What happens to my children if I get divorced?

Going through a separation or divorce can be difficult and stressful, especially on your children. Even though you and your partner are separating, it is important to work together to help your children adjust to the new family changes.

Parenting Plan

Having your child's best interests in mind during these changes is really important. It is a good idea for you and the other parent to create a parenting plan and organize where your children will live, how responsibilities will be divided, and other important details. The plan should be practical and it should take into consideration your children's needs. You can refer to the Making Plans: A Guide to Parenting Arrangements after Separation or Divorce and Checklist to create one for yourself.

You should avoid involving your children in conflicts between you and the other parent. If you have trouble working together to create a practical parenting plan, you can get help from a mediator or lawyer to negotiate.

Child Custody

The federal Divorce Act states that children must be allowed equal amount of contact with both parents, according to the children's best interests.

There are 2 types of child custody in Ontario. If you and the other parent have joint custody over your children, then this means you both have to agree on major decisions for your children's well-being. You cannot make a decision for your children without an agreement with the other parent.

If you or the other parent are given sole custody of the children, then this means that one of you can make all the important decisions for them even if the other parent disagrees. The parent that is not given sole custody will usually still be given access to visit their children and be given information about the children's wellbeing, health, education, and more.

There are different levels of access you or the other parent can be given to your children, depending on your family history, character and level of responsibility.

Protecting Your Children

If you or your children are experiencing family violence, it is important to consider this when making parenting arrangements after the separation. Consider your family violence history carefully before deciding on the type of parenting schedule you want to have after the separation.

You can refer to Section 6 of the Parenting Guide for details on how to protect your children while getting a divorce when there is an ongoing safety concern.

For More Information

  • Family Law - Services and information about family law including divorce and separation, child custody and parenting, child support and spousal support, and more. From the Government of Canada.
  • Federal Child Support Guidelines - A step-by-step guideline to determine the details of child support when parents divorce. It includes instructions and worksheets so you can understand how to calculate child support amounts. From the Department of Justice Canada.
  • International Child Abduction - This guidebook is meant to help you understand the processes and issues involved in searching for and trying to bring back your child if they are abducted. From the Government of Canada
  • Child Support Table Look-Up - A table look-up to help you calculate the base amount of child support. From the Department of Justice Canada.
  • Flowchart: Steps in a Family Law Case - This chart shows the steps that can happen in a family law court case in Ontario. It applies to court cases on child custody and access, child support, spousal support and property division. From CLEO - Community Legal Education Ontario.
  • Helping Children and Youth Live with Separation and Divorce - A resource for parents on how to support your children and communicate effectively with your former partner during and after a separation or divorce. From the Government of Canada.
Last updated: April 12, 2017 4006117