Uncontested Divorce and Child Custody
Uncontested divorces should be easy, right? Who cares for children and what access each spouse has can be unresolved even in uncontested divorces. Axess Law's Ontario family lawyers can advise you legally when you and your spouse agree on all of the issues except decision-making responsibility and parenting time (the new Canada Divorce Act terms for custody and access).
We're skilled at helping you at coping with divorce and child custody.
Divorce and Child Custody
Ideally, you and your spouse will share responsibility for your children after you separate and divorce. Many times though, spouses who think divorce is best for everyone disagree on how to provide for children.
Uncontested divorce child custody matters must be addressed before you finalize divorce arrangements or an Ontario family court judge may settle them for you. If you and your spouse consent to divorce but haven't decided care and parenting arrangements for minor children under 19 or dependent adults, Axess Law recommends making an informal or formal legal separation agreement.
Making a Separation Agreement in Ontario
Separation agreements state where children will reside when their parents live separate and apart. They allow you and your spouse to stay in your matrimonial home, if you can get along, or one of you may move out, with or without the children.
Typically, one parent lives with the children, while the other takes the children part of the week or on alternate weeks. If you live in the same home, you may share decision-making responsibility and parenting time equally.
You can separate for as long as you like while you work out decision-making responsibility and parenting time arrangements. If you reach agreement, your uncontested divorce can proceed. Or you can decide to contest the divorce by going to Ontario family court.
What Living Separate and Apart Means
As long as you are making an effort to separate as a couple, you can live in the same home together until your divorce is through. Living separate and apart means you don't act like a couple or do things like have sex, go to events, cook or eat together.
Deciding the Best Interests of the Child
Divorce and child custody issues are determined by family courts based on the best interests of the child. Your decisions must include a parenting plan. The plan can state who usually cares for the children, but must:
- Encourage children to spend as much time as possible with parents, siblings, grandparents and other significant people in their lives.
- Reflect their needs, based on age and development.
- Consider their views and preferences, if they can express them.
- Allow for children's cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage.
- State caregivers' ability and willingness to care for and meet children's needs and communicate and cooperate with each other. Indicate if a court order requiring the parties to cooperate is appropriate.
- Detail any family violence, its impact on and the abuser's ability and willingness to care for and meet children's needs.
- Include civil or criminal proceedings, orders, conditions or measures relevant to children's safety, security and well-being. Parents' past conduct is only relevant if it affects children's safety.
Family judges may ask other questions before agreeing to your parenting plan. You can tell the judge if you disagree with the way your spouse treats or supervises your children. But you cannot introduce past conduct unless the children's safety, security or well-being is at risk.
Children's Rights to Decide
Older children who understand the effect of their decisions may tell you their wishes and preferences for who they want to live or spend their time with. If you agree as a couple, you can include that in your separation agreement.
Ontario family court must agree to decision-making responsibility and parenting time decisions before any divorce is finalized. Judges will hear children's requests to live with someone other than parents, or have arrangements in your separation agreement changed, and decide based on the best interests of the child.
They may even agree to split custody, separating siblings because one or more children prefer to live with a specific parent. Split custody decisions are not usually made for children under 12, but could affect the parenting time you spend with a child.
When Parental Obligations End
Parents are responsible for children up to age 18 or beyond if they attend school, college or university full-time. For adult children with physical or mental disabilities, financial and support obligations may last a lifetime.
Why You Need a Lawyer
Axess Law's Greater Toronto Area family attorneys advise you on separation agreements you or your spouse have drafted before you sign. We explain how family law applies to uncontested divorces or give you independent legal advice (called an ILA certificate) before you act. We revise agreements to make separation easier for you and your children. If you need the Family Responsibility Office to collect child support, our Ontario family lawyers can file your separation agreement in family court.
Axess Law family attorneys make referrals to licensed mediators for alternative dispute resolution if you can't decide as a couple where children will live or on parenting time. A mediator can be a neutral listener and coach. We offer suggestions on how to find family law professionals who can negotiate or arbitrate agreements if settling your differences seems unlikely.
Finding Ontario Parenting Coordinators
Couples who are struggling to make parenting arrangements or follow court orders may benefit from hiring a parenting coordinator. Axess Law can show you how to find parenting coordinators who can:
- figure out parenting time schedules
- settle differences without involving your children
- decide issues for you by speaking with others important to your children's lives.
Booking Appointments for Uncontested Divorces
Axess Law's Ontario family lawyers explain parenting plans for separation agreements and uncontested divorces. Call our 1-647-479-0118 lawyer line or book appointments using our convenient online form. We video conference with you anywhere in Ontario or can meet you in person at our Greater Toronto Area law offices, 7 days a week, at times that fit your schedule.