Children’s Issues

How does the court decide custody and visitation? What can I do to improve my chances of getting custody?

Working from the testimony of both parties (and possibly from that of the children themselves), the court considers the following factors in deciding the final custody and visitation arrangement: how the children and parents interact with each other; how well the parents communicate and cooperate on matters relating to the children; how well each parent addresses the children's needs; the stability and safety of each parent's home environment; the accessibility of education, clothing, food and recreation from each parent's home; and the children's own preferences, if they are considered old enough to make a proper decision. The court generally considers which parent's environment better serves the best interests of the children.

If you want to get full custody of your children, be sure to remain a responsible, caring, involved parent to them. Always be attentive to their physical, emotional and social needs, putting them ahead of your own; don't depend overly on your spouse for these things. If you have a work schedule that allows you to take an active role in the overall care of your children – while allowing you to earn enough money to do so – this is an advantage. Involve yourself in all aspects of their lives, including school, medical and dental care, and other activities.

Lastly, recognize that your children will continue to have attachments to the other parent. Show that you will be cooperative with your ex in terms of visitation, and encourage your children to have relationships with him or her (unless, of course, your ex has a history of abuse or violence). As the court will take note of the importance of both parents in the children's lives, so must you.

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How can I increase my chances of getting full custody of my boys?

Custody means the right to make major decisions about the best interests of a child. A parent who has sole or full custody of a child is usually the primary caregiver for that child and usually lives with that child for the majority of the time.

Generally, courts will award sole custody to the parent who is more closely connected with the day-to-day care of a child and who is more child-focused. A father who takes an active role in the raising of a child, and who has a work schedule that permits him time to look after the child on a day-to-day basis, has an excellent chance of obtaining sole custody of the child.

In order to increase your chances of getting sole custody of your boys, be sure to be involved in all aspects of their lives — from school, to medical and dental care, to extracurricular activities. Put the children's needs ahead of your own, and adapt your schedule to theirs, as much as possible.

Finally, be sure to recognize the importance of the boys' mother in their lives, and encourage the boys to have a healthy relationship with her. Courts recognize the importance of both parents in a child's life and will likely not grant custody to a father or mother who prevents a child from having a meaningful relationship with the other parent.

**This faq was first published in the Ontario Divorce Magazine and are reprinted here with their full permission.

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