Separation and Divorce

Rights of the Parent Without Custody


Parents who do not have custody often wonder what rights they have when it comes to decisions involving their children. This article explains their rights.

Right to Make Decisions Concerning the Children

The parent without custody has a right to take part in important decisions involving the children.

Also, the parent without custody has a say in decisions concerning a child’s routine if she believes they put a child’s health, safety or development at risk.

Right to Have Visiting Rights Respected

A parent who does not have custody can enforce her rights if the other parent makes it difficult or impossible to spend time with the children. She can do the following:

  • talk it over with the other parent so he will respect the visiting rights she was given by a judge
  • send him a demand letter so he will start respecting her visiting rights
  • ask a court to rule that the other parent is in “contempt of court” (has not respected a court order)
  • in extreme cases, ask for a change in custody

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 Object to the Children Moving Away

The parent who does not have custody can object to the children moving away if the move

  • affects that parent’s visiting rights, and
  • could have a significant impact on the children, and
  • could not have been predicted when the other parent was given custody.


The parent can go to court to ask for custody of the children.

Right to Start Over

The parent who does not have custody has the right to start her life over with a new person.

However, the parent with custody can ask a judge to change the visiting rights arrangement if the new partner has a negative effect on a child’s well-being.