Sometimes, when parents separate, one parent wants to stop or limit contact between the other parent and the children. When can contact be limited or stopped?
The General Rule
A parent cannot stop the other parent from seeing the children, except in rare situations.
This means that contact cannot be prevented, even in situations like these:
- A parent refuses to pay child support.
- A parent is sometimes late picking up or dropping off the children (according to what a custody agreement or a court decision says).
- A parent does not see the children regularly, even though a custody agreement or court decision says that this parent will see the children regularly.
Reasons for Preventing Contact
A parent who wants to stop or limit contact with the other parent usually has to go back to court and ask a judge for an order.
But if the children are in physical or psychological danger (for example, in the case of death threats), a parent can do what is necessary to protect the children. Later, this parent can go to court and ask for an order to prevent the other parent from seeing the children or limiting visits.
A judge will stop contact between a parent and the children if
- it is an exceptional situation, or
- a drastic decision is necessary to protect the interests of the children.
A judge will carefully evaluate a decision to prevent children from seeing one of their parents. If possible, the judge will opt for something less extreme, such as supervised contact. For example, this would allow parents who are in jail to have some contact with their children, as long as the judge believes this is in the interests of the children.
In certain situations, judges prefer to limit or at least carefully define the type of contact allowed between children and a parent. Here are some of the options for this kind of contact:
Option One: Supervised Contact
Judges might prefer to order supervised visits between a parent and the children, especially in these types of cases:
- The children must be protected from the behaviour or attitudes of the parent who wants contact with the children (violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc.).
- It has been a long time since the children have had contact with the parent who now wants to see them regularly, and a supervised, gradual resumption of their relationship is the best option.
A judge can agree to let one of the following people supervise the contact:
- a trustworthy person related to the children (grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, etc.)
- a trustworthy person not related to the children (a friend of the parents, a babysitter, etc.)
- a qualified professional (Several areas in Quebec have “family houses” where a parent can visit with the children in a safe and welcoming environment under the supervision of qualified professionals.)
Option Two: Contact From a Distance
A judge can also decide that the contact between a parent and a child should not be face-to-face. Here are a few examples of contact from a distance:
- by telephone
- through letters
- over the Internet
Option Three: “Creative” Solutions
A judge can create a made-to-measure solution to ensure the children are safe during visits with the parent who has potentially harmful behaviours.
These are examples of what judges have done in the past:
- order a parent not to smoke in front of the children
- order a parent not to play video games in front of the children
- require installation of a device that stops a car from starting if the parent’s breath sample is over the legal alcohol limit
- require a parent to follow basic instructions on the use of child car seats
Divorce: Vocabulary Change in the Law
Since March 1, 2021, the Divorce Act no longer uses the terms “custody” or “access”. The law now uses the term “parenting time” to describe a divorced parent’s relationship with a child of the marriage. For more information, see our article Divorce: What Is “Parenting Time” and What to Do When Moving.