One of the most common and contentious issues when parents separate involves custody and parenting time arrangements for children. In particular, many fathers want to know if they are automatically entitled to parenting time with their kids if the mother has custody. The short answer is yes. Fathers have a right to parenting time in Ontario. Or, to put it another way, children have a right to a healthy relationship with each parent.
Let’s take a closer look at the current laws and norms in Ontario around fathers’ post-separation rights to parenting time in the province.
Parenting Time vs. Decision-Making Responsibility
In family law, decision-making responsibility is the authority to make crucial decisions concerning a child’s health, education, religion, and other significant life matters.
There are three main types of decision-making responsibility in Ontario:
- Sole Decision-Making Responsibility: A parent with sole decision-making responsibility has the exclusive authority to make major life decisions for the child. They don’t have to consult the other parent unless a separation agreement or court order requires it explicitly.
- Joint Decision-Making Responsibility: When parents have joint decision-making responsibility, they share the authority and duty to make decisions concerning their child’s life. Both parents must maintain open communication and cooperation for an effective joint arrangement.
- De Facto Decision-Making Responsibility: This applies when children reside with one parent, but no official legal agreement or order exists regarding decision-making.
The term “parenting time” refers to the time when a child is under a parent’s care. This may include times when the child is not physically with the parent, such as during school hours. By default, every parent has the right to parenting time, including fathers, unless a court dictates otherwise.
The principal types of parenting time are as follows:
- Shared Parenting Time: In shared parenting time arrangements, both parents divide the time they spend with their children, sometimes relatively equally.
- Split Parenting Time: For families with multiple children, split parenting time means each parent predominantly looks after one or more children. In this type of arrangement, each child spends designated time with a different parent.
- Supervised Parenting Time: This type of special arrangement is necessary when there are concerns about a child’s safety during their parenting time. An additional person must be present during these visits to ensure safety. Supervised parenting time arrangements often come from court orders. In theory, such orders are supposed to be short-lived.
Who Has a Right to Parenting Time in Ontario?
In Ontario, parents – fathers as well as mothers – have a right to parenting time with their children. Non-parents (such as grandparents) can only apply for visitation rights through a contact order. This includes fathers who are not biologically related to or lawfully adoptive parents of their children.
Remember, parenting time alone does not grant a father the right to make significant life decisions for their child. Moreover, courts can refuse requests for parenting time in cases involving credible concerns of potential abduction or harm to the child or the other parent.
The courts might get involved if either parent contests a parenting time arrangement. If this happens, the court will aim to preserve both parents’ involvement in the child’s life if doing so is possible and safe. The prevailing understanding – one backed up by considerable research – is that children benefit from maximum time with both parents. Overall, fathers have a recognized right to seek fair parenting time in Ontario, whether by agreement with the mother or by court order if necessary.
Learn More About Your Rights as a Father in Toronto
Are you a father in Ontario seeking to establish your right to parenting time with your kids? The knowledgeable family law team at the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre can help. Contact us today to arrange a comprehensive remote consultation about your rights, or get started online now.