Fathers' Rights in Canada

By Leonard Dozier

o" canada image by Kathryn Palmer from Fotolia.com

In Canada, groups such as Dads Canada Family Services and Fathers Are Capable Too (F.A.C.T) provide fathers with information and resources to help them maintain relationships with their children while undergoing separation or divorce. These organizations also help to preserve and protect the rights of fathers in matters of child custody, visitation and child support.

Child Custody

In Canada, the Family Relations Act establishes the guidelines by which fathers can obtain and maintain custody of their child without court orders. A father, whether married or unmarried, can obtain custody through the Family Relations Act or the Divorce Act. Both acts define custody as the physical possession of a child in addition to the ability to determine the child's education, health-care and religion. Fathers also have the right to "access" and "guardianship." "Access" allows fathers temporary physical possession of the child beyond mere visitation rights. Conversely, guardianship stipulates the right and responsibility of fathers to have physical possession of the child and make decisions related to the child's welfare. Divorced or separated fathers are granted automatic joint guardianship. However, fathers who have never resided with the mother must petition the courts for guardianship. For "access" or custody, fathers must be able to prove that the child benefits from both and that they are qualified to hold such responsibilities.


The Provincial Family Court in Canada typically grants access and visitation. This is based on the premise of judges that a child benefits from a relationship with both parents. Thus, fathers are almost always granted visitation rights but can lose them if there is a history of not adhering to the visitation schedule or the child refuses to see the father. Fathers who have access and visitation rights still have the right to be apprised of the child's education, healthcare, after-school activities, etc. Plus, fathers must be notified at least 30 days in advance if their child's name is to be changed.

Child Support

Canada's Department of Justice governs all matters pertaining to child support. As such, the department enforces child support in an effort to ensure that children benefit from the financial support of both parents. If a father fails to make payments but has visitation rights, he cannot be denied from seeing his child nor can his visitations be amended as a way of retaliating. Similarly, a father must continue to pay child support even if denied visitation. In this instance, a father has the right to file a court motion for contempt by the other parent or guardian. Finally, it is within a father's rights to seek an attorney for matters of child support.