Ontario Family Court judges generally have a very dim impression of parents, mothers or fathers, who deny their children the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents. Section 16(10) of the Divorce Act requires that judges give children of married parents the maximum possible contact with each parent that is consistent with the child's best interests. Section 20(1) of Ontario's Children's Law Reform Act states that, until decided otherwise, parents are equally entitled to custody of a child. A significant exception to this is when one parent leaves the child in the care of the other parent at separation as this action typically connotes that by doing so, the leaving parent gives the other parent temporary full custody of the children.

That being said, the foregoing principle may not apply in a situation whereby the separation occurred prior to the child's birth and the leaving parent was not actually given the opportunity to leave the child. Even for very young children, especially infants, current research says that frequent contact with both parents is ideal to allow the children to form a relationship with their parents and vice versa.

When one parent refuses to allow the other parent to have contact with a child, it could in fact become a situation where it is possible to obtain an emergency family court order; however, if deemed possible, parents should first try parenting mediation with a parenting professional, before going to court. The parenting professional can help the parents understand the child needs and help them work out a parenting plan that best suits the child’s needs at each stage of development.

If one parent does not agree to mediation, it is still beneficial to suggest this option to the other parent because Ontario family courts prefer parents take a more amicable approach, as opposed to one that is likely to cause conflict. Nonetheless, if a parent is denying a child the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents, it is always advised to seek advice from an experienced legal professional.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.