Custody & Access

How to reach sound decisions that will protect the future of your children

Custody and access to children - Toronto Family Law Lawyer - Howard NightingaleHoward Nightingale Professional Corporation will guide you through the procedures for custody and access so that you will be fully informed at every step. We explain the laws, legal procedures and your rights and entitlements, so that you fully understand your legal options. As well, Howard Nightingale carefully listens to your priorities and concerns, so that we can accurately articulate your wishes and address your concerns during negotiations and in court. We can help you to reach the sound decisions that will protect the future of your children and your relationship with them.


The word “custody” is sometimes used to mean the essential physical custody and day-to-day care of the child. At other times, it is used in a broader sense to mean the full bundle of rights and responsibilities of a parent to a child. Custody means the control and guardianship of a child given to an adult by the court or under a separation agreement between parents. This generally includes physical care of the child and the legal responsibility to make decisions for the child regarding education, religion and health care, as well as to provide the child with food, clothing and shelter. There are two types of custody: joint custody and sole custody. In brief, joint custody provides for the participation of both parents in making the decisions affecting their child’s life and well being. Sole custody, as the term implies, makes one person responsible for these decisions. While joint custody is preferred, if parents can no longer agree or compromise, then the court will appoint one parent to act in the best decisions of the child.

For more information about the difference between joint and sole custody or to receive individual legal advice, please contact Howard Nightingale Professional Corporation.

Access or Visitation

Please note that access differs from custody, Access can be regarded as a form of temporary care of the child (sometimes called visitation). Access is not intended to be merely the right of the parent to visit a child. Instead, access is considered to be a right that belongs to the child, so that the child may have contact and maintain a relationship with a parent or other person seeking access. Access is intended to facilitate a meaningful, continuing, post-separation relationship between the child and the access parent.

Access takes place at the convenience of the child’s schedule, and in accordance with the child’s age and stage of development. An access schedule can be increased as the child grows older and more independent from the custodial parent, yet it is always preferable to have some form of written access schedule that both parties have agreed to follow. The written access schedule can be flexible and changed from time to time, if both parties agree.
At Howard Nightingale Professional Corporation we can negotiate a comprehensive access schedule for you, taking into consideration your child’s needs, annual holidays, long weekends, your family’s religious observances and school vacation periods. Howard Nightingale will assist you in resolving access issues.

Variation of Custody/Access Orders

Custody and access orders are not carved in stone. Family law takes into account that parents’ and children’s circumstances and schedules can change over the years. Accordingly, a parent who wishes to vary a custody or access order can apply to the court for a change, based on the condition, means, needs or other special circumstances of the child or parent.

Ontario family law regarding custody and access applies to common-law or same-sex parents in the same way as married parents, to negotiate or apply for custody and/or access orders from the court. The court’s primary concern in any custody or access proceeding is to uphold the best interests of the child.


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