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Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody: Which is Right for Your Family?

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How Do You Approach Custody Proceedings?

When considering an Ontario divorce involving minor children, the parents must determine the custody arrangement (decision-making arrangement) they wish to follow going forward. Deciding between seeking joint versus sole custody can be daunting, as many factors must be considered. Both custody arrangements have positive aspects and challenges. A skilled Ontario custody lawyer can help you explore your options and determine which custody plan best fits your family.

What is Joint Custody in Ontario?

Joint custody allows both parents to have legal authority over the decision-making for their child. In a joint custody situation, both parents are able to make choices about their child’s education, religious upbringing, health care, and other essential aspects of their life. As with all aspects of a parenting agreement, the terms of the joint custody agreement can be tailored to suit the needs of the family as long as the child’s best interests are being served. Parents may have an equal voice on each topic or opt to split the issues individually. For example, one parent may get the final say on medical decisions, while the other gets to decide on religious matters.

In joint custody, parents must cooperate and communicate effectively to make decisions supporting their child’s well-being.

Choosing a joint custody arrangement does not necessarily mean that parenting time responsibilities will also be shared equally. Depending on the specific arrangements, the child may live primarily with one parent or spend equal or significant time with both parents.

How Does Sole Custody Differ From Joint Custody?

On the other hand, sole custody grants only one parent the legal authority to make significant decisions about the child’s life.

The child typically resides mainly with the custodial parent. However, the non-custodial parent may have rights to parenting time or supervised visits with their child. If the non-custodial parent retains parenting time, they would have the ability to make day-to-day decisions for their child while they are physically in their care but would need to defer to the custodial parent’s choices regarding significant issues.

The courts generally prefer to order joint custody whenever possible because numerous studies have demonstrated that having both parents heavily involved in a child’s life leads to better outcomes for their physical and mental wellness. Sole custody is most often granted when one parent is deemed unfit or unable to participate effectively in parenting due to health issues, incarceration, or other limiting factors. The court may also determine that this system may be the most effective solution if the parents cannot cooperate in decision-making for their child.

What Factors Does the Court Consider When Awarding Custody?

Courts in Ontario prioritize arrangements that support the child’s needs, ensuring stable and nurturing environments. The court aims to create parenting plans that foster the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents and promote stability and consistency in the child’s life. The guiding principle for custody arrangements, as set out in the Children’s Law Reform Act, is the best interests of the child or children in question. The court is obligated to protect the child’s psychological, emotional, and physical safety and well-being.

Some factors that the court may take into account when creating or considering a proposed custody arrangement include:

  • The child’s care needs, based on their age and stage of development, and the ability and willingness of each parent to meet these needs.
  • The history of the child’s care and the level of involvement of each parent.
  • The nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, grandparents, and other essential family figures.
  • The child’s views and preferences, if they are of an appropriate age and maturity to make these opinions known.
  • The appropriateness of requiring the parents to cooperate on decisions based on their current relationship. Credible family violence allegations and charges can also factor into the court’s determinations.
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • The child’s cultural heritage, language, and religious education and the extent to which each parent can or would support continuity in their upbringing.
  • Any civil or criminal proceedings, orders, conditions, or measures relevant to the child’s safety, security, and well-being.

How Do You Determine Whether Sole or Joint Custody is the Best Choice for Your Family?

Navigating the aftermath of a divorce with shared children can be incredibly emotional and challenging for parents. It can be difficult to set aside your emotions regarding your former partner and their actions and focus solely on what is best for your child. Enlisting the assistance of a knowledgeable child custody lawyer can give you invaluable input on how custody law works and the potential outcomes of your case. Your lawyer can evaluate your situation and help you create a viable custody plan based on your family’s circumstances.

While joint custody can have many advantages for you and your child, it may not be the right choice for every family. When considering your custody options, being honest with yourself and your legal team is important. The answers to the following questions can provide a starting point for custody discussions with your lawyer:

  • Will you be able to communicate effectively with your former spouse on important and potentially emotional issues regarding your child’s care?
  • Can you find ways to resolve disagreements on these topics?
  • Is your child able to handle moving back and forth between residences?
  • Can you efficiently coordinate potentially complex planning to ensure your child experiences minimal disruptions in their schedule or activities?

Why Reach Out to Our Law Firm?

Every custody case is unique and requires carefully tailored legal guidance to reach the most favorable outcome. At Anthony Family Law, our compassionate lawyers have extensive experience guiding clients through the Ontario custody process and fighting for the best interests of their families. To learn how we can assist you, contact our law office today by calling 647-933-2397 and schedule a free case evaluation.

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