Sherman Law LLP

Child Custody & Access


The structure of the modern family has changed from the nuclear family of the past. There are now far more variations. Family law is also changing to reflect the shift in family structure and parenting. Previous perceptions that custody should be granted to a mother, with visitation and access granted to a father is no longer the norm. It is also no longer true that a father will work and generate the most income.

It can be difficult and painful to go through a child custody dispute. You may find yourself in a situation of conflict that escalated quickly and with little warning. Our experience as Kitchener family law lawyers has taught us that these disputes require a focused approach and regular monitoring to ensure that potential escalation of conflict is prevented and that the necessary reactions taken are quick and professional.

Mother and daughter in the kitchen

Custody and access are areas of family law that many people find very confusing. These terms describe the issues of where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and who will make parenting decisions. We will help you understand the differences between the terms.

What is the difference between custody and access?

Custody refers to the person who is assigned parental decision-making authority in relation to the children, in four major areas:  education, health, religion, and major recreational activities.

There are many different forms of custody, including:

  • Sole custody – one parent is responsible for decision-making.

  • Joint custody – parents make decisions jointly.

  • Shared custody – custody and living arrangements are split between both spouses.

  • Parallel parenting – each parent is responsible for decision-making in specifically defined areas.

Shared custody is becoming a much more common parenting arrangement in Ontario separations, where both parents will spend a minimum of 40 percent of the time with their children.

Custody arrangements do not affect where a child will live. Even if one parent has custody, the parents may decide to equally share time the child. Alternatively, even if a child lives primarily with one parent, that parent may not have sole decision-making authority and decisions may have to be made by both parents.

Access refers to the physical time a parent spends with their children.

Sometimes parents agree to residency schedules including where one parent maintains primary residence of the children. The other parent exercises visitation such as on alternate weekends and one evening per week, or shared parenting, where the parties agree to exercise access equally, on what is often called a week-about exchange. There are many factors to consider when determining issues of custody and access, but the governing principal applied by the court is always what is in the best interest of the children.

You must always consider the best interest of the children.

Getting the best results in a child custody dispute is always a delicate balance requiring strategy, experience and skill. Whether you choose to begin negotiations or commence a court proceeding, our team of highly skilled Kitchener family law lawyers has the expertise required to ensure that the issues of custody and access are resolved in a manner that promotes the best interest of the children and maximizes the chances of successful parenting.

In family law, the best interest of the child is a prevailing factor. Custody arrangements must take into account the best interests of the children, in additional to issues of scheduling and parent availability. Issues affecting the children, including schooling, doctor’s appointments, and involvement in sports and clubs, are considered when determining the best interests of the children. 

Do you want to learn more about custody and access?

For over 40 years, clients have trusted in our ability to explain their rights and obligations in a separation or a divorce. We are confident that you will appreciate our professional and personalized service. We invite you to browse our website and read the positive things others have to say about us. To benefit from our knowledge and experience with respect to custody and access as part of your separation or divorce, please contact 519-884-0034 or send us an email. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, as well as by lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. We serve clients in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and surrounding areas.

Connect with a lawyer in our firm with expertise in this area

Aubrey J.  Sherman

Aubrey J.  Sherman