A parent’s access to their children depends on the custodial arrangement that is established in a separation agreement or a court order.
When a parent has sole custody of a child, this child resides with this parent on a full-time basis.
You can have a joint custody arrangement with primary residence of the child with one parent. This means again that the child resides or lives on a full-time basis with one parent.
When you have joint custody with a parallel parenting format, the child usually lives half of the time with one parent and the other half of the time with the other parent.
When one parent has the children living them on a full-time basis, the other parent must make sure that they have regular access to their children. Regular access usually involves having the children on every second weekend from Friday night to Sunday night. You can also arrange to have access one night per week so that you have access to your children from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. every Tuesday night, for example.
It’s a known fact you willneed the advice of a veteran family law lawyer to help you get a reasonable child access schedule or parenting plan in your situation. Contact Thomas O’Malley, a skilled and dedicated family lawyer, at (905) 434-8837 to help you create an excellent child access schedule.
A Typical Example of Child Access Arrangements in Ontario
An example of a typical access arrangement for a non-custodial parent includes the following terms:
- on alternate weekends from Friday at 4:00 p.m. to Sunday at 7:30 p.m., to be extended to Monday at 7:30 p.m. on weekends when Monday is a statutory holiday:
- every Wednesday night from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.;
- telephone access for 10 minutes every second night
- one-half of the Christmas school holidays in each year (to include all of December 24, 25, and 26 in odd-numbered years commencing in December 2019);
- all of the March break school vacation in alternate years commencing in March 2018;
- three weeks during the summer months of July and August in each year. The parent shall give notice in writing by May 1st of each year to the other parent about the three specific weeks that he or she has designated as his three weeks of summer vacation with the child;
- the child shall spend Mother’s Day with the mother and Father’s Day with the father in each year from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on those days regardless of with whom the child is then residing on the weekend when those special days fall;
- such other times as may be agreed upon between the parties.
Your can model these access terms in your separation agreement or request similar access terms in your court order. You should modify these access terms to ensure that the best interests of your children are satisfied in the particular circumstances of your situation.
50/50 Access or Visitation Schedule
One increasing trend is that a child spends half of the time with you and one-half of the time with the other parent. For example, the child would spend one week with you and the following week with your former spouse. Ontario family law calls this a “week-about” access schedule.
Some parents might create a different schedule with the child’s time still divided equally between the parents. For instance, you could have the child staying two or three days with one parent and then staying two or three days with the other parent.
When you use a schedule of more frequent exchanges, you must have a good working relationship with the other parent. You must communicate much more often about your child’s needs and situation on a day-to-day basis. Both parents must be actively engaged in discussing and agreeing on the child’s school, homework, sports activities, and the child’s friends.
When you have some form of a 50/50 access schedule, you are ensuring that both parents are actively involved in the child’s life. The child will have a close loving relationship and bond with each parent.
One critical factor to success in a 50/50 schedule is that each parent must live relatively close to the other parent in the same community. It is simply not practical to have a 50/50 schedule with one parent living in Mississauga and the other parent living in Oshawa with a an hour and half drive between the two homes. The court would not permit this type of living arrangement for the child since the child would have to do too much travelling to attend school in one community.
The Key Factors You Must Consider
To Establish The Best Access Schedule
For Your Children
You must carefully consider a number of important factors to determine the proper access or visitation schedule for your children:
Do You Get Along With Your Former Spouse?
How you get along with your former spouse or the other parent is absolutely critical to determining the right access schedule for your children.
Did you and your former spouse constantly fight and argue? Did you argue often in front of your children? When you and your spouse do not get along well and often argue, you want an access schedule with fewer exchanges to avoid problems and conflict during the exchanges.
What is the Distance Between Each Parent’s Home?
Frequent exchanges of the children for visitation can only work when you and the other parent live close to each other. For example, you both need to be able to travel to your daycare provider’s location for your children quickly and easily.
You need to get your children to their sports activities and other extracurricular activities regularly without any problems. These are the normal type of activities that are critical to a child’s successful growth and development.
You and your spouse must co-operate well together and discuss your child’s needs and well-being for a visitation schedule based on frequent exchange to work.
What is the Work Schedule of Each Parent?
Do you or your spouse work irregular hours or some type of night shift?
When you or your spouse work different hours than the regular “9:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm” daily work schedule, you must be creative in designing the access schedule for your children.
