By Kiran Thomas, CCMF Volunteer

In case of Separation or Divorce in a traditional family and the couples cannot decide on the child custody(decision making ability) in Canada, court will decide for you. The most important criteria used by the court is “the interest of the child”, which is In line with “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”. The court considers factors include ability to provide for the children, relationship between parent and children, children’s wishes, what would be less disruptive for the children (status quo) and which parent has more time to give adequate attention to the needs of the children.

According to the courts, in the interest of the child includes such things as:

  • The wishes of the child (age dependant – teenagers wish is considered heavily)
  • The relationships between the children and their parents
  • Parenting abilities of both of the parents. Situations like disability, alcoholism, drugs are considered.
  • Each parent’s mental, physical and emotional health.
  • Primary caregiver before the divorce, in most cases this is the mother, but sometimes it is the father or a grandparent.
  • The available time to care for the child: the working and non-working parent.
  • Practicalities like distance between the parents

These are the 3 important aspects courts favor:

  • An arrangement between the parents that has already been put in place,
  • The full time “mother” (who could be the father too, of course)
  • The primary caregiver

Different types of custody

  1. The first one is sole custody whereby one parent alone has custody of the child.
  2. Another type of custody, joint custody, is where both parents share custody of the child.
  3. A third type of custody is shared custody. In this case, both parents have joint custody of the child and each spends at least 40% of the time with their child.
  4. One final type of child custody is split custody. Split custody takes place when one parent has custody over some of the children while the other parent has custody over the others. This is rare.

In most articles which one read, it’s stated that both the parents have equal chances to get custody of the child, especially considering the “interest of the child”. However statistics says an entirely different story about custody in Canada– apparently close to 80 percent of children under the age of 12 were placed in their mothers’ custody in cases where a court order existed. Almost 7 percent were placed in their fathers’ custody, and for 13 percent of children, a shared custody arrangement was established. The break up goes as below as per the age of the child:

Age of child at separation Mothers exclusive custody Father exclusive custody Shared custody
0-5 years 80.6% 6% 12.4%
6-11 years 74% 8.1% 15.7%

Does this statistics mean that father’s ability to take care of the “interest of the child” fall extremely short compared to mothers? Or there is something more to it?

Fifty-seven percent of children whose parents had been separated for less than two years at the time of the survey visited their fathers regularly (every week or every two weeks). This percentage drops to thirty-one percent when the parents had been separated five or more years before the survey. Moreover, close to a quarter of children whose parents had been separated at least five years never saw their fathers. Is this because fathers didn’t want to see their children or children were hostile to their fathers? Who knows! Statistics doesn’t capture those details…



  1. Child financial support family law
  2. Child custody in Canada
  3. Canadian Divorce law
  4. Selected Statistics on Canadian Families and Family Law: Second Edition