Children's Bill of Rights

Things I Wish My Parents Knew

The right of the child to visit or spend time with each parent is sometimes called ‘access’. On May 26th, 2017, the term ‘access’ was removed from provincial legislation, and replaced with the terms ‘parenting time’, ‘contact time’, and ‘interaction’. The term ‘access’ is still used in divorce matters.

Under the Federal Divorce Act, custody and access refers to the parenting arrangements made for the children when their parents are divorced or divorcing. Under the provincial Parenting and Support Act, the following terms are used:

  • Custody
  • Parenting time
  • Contact time
  • Interaction

These terms can be broadly referred to as ‘parenting arrangements.’

New parenting language info sheet

Standard definitions - custody & parenting

Custody is a general term describing who has the responsibility for a child’s care, who makes the decisions about the child’s upbringing and development, and where the children will live. When a person has custody, this means they will make these decisions.

In law, parents share equal decision-making, unless otherwise agreed to or ordered by the court. The court may grant custody to more than one person. If custody is granted to more than one person, this means those with custody would make joint decisions about issues like the child’s education, medical and dental care, and religious upbringing. Day-to-day decisions, like what the child will wear or eat for breakfast, are usually made by the parent caring for the child at that time. Parents are expected to maintain as much consistency as possible in the child’s upbringing and daily care.

Parenting time is the time a child spends with a parent or guardian, under a court order or agreement.

Contact time is the time a child spends with someone other than a parent or guardian, under a court order or agreement. This can include a grandparent or other family member.

Interaction means direct or indirect association with a child, outside of parenting time or contact time. Interaction includes communications with a child other than ‘in person’ time – like, for example:

  • phone calls, emails, or letters
  • sending gifts or cards
  • attending the child’s school activities or extracurricular activities
  • receiving copies of report cards or school photos
  • Skyping with the child

Usually when you are applying to the court to get a court order for parenting arrangements, you must apply to the court closest to where the children are living. For example, if you live in Sydney, and the children live in Yarmouth, you will likely have to contact the court in Yarmouth to make your application. If you are dealing with custody and access as part of a divorce proceeding, though, this may work differently. If you are not sure where to file your application for parenting arrangements, you should speak with a lawyer or court officer.

Use the menu on the left or click any of the links below for more information:

Information about Custody and Access


Getting or Changing a Custody/Access Order

Parenting Plans

Information for Grandparents

Protecting Children from High Conflict Separation

The Importance of Extended Family

Practising Good Communication

Access/Visitation Issues


Families Change

This website includes age-appropriate information to help everyone in the family deal with a parental break-up, and includes guides for kids, teens, and parents. Information is available in English and French.

Includes Changeville, an interactive game for kids ages 6 - 10.

Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce - How to put your children first

This guide is published by the Department of Justice Canada, and provides information about parenting after separation and divorce, including:

  • how to decide on the best parenting arrangement for your children
  • what processes you can use to come to a parenting arrangement
  • what you (parents) may be feeling
  • what your children may be feeling

To complete a short survey about the Making Plans tool, click here.

Last updated on March 19, 2020 - 11:58am