Children and Parenting
Children and parenting matters can be amongst the most challenging for families to navigate when facing separation and divorce. Living arrangements, parenting schedules, and financial matters can be in dispute, along with parental decision-making rights in areas of healthcare, education, and religion.
Knowing that every situation is different, our lawyers are committed to finding the solution and process that will most likely lead to resolution. Paramount to our thinking are the best interests of your children. We strive to get to know our clients so that we can provide tailored and individualized advice and services that ensure the best outcomes for you and your children in parenting matters, whether it is through alternative dispute resolution methods, or litigation.
Decision-Making (Custody), Parenting Schedules (Access), High-Conflict Disputes
Parenting rights and obligations can be some of the most difficult family law issues to settle after a separation.
Decision-making (formerly referred to as "custody") refers to a parent’s legal right to make decisions for children, generally in the areas of:
(c) culture, language, religion and spirituality; and
(d) significant extra-curricular activities;
Parenting time or the parenting schedule (formerly referred to as "access") refers to the residential parenting schedule and relates to the physical sharing of time between parents or caregivers with a child. The parenting schedule is distinct from decision-making.
The guiding principle for the courts in deciding child-related matters is the best interests of the child. In high-conflict separations and divorces, there may be conduct by one parent which alienates a child from the other parent. These are difficult cases which require early and swift intervention and vigilance.
At Epstein Cole, we handle each case with sensitivity, empathy, and care to actively protect our clients and seek the best possible solutions for their families. A child’s best interests are at the heart of both family law in Canada and our practice.
Visitation or contact rights are not automatic for grandparents or other parties in Ontario who may have a relationship with a child. However, grandparents can apply to a court for such rights in some cases. Understanding how emotional and challenging these matters can be for both the parents and grandparents, our lawyers can assist with strategic and sensitive guidance, always striving for the best solutions for our clients and their families.
Child Abduction, Hague Convention
Parental child abduction occurs when a parent takes or conceals a child from the other parent. International child abductions are situations where children are unlawfully taken from the country of their habitual residence and withheld in a foreign jurisdiction.
Canada is a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty which provides for reciprocal measures among many countries to address child abduction. Where The Hague Convention is not applicable, other legal claims and strategies can be used to seek the return of children to Canada or to their jurisdiction of habitual residence.
In every case, early strategic advice and swift action provided by Epstein Cole is critical in international abductions due to the complexities of this area of law and the urgency which often accompanies such cases.
Relocation (Mobility) Cases
Relocation (also referred to as "mobility") cases involve one parent’s desire to relocate or move with a child where such a move will have a material effect on the quality and nature of the other parent's parenting time. There are a number of factors that can influence the outcome of such cases before the court system and it is important to be properly advised about these regardless of which side of the mobility case you are on. There are also alternative paths to negotiating changes to the parties' parenting arrangements instead of leaving the decision to the court.
The increasingly connected globalization of modern society is forcing changes to family law. Complex legal issues can arise if parenting matters extend beyond Canada and involve the laws of another country. Epstein Cole is highly skilled in the resolution of international disputes to protect our clients’ parental rights worldwide.
Adoption is the legal process where people seek to permanently accept the responsibilities of parenting a child. In Ontario, a child may be adopted by an immediate family member or step-parent, or through an organization, such as a children’s aid society, a private licensed adoption agency or individual, or a licensed international adoption agency.
When concerns are raised about the safety and well-being of a child, a child welfare agency will commence an investigation and oversight. A child protection proceeding will take precedence over any custody or access matter before the courts to ensure the protection of a child. Epstein Cole assists parents, grandparents, foster parents, and other caregivers by providing skilled and caring legal guidance through sensitive and complex child protection matters.