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What are custody and access in Canadian family law cases?

Family law cases that involve children are very serious matters. In some cases, parents work out agreements on their own and in others, they turn to the court system to make the choices about custody and access. If you are in the midst of a case that has to do with child custody and access, you should make sure that you understand what these two terms mean.

What is access?

Access has to do with the amount of time that you spend with the child. It is possible to have access to the child without having custody of the child. There are different types of access that are available in Canada, and each province sets its own laws about this. Typically, parents who can get along will use reasonable access. This means that the agreement is typically up to the parents but might have some court guidance in case of disagreements. Supervised access means that the parent can't be left alone with the child and has to have another adult present for the visits with the child. Conditional access means that specific conditions must be met in order for the parent to see the child. Specific access means that a firm schedule is set for which parent gets the child when. No access means that a parent can't see the child.

What is custody?

Custody has to do with making decisions for the child. This can include making decisions about the child's education, religion or faith, medical care and other similar matters. Even though it is typically thought of as child custody, actual custody doesn't have anything to do with what parent the child lives with as that is an access matter.

Source: Findlaw Canada, "Access rights and visitation," Miriam Yosowich, accessed Oct. 13, 2016

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