Parents with custody often wonder whether they have the right to make certain decisions that about their children’s daily lives. This article explains the rights of parents with custody.
Right to Make Decisions Concerning the Children
The parent who has custody can make decisions alone about all routine things concerning the children when they are with this parent.
For example, these decisions can involve the following:
- what the children eat
- what time they eat and when they go to bed
- when then go to the movies
- whether they should wear a helmet when they ski
But the other parent has the right to object to these decisions if they put the children’s health, safety or development in danger.
Also, the parent who has custody can’t make important decisions alone concerning the children. She must talk them over with the other parent.
Right to Move With the Children
The parent who has custody doesn’t need the other parent’s permission to move with the children, as long as the move doesn’t affect the other parent’s visiting rights. Obviously, she must tell the other parent that she plans to move and give him the new address.
It’s different if the move affects the other parent’s visiting rights.
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.
Right to Change the Children’s Name
Having custody of the children doesn’t mean that a parent can change the children’s names.
However, a parent can ask for the children’s names to be changed in, for example, these cases:
- if an application has been filed to remove parental authority from the other parent, or
- to add the family name of the parent who has custody to the children’s family name so that they will have the names of both parents
Right to Start Over With Someone New
The parent who has custody is allowed to start her life over with someone new, for example, with a new spouse.
However, if the new spouse behaves in a way that isn’t good for the children, the other parent can ask for a change in custody.
Right to Have Court Decision on Visiting Rights Respected
Sometimes the other parent might show up late when picking up the children for visits or outings.
The parent who has custody must show some understanding. She must consider the reasons and the consequences of the other parent’s lateness.
However, if the other parent is late most of the time, the parent with custody has some options, including these ones:
- talk to the other parent and encourage him to respect the court decision on visiting rights since being late disrupts the children’s lives and the life of the parent with custody
- send a demand letter to the other parent asking him to be on time
- ask a judge to change the other parent’s visiting rights
It might also happen that the other parent doesn’t exercise his visiting rights at all or exercises them only occasionally.
In this case, the parent who has custody can
- talk it over with the other parent so he will do what the court order says,
- send a demand letter to the other parent asking him to correct the problem,
- go to court and ask a judge to increase the child support payments the other parent is making (if he sees them less often, he might have to pay more), or
- go to court to decrease or, in extreme cases, cancel the other parent’s visiting rights