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In a Family Law matter, what is meant by “best interests of the child”?

Courts in Ontario resolve custody and access applications on the basis of what is known as the “best interests of the child”. The test is applicable under both the Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act. In order to determine the best interests of the child, the Court considers a number of factors including the child’s physical well-being; a child’s emotional well-being and security; the concerned parent’s plan for the child’s education and maintenance; the child’s financial needs; the child’s religious and ethical upbringing; the parent’s understanding of the child’s needs; the child’s wishes (this increases in importance with the child’s age); the benefit of keeping siblings together; the bonding between the child and his caregiver etc. The “best interests of the child” test is fact driven and focused on the child’s needs rather than the parent’s rights.

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