Custody & Access

  1. COVID-19 update: no youth in care or former youth in care in Ontario will age out of care during this time. Please contact us if you have questions.

    Legal Aid Ontario is providing anyone with a family law matter with up to 20 minutes of free legal advice and information from a duty counsel lawyer by calling 1-800-668-8258.

    Children receive legal services in family court (custody/access and child protection) through the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. JFCY does not represent young people on these matters.

  2. My parents are splitting up, what happens to me?

    If your parents separate or divorce, either one parent will have custody of you or your parents will share custody. You will live with the parent(s) who has custody. If one parent has custody, that parent will make decisions about your welfare. If your parents share custody, they will make those decisions together.

    When one parent has custody, the other parent will often have access. Access visits and schedule are either decided by the parents (by agreement) or by an application to a court for a decision by a judge (court order). It is the responsibility of the parent(s) to make applications in court for new custody and access orders, or to change an existing order. If a case is in court, either parent or the judge can ask for your wishes to be represented by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. This is not an area of law that our office engages in.

  3. What is an assessment?

    An assessment is a report prepared by a psychologist, social worker or other professional who may recommend where you should live. The assessor will meet with you and your parents, sometimes together and separately. What you say to the assessor can be put into the report. If you have questions about an assessment, a youth serving agency or lawyer can help you with this.

  4. Do I get to have a say?

    Once you are capable of understanding the situation, you have the right to give input by expressing your wishes. As you get older these views become more important.

    In court, you can have a lawyer to represent your wishes. If the judge thinks this is a good idea, the judge appoints a lawyer from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. Sometimes your parents can ask the judge to appoint the Office of the Children’s Lawyer for you. If a lawyer is not appointed for you, you can ask your parent to talk to their lawyer about this.

    You can get information about custody an access from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. There are also books that have information about custody and access.

    The process of custody and access can be difficult for everyone and many people will have input into the decision-making process. Your wishes are important, however, you will not always get what you want.

  5. Will I get to visit the family members I don’t live with?

    A decision will be made about your visits to your family members, including your brothers and sisters that you are not living with. Decisions can also be made about visits with your grandparents. Sometimes parents work out the times that you can call them on the telephone or that they can come to see you play sports or do other activities. Contact with you is called access.

  6. How old must I be to decide for myself where I live?

    If you are 16 years of age or older, you can generally decide where you want to live. This may or may not involve your parents – see the Leaving Home section of this Wiki for more information.

    If you are under 16 years, depending on your ability to understand the situation, your views will generally be heard. Some courts have given a child the right to go to court to give his or her views on the custody, access, or support terms in custody for access to brothers and sisters even if the parents or guardians do not agree. This is not common. It is generally the responsibility of parents to go to court for custody and access changes, and then either parent or the judge can ask for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to represent your wishes.

    If you are under the age of 14 years there are laws that prevent parents form keeping you in their custody without the permission of the person who has legal custody.

    The law is different for young people in the care of CAS. Speak to an Advocate or Lawyer about about your situation.