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How to get sole custody of a child

Posted on April 24, 2019

Most parents who separate or divorce make decisions on how to care and raise any children involved. Things like where the child will live, how much time children will spend with a parent and who makes the main decisions relating to the child. These matters relate to custody and access. Family judges favour joint custody arrangements, as they prefer both parents be involved in raising a child.

What is sole custody?

In some cases, you may need to get sole custody of your children. Sole custody is when one parent makes the important decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, such as but not limited to, religious affiliation, medical decisions and educational decisions. The parent without custody may or may not have access, also known as visitation, to the child. This parent may or may not have the right to inquire about the child at school or doctor’s offices for example.

Applying for sole custody is often the last resort for parents. Typically, the need for sole custody arises in situations of conflict, violence and/or abuse. These situations also arise where a child is in need of regular decision making, for example, a disabled child, and the parents do not agree or otherwise cannot communicate.

Act in the best interests of the child

When it comes to the Family Courts in Ontario, their number one priority is to act in the best interests of the child. They don’t make custody decisions based on what the parents think or want. You cannot apply for sole custody for selfish reasons, out of spite or because you want to avoid the parent.

Providing proof and evidence

To get sole custody of a child, you must prove to the family court that shared custody negatively impacts your child. You must show evidence that the other parent poses a risk to the child, or otherwise isn’t acting in the child’s best interest. You must explain how the other parent is unfit to perform their parental duties.

Reasons for getting sole custody

Seeking sole custody is deemed as protecting a child from endangerment. Sole custody is awarded to a parent if there is significant evidence that the other parent has one of the following issues that negatively impact the child:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Mental instability
  • Financial instability
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Other reasons for getting sole custody of a child:
  • If one parent is in jail.
  • Unexplained neglect and absences from the child’s life.
  • Relocations that make joint custody impossible.

Family courts will consider the above, as well as each parent’s relationship with the child and the living distance between each parent.

Need to apply for sole custody?

You might have some more questions or need advice on how to file for sole custody? Don’t hesitate to call Epstein & Associates today to talk to one of our family law professionals to get an opinion on your next steps.


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