Child Custody and Visitation

Custody and visitation (a.k.a. access) issues are often the most stressful part of a divorce or separation.  The family law lawyers at Spiteri & Ursulak LLP relieve some of this stress by providing our clients with reliable legal information and advice.  We work closely with our clients so that we gain an understanding of their families’ unique needs.  We work toward a solution that works well for all involved while ensuring that our client’s interests are protected.

What is Custody?

Custody is often misunderstood as referring to where a child lives.  In fact, it refers to who has the authority to make major decisions in regard to the child.  In most cases, joint custody will be the appropriate result, with the parents jointly making decisions regarding the child(ren)’s health, education and religious upbringing.

Where parents are simply unable to cooperate in making decisions for the benefit of their child(ren), a sole custodial arrangement may be necessary.  A parent with sole custody has the authority to make decisions regarding the child(ren)’s upbringing.

What are Visitation or Access Rights?

When parents separate, an access schedule must be put in place for the child(ren) to see each parent.  There is a presumption that a goal of access should be maximum contact with each parent, but the most important concern is always what is in the best interests of the child.   This can encompass many factors and separating parents frequently disagree on how much time each should be spending with the child(ren). 

The Importance of Creating a Comprehensive Parenting Plan

Divorcing or separating parents can work together with their respective lawyers to draft a parenting plan, which will set out issues such as how much time the child will spend with each parent and with whom he or she will spend holidays.  If there are other individuals, such as grandparents,  who spend time with the child on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to include provisions regarding when the child will spend time with them.

Creating an agreed-upon parenting plan allows parents to decide what is best for their child and themselves and make provisions for any unique circumstances that exist in their family.  Furthermore, setting out a clear and detailed plan can help prevent misunderstandings and disagreements.

The breakup of a family can be very difficult for children, but they are resilient and they can adjust to a new family dynamic.  Time and again, research has shown that it is parental conflict that is devastating to children of a marriage (legal or common law) breakup, not the break up itself.

The family law lawyers at Spiteri & Ursulak LLP have a great deal of experience in drafting clear, realistic parenting plans that serve the interests of children and their parents.  While creating a parenting plan is a largely cooperative process, we never abandon our role as advocates for our clients.  We ensure that our clients’ rights and interests are preserved in the final plan.

The Role of the Courts in Custody and Access Matters [H2]

In situations where parents are able to come to agreements regarding the care of their children, courts are happy to take a back seat.  However, where parents are unable to come to a mutually-agreed upon parenting plan or visitation schedule, a judge will create a plan or schedule based on his or her assessment of what will best serve the child’s interests.  Furthermore, if one parent does not follow the parenting plan or visitation schedule, the other parent can apply to the court to have it enforced.

Whenever the court is asked to become involved, its concern will be to create and enforce agreements that are “in the best interests of the child.”  So long as there are no safety issues, courts generally prefer arrangements that maximize the amount of time a child spends with each parent.

If you and the other parent of your child cannot agree on a parenting plan or if the other parent is refusing to follow the plan you have agreed upon, the family law litigators at Spiteri & Ursulak LLP are ready to provide you with skilled representation in court.  We will fearlessly protect your rights and interests.

Family Law Lawyers Ready to Assist with Custody and Visitation Matters in Ottawa and Toronto.

If you have questions about custody and access issues, please contact our experienced family law lawyers at 613-563-1010 or