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Why Custody is a Bad Word in Family Law

When people hear the word custody some immediately think of an ugly separation process where both parents are aggressively fighting over who gets their children. This is exactly why this term has been changed. We no longer use the term “custody” because of the negative connotations associated with that word that are often also legally inaccurate or plain wrong.


Some parents who were granted custody wrongly assumed they were labeled as the better parent or used this as a way of feeling superior over the other parent. Being able to make major decisions for your children and being involved in their lives is important, but notice how the focus is turned away from the best interest of the children and instead is redirected as competition between parents.


Many people didn’t really understand what the concept of “custody” meant, and started using that word to mean residence of the children or access. Suddenly, people started arguing over words they didn’t legally understand and the court and legislator took notice.


Many parents used the colloquial understanding of “custody” - to possess or own - in legal settings, and started to view legal custody as a way of taking control over their children.


The court noticed that parents were fighting over a misunderstanding of a legal term.


In reality, having custody (in the legal sense of the word) meant being able to make the major decisions in your child’s life such as where they went to school, what major extra curricular activities the children could pursue, and if they were going to be introduced to any religious beliefs, and health decisions etc.


These types of decisions are milestone-decisions in a child’s life, and therefore, this responsibility should be shared between both parents, whenever possible. Some couples can comfortably set their own personal struggles aside and make these types of decisions clearly and without arguing, while others struggle to communicate with the other parent in any setting or topic. The court understands that different relationship dynamics need different approaches to parenting, which is why in some cases, the best solution is to allow one parent to make the major decisions for the children. This new term helps parents understand that raising children is a responsibility rather than a privilege. This is what was truly meant by the word custody but the old term failed to convey this message.


The most important thing to understand is that residence - where your child lives and with which parent - is separate from decision-making. You can have a very detailed parenting schedule in place, but still have one parent dedicated to the decision-making responsibility.


This new language allows couples to approach their separation with a focus on the wellbeing of their children rather than competing against each other for possession of their kids. This goes to show how the language we use can alter the psychology behind an argument. This is why having a lawyer who knows these legal terms inside and out is essential to make the separation process efficient, cooperative, and effective.


The term decision-making responsibility shifts the focus from custody, understood as one parent being privileged to make parenting decisions to the exclusion of the other - to responsibilities for the children’s upbringing, and care that should be shared.


If you have questions about separating contact our office today! WIth over 24 years of experience, our firm knows these legal terms inside and out, helping you resolve your issues quicker.



Jolanta Bula B.A. (Hons.) J.D. #separation#divorce#court#law#legal#ontariolaw#niagara #custody #decisionmaking Disclaimer Jolanta Bula Legal Professional Corporation confirms that the content of this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional opinion of any kind. Should you require specific legal advice, please contact Jolanta Bula, Legal Professional Corporation directly regarding your specific inquiry. Jolanta Bula, Legal Professional Corporation does not warrant or guarantee any information of this website as any reliance upon it will be at the user's own risk. Accessing or using this website does not create a lawyer-client relationship in any fashion nor will any unsolicited information be treated as confidential under lawyer-client privilege.




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