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Best Interests of the Child

How Does Ontario Law Address “Best Interests of the Child”?

Often, the most challenging part of navigating a divorce is addressing child custody issues. While all parents want what’s best for their children, sometimes separating partners don’t always agree on what that looks like post-divorce. The courts resolve complex family disputes and custody arrangements when that is the case.

How are child custody arrangements resolved in Ontario? Courts examine the “best interests of the child.” This principle helps guide how the legal system makes child custody decisions when parents cannot come to a mutual understanding.

At the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre, we understand how the best interests of the child principle can seem vague. How does the legal system evaluate what is best for a child? What’s more, how does the legal system determine what is best for your child? Our legal team wants to help you understand what lawyers, arbitrators, and judges mean by “best interests of the child.”

How Does Ontario Law Address “Best Interests of the Child”?

The Divorce Act is a federal law that governs the standards for divorcing couples. This law outlines how to address child support, spousal support, and parenting arrangements for children in divorce cases. Provincial and territorial laws govern the standards for non-married parents and those who choose not to claim a divorce.

Within the Divorce Act, a section outlines the factors considered when determining the best interests of a child. This section dictates that the child’s best interests should be the sole criterion for determining the outcome of child custody and access – which we now generically call “parenting”.

What are the best interests of the child? Many parents don’t understand the “best interests” standard. This standard gives the courts considerable discretion when determining parental conditions in parenting time and parental responsibility cases.

The Divorce Act sets out with particularity the main provisions that impact “best interests” in section 16(3). These provisions include the following:

  • The child’s needs given their age and development
  • The child’s relationship with each spouse and related family members
  • Each spouse’s ability to support the child’s relationship with the other spouse
  • The child’s care history
  • Any plans for the child’s future care
  • The child’s personal preferences, given their age and emotional maturity
  • The child’s upbringing and heritage, such as language, culture, and religion
  • Any history of family violence on the part of either parent
  • Any other criminal or civil legal matter that could affect the child’s safety, security, and well-being

The Children’s Law Reform Act (Ontario)

Under the Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act, courts also have specific criteria to help determine what parenting arrangements are in the child’s best interests, physically and emotionally, to help them grow and thrive. The Ontario list is similar to the federal Divorce Act list. (Actually, as a matter of historical interest, it was Ontario that first brought in the shopping list of factors many years ago; it was the feds who brought the Divorce Act into harmony with the approach of the Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act.)

Contact an Experienced Ontario Family Law Lawyer Today 

At the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre, we know that your child’s well-being comes first. We aim to protect your child’s rights and help you build a solid and stable relationship with your child post-divorce/separation.

Arrange an initial consultation with experienced family law lawyer, Gene C. Colman, today. We want to advocate for you and your family. You can get started online from the above link or you can call us at 888-389-3099.

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