To discuss your specific concerns, contact Epstein and Associates for your free consultation.
This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.