Understanding Decision-Making Responsibility in Ontario Family Law

When a relationship ends and children are involved, one of the most important decisions that parents need to make is who will be responsible for making major decisions regarding the children’s lives. In Ontario family law, this is referred to as decision-making responsibility. In this article, we will discuss what decision-making responsibility is, how it is determined, and the factors that Ontario family courts consider when making a decision.

Excited little girl at the hairdresser

What is Decision-Making Responsibility?

Decision-making responsibility is an important aspect of Ontario family law, referring to the authority to make major decisions regarding a child’s life. This includes decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and other important aspects of their upbringing. In Ontario, decision-making responsibility is typically shared between both parents, unless a court determines otherwise.

How is Decision-Making Responsibility Determined?

When parents separate or divorce, they are encouraged to reach an agreement on how to share decision-making responsibility for their children. This can be done through negotiation or mediation, and the resulting agreement can be formalized in a parenting plan or separation agreement.

If parents cannot reach an agreement, they may need to go to court to have an Ontario family judge make a decision. In making a decision, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child, a central tenet of family law in Ontario.

Factors Considered by the Court

  1. The child’s wishes and preferences (if they are old enough to express them).
  2. The relationship between the child and each parent, including the history of family violence or abuse.
  3. The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs and any other parenting responsibilities, such as parenting time, shared custody or sole custody.
  4. The ability of each parent to cooperate and communicate with the other parent, including family dispute resolution techniques like mediation.
  5. The importance of maintaining the child’s connection to their community, culture and identity, as well as their overall well-being and stability.

It is important to note that Ontario family courts base their decision on the specific circumstances of each case. What is considered in one case may not be considered in another.


In Ontario family law, decision-making responsibility is an important issue that must be addressed when parents separate or divorce. While parents are encouraged to reach an agreement on their own, sometimes a court decision is necessary. In making a decision, the court will consider a range of factors and ultimately determine what is in the best interests of the child. If you are facing a custody battle, it is always best to seek the advice of a family law lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process and protect your children’s rights.

To discuss your decision-making responsibility concerns with a family law lawyer, please contact us at 416-901-8331.

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