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Child Custody Lawyer – How do You Change Custody and Access Arrangements?

When parents divorce or separate, they create a Parenting Agreement, most often with the help of a family lawyer or child custody lawyer. The Parenting Agreement details how parents will communicate with one another regarding the care of their child or children, parenting philosophy, and how you will resolve any disagreements. Most importantly for many parents, a Parenting Agreement details living arrangements and schedules, and responsibility for making decisions regarding education, medical needs, and other major life decisions.

Changes to Divorce Act Regarding “Custody and Access”

In March 2021, the Government of Canada updated the Divorce Act. One of the biggest changes was to legal terminology.

Prior to the changes, divorce proceedings used terms like “child custody” and “child access”. Custody referred to which parent made the majority of decisions regarding the child’s care. Child access was how much time each parent was able to spend with their children. Agreements between parents were typically built with the help of a child custody lawyer, or via the courts.

Under the 2021 changes, decisions about custody and access were grouped under parenting arrangements, with the following new terminology:

  • Decision-making responsibility – who is responsible for major life decisions (this can be one parent or shared).
  • Parenting time – the time each parent is responsible for caring for the child.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the parent with parenting time can make day-to-day decisions (such as bedtime, meals, and activities).

Although much of the focus was on terminology, the changes reflect trends in parenting, where parents are sharing childcare responsibility more equally.

If you divorced prior to the Divorce Act changes, the language of your Divorce Order does not change. However, if you wish to change your arrangements, your updated agreement will reflect the new language.

Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer to Make Changes to Parenting Plans?

No…and yes. Some parenting arrangements changes are relatively simple: for example, one parent may change jobs, and their new working hours could affect the parenting schedule. In other cases, changes might be more complex, like one parent wishing to move away taking the child or children with them, greatly reducing the access of the other parent.

Where there is open communication and agreement on the changes, parents may agree informally to the changes without needing to update their parenting arrangements.

Even if you approve the changes informally, however, it is best to update your parenting arrangements with the help of your child custody lawyer. In these cases, it’s advised that both parents seek advice from their family lawyer independently.

Process for Changing Parenting Agreements with a Child Custody Lawyer

To change your parenting agreement, you will need to file documents, and you may have to appear in court.

The first step is to communicate the desired change with the other parent.

If both parties agree to the changes, you need to file a:

  • Consent motion to change child support – for issues involving child support only, or a
  • Consent motion to change – if the change involves parenting time (custody and access), or decision-making responsibility (custody).

Your child custody lawyer can help you with the updates to the Parenting Agreement and filing the necessary documentation.

If the parents do not both agree to the changes, a motion to change is filed, and the case is heard in court. In this event, a child custody lawyer can help you file the motion, prepare your case, and represent your interests in court.

Priority is Always in the Best Interests of the Child

The main consideration the court will take into account when considering or changing Parenting Arrangements is the “best interests of the child”.

The court’s primary consideration will be the safety, security, and well-being of the child.

After that, the court may also consider factors like:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent, their siblings, and extended family/support group.
  • The child’s views and preferences
  • The child’s cultural heritage
  • The ability of each party to care for the child

Need to Make Changes to Your Parenting Plan? Contact the Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm

You can trust the family law team at the Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm. Our experienced child custody lawyers have experience in all aspects of parenting from child support to parenting time and decision-making. Whether you’re considering mediation, negotiation, or going to court, we have the knowledge and skills to help guide you to the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us to consult on your case today.

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Resources:
Ontario.ca – Motions to change a final order or written agreement: https://www.ontario.ca/document/guide-procedures-family-court/motions-change-final-order-or-written-agreement

Canada.ca – Parenting arrangements after separation or divorce:
https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/fact-fiches.html