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We spoke with Gabrielle Pop-Lazic, a lawyer with Gelman & Associates, on the subject of what to do if your ex-spouse is not following a custody or access order.  Please note that this article is intended as an overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice regarding Court Orders regarding parenting time, decision-making responsibility, contact, and other family law matters in Ontario, we recommend you schedule a consultation with an Ontario family lawyer. Contact us to schedule a consultation with Gelman & Associates today.

What are Custody or Access Orders in Ontario?

In the context of family law, the terms “custody” and “access” have typically referred to where the child lives, how much time each parent has with the child, and who makes important decisions regarding the child after a divorce. These terms have changed in recent years in an effort to better recognize that each parent may have equal significance in a child’s life, regardless of how much time they spend together. “Custody and access” is now referred to as parenting time, decision-making responsibility, and contact.

What Happens if an Ex-Spouse Fails to Follow a Court Order?

A parent’s failure to follow a Court Order relating to parenting time or decision-making responsibility can have profound impacts on the child. If, for example, a parent consistently prevents the child from seeing their other parent, this distance may become the child’s new normal. It may be more difficult to reestablish a meaningful relationship between child and parent the more time they spend apart. 

Our team of family lawyers at Gelman & Associates recommend bringing matters such as this to a lawyer’s attention as soon as possible. It is often vital to act promptly. If you do not, you may be seen as agreeing to the other parent’s actions, through inaction.

Courts Prioritize the Best Interests of the Child

When considering violations of Court Orders in family law, a Judge will prioritize the best interests of the child, which may involve maintaining their stability. If one of the parents has reduced the other parent’s contact with the child for an extended period of time, the Court may see it as disruptive to change the circumstances, even if there has been a violation of Court Orders. This is another reason that acting quickly may be vital in matters concerning parenting time.

If a Court Order is not being followed, your best course of action may be to consult with a lawyer, and see if a Court Application is warranted. Our family lawyers may be able to advise on whether another process might rectify the issue before it becomes entrenched.

The Importance of Seeking Court Intervention in Non-Compliance Cases

Children are vulnerable, impressionable, and often subject to influence. Research has shown correlations between conflict a child witnessed between their parents, and the child’s likelihood to experience social challenges as an adult. Long-term outcomes may involve issues of self-worth, self-esteem, substance abuse, and more.

Children see when their separated parents are disrespectful in their disagreements, or denigrate one another. While disagreement is natural and the process of a divorce is often highly emotional, it is important to address issues with as much respect and patience as possible. There are many options for resolving conflict, beyond going to court. Former spouses may choose to resolve issues through mediation and arbitration, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Contact our family lawyers at Gelman & Associates today to discuss what may be right for you. 

Consequences for Non-Compliance with Parenting or Support Orders

Depending on the circumstances, Court may be the best option when a parent violates a parenting Order. If, for example, the parents have agreed to consult one another on their shared decision-making, but one of the parents chronically makes unilateral decisions and refuses to change this behaviour, the other parent may bring the matter to Court.

Considering the non-compliance with a decision-making responsibility Order, the Court may change the resolution. If the parents have previously shared decision-making responsibility but one kept making decisions without consulting the other, the court may divide the responsibility. One parent may be responsible for decisions about healthcare, for example, and the other about education. They may not necessarily have to agree on the decisions they make.

If one of the parents continues to breach a joint decision-making Order, the court can make an order that assigns full decision-making responsibility to the other parent. 

Contact Gelman & Associates for a Consultation on What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Is Not Following a Custody or Access Order

It can be challenging to know what to do when your former spouse is not following a custody or access Order, now known as parenting time and decision-making responsibility. Our family lawyers at Gelman & Associates would be happy to discuss your case and provide insights. Contact us today to book a consultation and learn how we may be of service to you.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your family law matter, please consult with a family law lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.

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