Access (also known as “visitation”) is the child’s right to have contact with his or her non-custodial parent after a separation or divorce. Access can be determined informally between the parents, by way of a written agreement, or a court can make an order.
In addition to a biological parent, other persons who have had or want to have a relationship with a child may also seek reasonable access pursuant to section 21 of the Children’s Law Reform Act and section 16(3) of the Divorce Act. “Non-parents” include grandparents and other relatives, step-parents, and common-law partners who are not the biological parent of the child.
Non-parents must seek leave (permission) from the court to submit an application for access. A court can grant an order for access to a non-parent under a number of circumstances, including where the non-parent has had a close relationship and is seeking to continue to spend time with the child. The merits of an application for access are determined based on whether it would be in the child’s “best interests” and whether there is “some beneficial connection” between the non-parent and the child. J.H. v. B.G. (1993).
As a general rule, biological parents have the right to determine with whom their children will associate. However, a judge can override a parent’s access decision on the premise that the child would benefit from having contact with the non-parent, particularly if there is a genuine bond between the child and the non-parent and whether severing any pre-existing relationship would have an adverse impact upon the child.
An order for access will not be granted if the biological parent can provide compelling reasons that denying access to the non-parent would be in the child’s best interests.
Contact a Family Lawyer who can assist you in understanding the judicial process and your rights and obligations before filing an application for access with the court. Call Niren and Associates Family Law Practice at 416 222 4555 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.