Courts assume that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain contact with the non-custodial parent. The court will deny access only if there is strong evidence that access will harm the child.
Parents often feel uncomfortable about access because they are afraid of meeting the other parent when they transfer the child. A common remedy is to have one parent drop off the child with a trusted third party and then leave. The other parent picks up the child approximately 15 minutes later. The parties need to agree mutually on a suitable third party.
There is a government program called the Supervised Access Program. The Supervised Access Program can either supervise entire access visits or just be the third party when transferring the child between the parents. Courts might suggest using this program if the parties cannot agree on a third party or the court wants to review the notes of the program’s supervisors to help decide if the access visits are good for the child. Courts are reluctant to suggest this service, however, because there are long waiting list and an extensive intake process (an intake form and an interview). In Kitchener, the Program is called the “Child and Parent Place” and is run by the Lutherwood Child and Family Foundation. The website is here.
Parents and judges have almost unlimited options when fixing an access schedule. Just as a starting point, a common access Order may look something like this:
1. The non-custodial parents shall have access to the child during the following times:
- Every Wednesday evening from 6:00 until 9:00 p.m.;
- Every second weekend from Friday 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 4:00 p.m.;
- A telephone call every Saturday night at 6:00 p.m.;
- Six consecutive weeks during the child’s summer holiday. The parties will decide the exact time by April 30 of each year;
- March Break;
- Commencing 2012 and every even-numbered year thereafter, during the first week of the child’s Christmas vacation;
- Commencing 2013 and every odd-numbered year thereafter, during the second week
- of the child’s Christmas vacation;
- During the non-custodial parent’s birthday and Father’s Day (or Mother’s Day);
2. No parent shall expose the child to discussions that reveal details about these legal proceedings or that denigrate the other parent;
3. The parents shall use his or her best efforts to accommodate timely requests for specific schedule changes.
4. Neither parent shall change his or her residence without giving the other parent at least 60 days written notice;
5. A parent taking the child outside of Ontario shall provide a written itinerary and contact information to the other parent
6. The parties shall communicate with each other via Email. This communication shall include requests for a schedule change and details about the last visit including the following:
- Details about the child’s bad behaviour and resulting punishment;
- Any health concerns;
- Any special events involving the child;
- What school work the child must complete;