Updated: Apr 1, 2019
When parents separate and the child resides primarily with one parent, the other parent must rely on access visits to continue their relationship with the child. There are many forms and variations on access which reflect the many different circumstances that may arise. A typical access schedule is every other weekend plus one evening during the week.
However, a parent does not necessarily have an automatic right to access with the child. If the custodial parent is not permitting the other parent access, then that other parent may apply to the court for an order respecting access.
The obvious problem with making an access application is that access is a moving target. Children will grow and circumstances will change. What you are seeking today may not be important as the child grows older. This does not accord well with the court process which, in some cases, can take years to resolve.
That said, the most important factor in any access application is what is in the best interests of the child. This principle cannot be over stated. What’s in the best interests of the child guides all the court’s decisions relating to access, custody, and child support. If you are asking the court for anything related to the child, you must demonstrate why what you are asking is in the best interests of the child.
The steps involved in an application for access are as follows.
First you must prepare and issue the following documents at the courthouse:
1. Application [Form 8 (General)]
2. Affidavit in support of claim for custody or access [Form 35.1]
3. Financial Statement [Form 13 or 13.1]
You can find those forms here, http://ontariocourtforms.on.ca/en/family-law-rules-forms/
A financial statement is not necessarily required when making an application for custody or access, but it is suggested. It will become important if child support, and thus Section 7 expenses, is or becomes an issue. If child support is an issue and there are not any property issues, you would use Form 13. If there are property issues in addition to child support, then you must use Form 13.1.
Once those documents have been prepared and issued, you must have them hand delivered to the other parent. Next, you must allow the other parent 30 days to respond to the documents. From there, you will proceed through a case conference, settlement conference, trial management conference, then trial. Either parent may bring a motion, to the court anytime after the case conference unless there is an urgent matter. In that case a motion may be brought before the case conference.
If you are making the application to the Ontario Court of Justice or you are seeking to change an
existing access order, then you will need to attend a first a first appearance date prior to any of the
The child’s ages may also play a role in the kind of access schedule employed. With older children
access will generally proceed to overnight visits immediately. Moreover, the older the children
are, the more important their thoughts as to access become. Generally, when children reach their
early teens (13-16) they have a large say in what, if any, access schedule is appropriate.
On the other hand, access to very young children is likely to increase gradually. This is generally
applicable to father’s who are seeking access to very young children. Normally, very young
children are primarily cared for by the mother. The gradual increase in access for the father is
intended to allow the child to transition to the change. It also provides the father with time to
become self-sufficient with the day-to-day care of the young child. It is not uncommon for a father
to take a parenting course during the transition to overnight access.
Furthermore, fathers should have frequent access visits with very young children. These visits
might be a few hours in duration and progressively get longer, but the key is frequency. How long
it takes for overnight visits to commence depends on the specific circumstances and how they
relate to what is in the best interest of the child.