Toronto Child Custody Lawyers
“Custody” is probably the most misunderstood word in family law. Technically, child custody refers to the right to make major decisions about a child, including where he or she will go to school, who will make medical decisions about the child, and various religious decisions. However, even if one parent has custody, that does not determine the parenting time each parent has with the child. In the past, it would sometimes be the case that one parent had custody and the other parent only had minimal access with the child, such as on alternate weekends. However, these old views have been changing over the past number of years, with a trend towards more cases of joint custody and more equal sharing of time.
Besides trends towards more equality in parenting, the terminology may be changing as well. The Federal Government is changing the Divorce Act to remove the words custody and access, and is replacing them with “decision making” and “parenting time.” The Divorce Act is also changing the law regarding when one parent can relocate with a child. Disputes among non-married parents will still involve questions of “custody” and “access” as the provincial Children’s Law Reform Act is not yet changing. Divorce Source lawyers have done an extensive review of the changes and is ready to guide you though a new territory of parenting laws.
Developments in Child Custody Cases
In addition to the above changes, there are many developments in parenting and children’s related issues. Children’s voices are encouraged to be heard more in parenting disputes, there is an increasing use of other professionals to help with disputes, and there is a trend towards more equality in parenting time.
Deciding who should make decisions about the child and where the child should reside is always something done according to the “best interests of the child”. The best interests test is the only standard for making such decisions. Of course, what the best interests of the child are cannot always be easily determined. The best interests of the child include a number of factors, including how long the child has been in a stable situation, the bonds of the child with each person claiming custody or access, and the child’s views and preferences, if those can be determined.
With respect to the “voice of the child”, and the child’s views and preferences, there are a number of ways to get the child’s voice heard in a custody and access dispute, in a way that provides the least amount of harm to the child. Trained professionals – whether social workers or lawyers – meet with the child and speak with the child in a sensitive and child-focused manner. It can be very damaging to a child emotionally when either of the separated spouses speak to the child and try to either ask where the child wants to live or pressure the child to live with one or more of the parents. We have seen very damaging situations where the children experience a very difficult and troubling time dealing with the pressure from parents.
When these issues are in dispute, sometimes they require a trial to determine who has custody and who has access. One of the Divorce Source lawyers has successfully conducted lengthy custody and access trials, in situations that were extremely high conflict. Divorce Source can give you advice about the evidence you need, the merits of your case, and advice as to what is a realistic outcome for child custody and access disputes among parents.
How Much Does a Contested Custody Case Cost?
The cost of a highly contested custody and access case is very difficult to predict. Unlike cases involving property and support, where the cost of legal fees can be assessed against the cost of what one might receive from the case, this is not the situation for custody and access cases. It is impossible to put a price on ensuring your child’s, or children’s, best interests are met in the child’s parenting arrangements. Fighting to ensure a child has the best parenting arrangements possible, especially when there are concerns about another parent, can be extremely important. Although parenting arrangements are never truly final, in the sense that they can be changed if there is a material change in circumstances, a parenting arrangement that is intended to be long term can affect both a parent’s life and a child’s life for years.
Often, child custody and access issues are of greater importance to parents than the financial issues in the case. Divorce Source lawyers believe in a long-term focus for resolving parenting disputes. Ideally, children benefit from a positive relationship with both parents. Resolving parenting disputes with foresight is important to your child’s growth and development in an otherwise tumultuous time. In the event parenting issues cannot be resolved, Divorce Source has extensive trial experience, especially with parenting issues, and are ready to fight for you at trial if necessary.
Contact An Experienced Legal Team
Divorce Source lawyers have also had experience with alienation cases. Alienation is a complicated and developing area of custody and access disputes. At a simple level, it involves one parent speaking so badly about the other parent that the child grows to hate the parent being spoken about. Alienation occur through speech, body language, and other messages sent to a child in different ways. However, not all cases where a child does not want to see a parent are “alienation”. Sometimes, there can be “justified estrangement”, where a parent has actually done something harmful to the child, emotionally or physically, where the child simply does not want to spend time with the parent. Because there can be many reasons why a child does not want to see a parent, it is critical to have an experienced lawyer who can navigate a case of alleged alienation effectively.
Divorce Source lawyers are always following the latest developments and will work for a comprehensive solution to parenting disputes that are in the best interests of the child and tailored to your specific situation.
Divorce Source lawyers can help you with your child custody and access case. At Divorce Source, you can count on knowledgeable, professional lawyers to help you through a difficult time in your life and help ensure your custody and access case is handled properly.