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'Parenting time' replacing 'access' in family law lexicon

Ontario’s family bar is phasing out the term “access” in favour of “parenting time,” Toronto family lawyer Katherine Robinson tells AdvocateDaily.com.

In Nova Scotia, provincial lawmakers recently passed legislation to rename the old Maintenance and Custody Act as the Parenting and Support Act. In addition, the new law replaces the terms “access” and “visiting privileges” with alternatives including “parenting time,” “contact time” and “interaction.”

“We have modernized this Act to be more helpful to families when they come to court to make decisions in the best interest of their children, often under very difficult circumstances,” provincial Justice Minister Diana Whalen told the Chronical Herald newspaper.

Robinson, an associate with Shulman Law Firm, says a similar movement is occurring in Ontario, driven by lawyers’ discomfort with the term “access,” due to the negative connotations associated with the word.  

“I’ve noticed in court and in dealing more generally with family lawyers, that they will correct references to access,” Robinson says. “In my own practice, I try to say ‘parenting time.’ It’s positive and more accurate.”

She says clients also react better to the newer alternative.

“Nobody wants to be thought of as just an access parent because it ignores what type of things are going on during that time when the children are in their care,” Robinson says.

“The focus is no longer on having access and simply seeing the kids. It’s about playing a role in their parenting during that time and having decision-making responsibility. It’s a better reflection of what’s actually happening.”

The Nova Scotia law initially passed in December 2015, but only came into effect this summer.

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