Tips for Visitation

There’s a lot to think about as you arrange access visits with your children. Following are some general Canadian family law guidelines to help you think about the details and avoid common access problems.

Under Canadian family law, the most important thing is what’s best for the child. Access can often become entangled with power issues between the parents. Even in the best of cases, parents may find themselves allowing children to do things they shouldn’t (like refuse to visit a parent) because of their own emotional vulnerabilities. As much as possible, always try to ask yourself what an objective observer would believe was best for the children.

Try to ensure that the time each parent shares with the children includes a mix of weekdays and weekends. Weekends are usually time for fun activities, even if there’s some homework or other work to be done; weekdays are all about getting up on time, getting to school, getting homework done, and getting to bed on time. So make sure that you’re spending some of each kind of time with your child. This will ensure that your relationship with your child is as well-balanced as possible. And it will help to prevent the child from developing the idea that one parent is nice and one is strict.

Stick to a routine as much as possible. Whatever your Canadian family law agreement is regarding access, try to stick to the plan unless there’s really an emergency – or unless it’s really important for your child. Having consistency in the access routine is important for a number of reasons. Once you start making changes, it gets easier to do so in the future, and a pattern might develop of canceling or changing times – a pattern that might result in children spending considerably less time with one parent that the other, and a pattern that might in the end lead to the child feeling more distant toward that parent. In addition, you and your ex-spouse are less likely to argue over access if you both simply make a commitment to stick to the schedule.
Finally, if you do have an emergency and need some flexibility in your child care schedule, both your ex-spouse and your child will be much more understanding if it’s really a rare occurrence.

Make changes formally. If you need to make a substantial change in the access schedule, have the access order or agreement changed. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll end up in a dispute later on, and if the change was made for your benefit, it might look as though you weren’t keeping the child’s best interest firmly in mind. The only way to be sure all parties understand and agree to a change in access routine is to formally change things. You should consult a Canadian family law lawyer about formalizing these changes.

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