Some of the biggest decisions separated or divorcing parents face are about their children. Ideally, children should spend time with both parents. And, under Ontario Family Law, both parents have a legal obligation to financially support and care for their children. It doesn’t matter what the living arrangements are.
But there are situations when it’s in the children’s best interest for one parent to have full custody. Whether it’s because the other parent can’t provide adequate care, or lives elsewhere, or another valid reason, it could make sense for one parent to be the primary decision-maker. If you are in this situation, what do you need to do to get full custody of your child?
What Is Full Custody?
Full custody, also called sole custody, means that one parent makes all the significant decisions about the child’s care. These could be decisions about education or health care. Although children usually live with the parent who has sole custody, that is not always the case. That’s because custody is about the decision-making responsibility, not the living arrangements.
There are other custody arrangements—joint and shared. But, if you want full custody of your children, those arrangements are less relevant.
How to Decide Full Custody?
The best way to decide custody is for you and your soon-to-be ex to reach an agreement. You could save money and aggravation by doing so. Usually agreements negotiated between both parents work best for the children. Both of you need to decide details such as who the children will live with, how often the children will see their other parent, and any support payments. Once you do, write down your decisions in parenting plan. This parenting plan can be included in your separation agreement and filed with the court. Before you both sign the agreement, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer who specializes in family law review it to be sure it’s complete and protects everyone’s rights.
There is help if you and your soon-to-be ex can’t reach an agreement about the full custody of your children on your own. You can hire law professionals who are trained and experienced in collaborative law and mediation to direct negotiations. These professionals work consistently to bring you and your former spouse to agreement. They don’t take sides and don’t allow discussions to veer off into blame or accusations. Their goal is to reach solutions that work for the two of you and your children. Once you have an agreement, again the details are put in writing in the parenting plan.
When Collaboration Fails
What can you do if collaboration or mediation doesn’t work? You may have to let the court decide. This can be a costly and lengthy option. An affidavit where you outline how you plan to parent your children will be filed with the court. Be sure that affidavit focuses on what your plans and your ability to parent are. Do not use it as an opportunity to list all the reasons your former spouse shouldn’t have custody. The judge will consider a number of factors when making a decision, but the key factor is what arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
Because the well-being of your children is at stake, it’s highly recommended you seek the expert advice of a family law professional. Lawyers who specialize in family law can guide you through negotiating an agreement about custody for your children and ensure your rights are protected.
Get the Legal Advice and Support You Deserve
When you having full custody of your children is in their best interest, you need the expert advice of a legal professional specializing in family law. Take care of your children’s rights and ensure you’re meeting your legal obligations. You will also get the support you need during this difficult time.
Galbraith Family Law lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice, and we have been named the top firm by the Barrie Examiner multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.
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