When a court determines child custody, the judge will also normally issue parenting time orders if the parents have been unable to come to an agreement.
Generally, courts approach parenting time with the idea that it is in the best interests of the child to have liberal contact with both parents. In determining how much parenting time each parent will have, the court will consider a number of factors. The child’s age and developmental stage are important. Older children are more likely to have equal parenting time with the parents than children who are very young.
Similarly, the court takes into account any special needs of the child as well as the relationship she or he has with each parent individually. Also important is the quality of the relationship the child has with siblings, grandparents and other extended family members. If there has been a history of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or serious mental health problems on the part of the noncustodial parent, the court may disfavour granting much parenting time to the noncustodial parent.
In those cases, it is possible that any parenting time that is granted will be supervised. As in all other types of custody decisions, the court’s primary focus is on ensuring the child’s best interests and safety needs. A judge does not make a child custody decision lightly or arbitrarily. In making its determination, the court considers all factors through the lens of ensuring that the child’s health and safety will be protected. In some cases, the parents are able to come to a parenting time and custody agreement between them cooperatively, but other times, arbitration is needed to resolve issues one or both parents may have.
Source: Department of Justice, “Decision-Making“, December 23, 2014