Can my abusive, drug addicted, unreasonable ex get custody of our child? What about access?

A parent who has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, drug addiction, or has caused a children’s aid society to be concerned, will have an uphill battle in getting custody of a child. Judges have specific factors that they have to consider before making an order for custody of a child. Those factors help the judge decide what order is in the “child’s best interest.” They are described on this webpage, which describes how judges decide custody cases. You may also want to listen to this podcast that goes over not only how judges decide custody cases, but also what “custody” actually means.

However, as the decision comes down to what is best for the child, it is difficult for people who are abusive, have substance abuse problems, or have concerned a children’s aid society to get custody of a child. 

There Are Reasons Why Access Might Be Beneficial

Access is a different matter. This is for two reasons. First, access can take many forms, occur in different places, can be supervised, or occur in a therapeutic setting, or for limited times. All of these considerations may make it possible for access to be “safe” for the child. Judges won’t order access if doing so may put the child at risk of harm. However, there are only very limited circumstances where the risk of harm cannot be addressed by supervised access. 

Second, from a psychological and developmental perspective, there is a great benefit to children in knowing who their parents are. Children form a sense of identity by knowing who their parents are – even if they form a sense of identity by deciding that they are not like their parents because they don’t like who their parents are. Children who don’t know their parents do less well psychologically because a piece of their identity is missing. So, for the child’s sake, courts do like to try to order some access.

Child Access Can Be Bad for A Child?

There can be difficulty when a parent wanders in and out of the child’s life at the parent’s whim. That can be a bad situation because the child does not get to really know the parent but suffers a loss, or perhaps feels rejected every time the parent disappears. 

Access cannot be safe when a parent is bitter, angry or manipulative. In those cases, a parent can try to put the child in the middle of the conflict or try to manipulate the child. Children suffer very badly when a parent tries to get that child to reject the other parent. For the same reasons that knowing both parents can benefit a child, one parent deliberately trying to alienate the child from the other parent can be harmful. The emotional damage from parental alienation or manipulation of the child, or forcing the child to deal with adult emotional issues can last a long time.

In these types of cases, access may not be a good idea – even if it is supervised. A lot of support has to be put in place if access will be safe for the child in those situations.

Better Options to Figure Out Child Custody and Access

A child psychologist or social worker may be able to help you and your ex sort out what is best for your child. However, that option is only possible if both parties agree on the professional and agree to participate in good faith to work for the benefit of the children. If the parents can do that, they can come up with much better solutions than a court may order because they can focus on the specifics of the child’s life and needs that a judge may not hear about if the parents do not present their cases carefully and effectively.

Child custody cases can be very difficult and there can be a lot at stake for the children. For difficult parenting cases, it is extremely important to speak to a good family lawyer who knows how the law could apply to a specific situation and can help you explore all the options for dealing with the problems. You may also want to pick up a copy of this easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law, which is not only available as a paperback, but also as a $9.99 e-book for Kindle, Kobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac. It explains custody-access law, how judges make custody and access decisions, the court process and other options for working out parenting matters – there are a lot of better options for working out parenting conflicts that result in tailor-made solutions that benefit the children more than a court-imposed custody order, but court may be necessary in some cases.

Child custody and access cases can be very difficult, but can also be very important to everyone involved. Little facts can make big differences in family law, so booking a consultation with a lawyer is almost always well worth the cost – if only to protect the kids. To get in contact with Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, use the contact form below, or the phone number at the top of the page. You can also comment on this page using the comments section at the very bottom.

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John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

To comment on this article, or to contact John Schuman, please use the form below.

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