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Custody refers to the right to make major decisions about your child/ren.  Where one parent has sole custody, that parent alone makes all major decisions about the child. Where the parents have joint custody, the parents are to make decisions about the child/ren together.

Custody is different from residence. Residence refers to with whom the child/ren ordinarily resides.  If the child spends most of his or her time (more than 60% of time) with one parent, then that parent has primary residence.  If the child/ren spend(s) at least 40% of his or her time with each parent, then the parties have shared residence of the child/ren.   Ordinarily, the non-resident parent has access to the child/ren, which can include overnight visits, weekends, and mid-week visits.

A parent can have joint custody of the child, but not shared residence (i.e. both parents make joint major decisions about the child, but the child ordinarily resides with just one parent).  In rare cases, one parent can have sole custody, but the parents can have shared parenting (i.e. one parent has sole custody and makes all major decisions themselves, while the child resides jointly with both parents).

Ideally, the parents will be able to decide among themselves as to which custody and residence arrangement best meets the needs of the child and the functional realities of the parents.

Voluntary agreements, called “parenting plans”, are usually the best and most common way of settling custody arrangements in Ontario.