Area of Law: Family Law
Answer Number: 114
Visitation and access rightsRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 114
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A parent who is not given custody of a child can still have rights to visit the child and take part in the child’s life. These are called access rights. Access rights allow you to visit with your children and know about their health, education and general welfare. You and your spouse can either agree on visitation yourselves or you can ask the court to give you an access order. Access orders can be open or they can be specifically structured depending on the circumstances.
Types of access
Generally, the court will order one of the following three types of access: reasonable, fixed, or supervised. In some cases, access will be denied.
1. Reasonable access
If both parents are in agreement, access arrangements can be left open and flexible instead of having a detailed schedule. This is sometimes called reasonable access, and it allows the parents to informally make arrangements that can easily be changed if the situation changes.
2. Fixed access
If the terms of the access include a specific and detailed schedule, this is known as fixed or specified access. The terms may cover things like holidays and birthdays.
A typical fixed access order is one in which the parent who is given access will be with the child on alternate weekends and perhaps one evening in between. Long weekends will be divided equally as will Christmas vacations and March break. An access parent will usually have the child for two or three weeks in the summer to coincide with their own vacations. Fixed access orders may include where access will take place, or other conditions.
3. Supervised access
There may also be cases where access needs to be supervised by another person. For instance, when the parent with access:
- has a problem with drugs or alcohol,
- has abused the child in the past, or
- has threatened or tried to take the child away from the other parent.
A social worker, relative, friend, or children’s aid worker may all qualify to be the one who supervises the access visit.
4. No access
Where appropriate, the non-custodial parent may be denied access. This usually happens in only the most extreme cases, such as when serious child neglect or abuse has been proven, or where a child’s safety is at risk.
A lawyer can help you understand your rights and establish the best possible arrangement for you and your children.
For more information about visitation and access rights, visit the Ministry of the Attorney General website.
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