The court will not permit you or your spouse to have your children stay with their grandparents, for example, on a regular basis during your scheduled access time with the children because you are working and, therefore, are not available. The other parent should have the children with them if you are not available to care for the children at certain times during the week.
You and the other parent must regularly advise each other about your work schedule to make any necessary changes in the access schedule.
What is the Age of the Child?
The age of your child is very important in determining the access schedule.
When your child is a baby or toddler, your child will often do better living in one home most of the time.
A child who is going to school is generally more flexible and adaptable to different situations. A school-aged child will more often do fine with a 50/50 schedule or some version of this type of schedule.
Remember this important point: The access or visitation schedule for your children can change over time as their needs and requirements change. It is highly unlikely that you will keep the same access schedule for your child throughout their young life.
Are you beginning to see all the considerations you must take into account in designing an access schedule that works for you and your children?
How Well is Your Child Doing in School?
Your child will often do better school with less exchanges between parents. Your child needs stability in their life, especially to do well in school. You have to make sure you communicate clearly and regularly with your child’s teacher and school and the other parent.
You must make sure your child knows what their homework is and help them to get their homework completed on a timely basis.
Mid-week exchanges can be very difficult for your children in terms of getting their homework completed and proper studying for school tests.
You must set up an access schedule that helps to ensure that your children do well in school. Their academic and work future depends on it!
What Sports Activities are Your Children Involved In?
You and your former spouse should work together to determine the best out-of-school and sports activities for your children.
You must create an access schedule that makes sense when you consider the activities in which your children are involved.
The True Test for Determining An Access Schedule
for Your Children
The true test for creating an effective access schedule for your children is what is in the best interests of your children.
By carefully considering the factors set out above, you can determine a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of your children.
You must put the needs of your children first to create an effective access schedule. You and your spouse cannot create an access schedule that simply satisfies your needs or your former spouse’s needs.
Here’s the bottom line:You need an excellent level of co-operation with your spouse to create an access schedule that accommodates frequent exchanges, school homework, and out-of-school activities, such as sports and scouts.
Use Specific Days and Times in Your Access Schedule to Help Maintain
A Close Relationship With Your Children
Undoubtedly, your access schedule will work most effectively with specific days and times for a parent’s access to their children.
If you use a traditional access schedule, you set out that a parent has access from Friday night at a specific time, such as 4:00 p.m., to Sunday night at a specific time, such as 7:00 p.m.
When you have a 50/50 schedule with each parent having the children on a rotating week-about basis, you want to set out when the exchange of the children occurs, such as every Sunday night at 8:00 p.m.
Why are the specific days and time so important? The answer is that you can avoid any misunderstandings with the other parent about the drop off and pick up times for the exchanges of your children for access purposes.
A parent can easily cause problems for another parent when there are no specific days and times set out for access. A parent can seriously try to limit the other parent’s access to the children if there are no specific dates and times set out for access.
Don’t be fooled by the other parent into thinking that they will give you access anytime that you request it. You will inevitably face problems with access to your children if you agree to this approach.
You want to have an access schedule with specific days and times set out in a separation agreement, parenting plan or court order.
What is Supervised Access?
In some situations, you might need the other parent to have their access with your children supervised as a result of some problems with the other parent.
For example, let’s say the other parent has not seen you children for a number of months or several years. The other parent could also have some serious addiction issues, such as dependency on alcohol or drugs.
In these examples, you have some serious concerns about the ability of the other parent to care for your children on their own. You need the access to be supervised to ensure the safety of your children.
You can recommend certain people, such as friends or relatives, who could supervise the other parent’s access. You could also have the access take place at a supervised access centre in your local community.
Just remember that supervised access is a temporary measure. When the supervised access has gone well for a few months, the other parent can often move to unsupervised access.
The Best Way To Create An Effective Access Schedule
For Your Children
STOP and imagine yourself with a very effective access or visitation schedule for your children. Clearly this will make your life much easier and also much better for your children.
If you want answers on how to create an effective access or visitation schedule for your children, call Thomas O’Malley, a dedicated and experienced family law lawyer, at (905) 434-8837 to set up an initial consultation.
In fact, he will create an effective access schedule for you when you hire him to help solve your separation, divorce or family court issues.
Call his office today to get a solid and effective access schedule for your children.