What Should I Know About Child Custody In Ontario Transcript
Hello, my name is Portia Maudy, and I shall be speaking about parenting, custody, and access. This is probably the most important discussion we can have. Children are, of course, the most important product of any marriage, any relationship.
There are two ways to tackle the issue of parenting of the child. One way is through settlement. The parties can settle between themselves what is in the best interest of the child. This is always the ideal solution because mom and dad know the child. Mom and dad know the child’s needs, know what the child wants, know what the child likes. However, sometimes mom and dad cannot reach an agreement as to what is in the child’s best interest.
In such an event, it becomes necessary to go to court. At court, the judge will make the final decision about where the child lives, who makes major decisions about the child, what classes the child attends, religious upbringing, any major decision. Custody is who makes major decisions about the child. It really doesn’t have anything to do with residence, although realistically the parent who makes all the major decisions is usually the parent with whom the child lives.
Sole custody, one parent makes all the final decisions about the child. That doesn’t mean they can be a dictator. They would have to oftentimes, depending on the situation, consult with the other parent. Joint custody, mom and dad make major decisions together. Joint parenting or shared parenting works very well when mom and dad follow the same routines, and they see eye to eye, and they can communicate very well with one another.
The decision as to where child is to live, or the parenting arrangement that best suits the child, is always based on the best interest of the child. That sounds very easy, but it’s not all that easy because what exactly does “best interest of the child” mean and how do we determine what is in the child’s best interest?
One of the most important factors courts look at, and parties should look at as well, is the status quo. Generally speaking, people do not like great changes in a child’s life. There are various agencies out there that can assist the judge in determining what’s in your child’s best interest.
One such agency is the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, OCL for short. The OCL has two arms. One arm is the lawyer branch, and the other arm is the social worker branch. The lawyer branch usually applies to older children. So if your child is around 10-12 years old, more likely than not that child will have a lawyer appointed.
Now the lawyer’s role is to meet with the child, and oftentimes with the parents as well, and decide what the child wants and go to court and represent the child’s wishes at court. The lawyer would also have a duty to express what is in the child’s best interest. Keep in mind that just because a child wants to live with mom or dad, does not mean that the judge is going to say, “Alright. You’re going to live with mom or dad.”
Also keep in mind that there is no “golden age” where the child can decide where he or she wants to live. True, it helps the child having a lawyer express his or her interest in court, but still the judge makes the final decision at the end of the day based on other factors and a whole host of factors as to what is in the best interest of the child.
The social worker arm of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer usually entails the social worker meeting with the child, the parents, close relatives involved with the child, the child’s family doctor, sometimes a dentist, teachers, basically the network of people with whom the child relates on a regular basis. The social worker would prepare a report as to what’s in the child’s best interest.
Usually social workers deal with younger children who cannot really express themselves too much, and even if that child does express what he or she wants, oftentimes it is a bit suspicious because, for example, a four-year-old child could be influenced by mom or dad.
Another agency that provides guidance to the court and has a big say in what is in your child’s best interest as far as the court is concerned is the Children’s Aid Society. These are government organizations whose mandate is to make sure that a child is not harmed. This agency can take the child away from you and can put your child in foster care.
This is not the time to stress out and try to turn the child against the other parent. This is not the time to turn the child into your best friend and confide in the child about what is going on in your life, how lousy the other parent is, and how mean the judge was. Another big piece of advice I can give you is do not move out of the house, unless it’s an emergency, without first speaking to a lawyer.
Thank you for your time, my name is Portia Maudy. If you’d like further information, please check out the custody section of our website.