Parenting Time in Ontario: Understanding Shared vs. Equal Parenting

In the realm of family law, particularly in cases of separation or divorce involving children, determining parenting arrangements can be a complex and emotionally charged process. Among the various considerations, one significant aspect is the allocation of parenting time between the parties involved. In Ontario, understanding the distinction between “shared parenting time” and “equal parenting time” is crucial for establishing fair and effective parenting agreements.

In Ontario family law, “shared parenting” refers to a situation where parents jointly exercise normal parenting authority, and the child divides their time between the respective homes of the parents. It’s important to note that shared parenting doesn’t necessarily entail an equal division of time between parents. On the other hand, “equal parenting time” specifically denotes a scenario where the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent.

When negotiating parenting agreements or when such matters are brought before the court, several legal principles and precedents come into play. Recent amendments to Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act have replaced the terminology related to custody and access with terms related to parenting. Custody now encompasses decision-making responsibility, while access has been redefined as parenting time for parents and contact for non-parents.

Central to any decision regarding parenting arrangements is the best interests of the child. Ontario courts prioritize the physical, emotional, and psychological safety, security, and well-being of the child above all else. This means that when determining parenting orders or contact orders, the court’s primary consideration is always what serves the child’s best interests.

While there are legal definitions and principles guiding the determination of shared and equal parenting time, the specifics of each case can vary. For instance, what constitutes “substantially equal parenting time” may not always mean precisely equal time spent with each parent. In a notable case before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, it was observed that a child spending five out of 14 days with a parent could be considered substantially equal parenting time, taking into account various factors such as historical parenting arrangements and the intent of the parties involved.

In Ontario family law, the concepts of shared and equal parenting time play significant roles in shaping parenting arrangements post-separation or divorce. Understanding the legal definitions, principles, and nuances involved is essential for negotiating fair and effective agreements that prioritize the best interests of the child. While there are guiding principles, each case is unique, and decisions are ultimately made with the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration.

Contact Galbraith Family Law today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards resolving your family law matter in Ontario. To schedule a consultation, please call 1-888-880-2661 or contact us online. We serve clients in and around Barrie, Newmarket, St. Catharines, and Oakville.

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