Child Access, or Visitation Rights, is when a child who lives with one parent goes to visit the other parent for a few hours, a weekend, or for longer, such as during a winter or summer vacation. Just because a parent only sees the child for access visits does not necessarily mean that they do not have custody rights. However, if a parent does not have custody of their child, they may still have access visits with the child, so as to continue to have a good relationship with the child.
Access visits can either be unsupervised or supervised, depending on what is felt to be in the best interests of the child. Unsupervised is the usual kind of access, where the child goes to visit the parent, and no-one else needs to be present while the child and parent are together. Supervised access is only ordered by the court where there is a concern that it is not in the best interests of the child that the parent be alone with the child, and requires that the child visitations take place in the presence of a third party, either in the presence of a trusted person such as a friend or relative, or at an access centre.
These access centres are set up and run by the government that allow parents and children to spend time together in a safe, neutral environment. There are trained volunteers to assist with matters that arise, and the safety of all parties involved is better protected this way. They charge a fee, but if a family cannot afford it, a lower rate may be negotiated.
Supervised access is ordered in cases where there are concerns about the safety of the child and/or one of the parents through an act of domestic violence, the non-custodial parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a psychiatric disability, there has been a lengthy separation between the parent and child, or there is a risk of abduction. Again, the court is focusing on serving the best interests of the child by ensuring that they are able to maintain reasonable visitation with the parent, while still maintaining a safe situation for everyone involved.
This is the link to the Government of Ontario’s website on supervised access; you may visit here if you wish to obtain more detailed information or find out the address of the access centre nearest you.
A person who has been granted child access rights has the right to be kept informed of the child’s health, welfare, education and religion. Without child custody rights, however, that person does not have the right to make any decisions on behalf of the child with regard to these matters. They also have the right to be informed of a child’s name being changed at least 30 days before the change is made, although without child custody rights, their written consent need not be obtained.
Please visit our Child Custody and Child Access Frequently Asked Questions section for further information or contact us.