Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage by a court order. Parents may be separated, but can only be divorced by a judge.

Custody is the right to make important decisions about the care and upbringing of a child, such as the child’s religion, education and medical treatment. If parents agree, they may jointly make important decisions. In this case, they’re said to have joint custody. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal time with each parent. If the parents can’t agree about what’s best for their child, it’s the parent with custody who gets to make the final decision. In addition to decision-making, custody usually includes the physical care and control of the child. The child usually lives primarily with the parent who has custody.

Access: If one parent has custody of the child, the other parent usually has access. Access is the right to spend time with a child and the child’s right to spend time with that parent. Access also includes the right to be given information about a child’s health, education and welfare. The parent with custody has an obligation to keep the parent with access informed about these matters. The access parent is entitled to the same rights as the parent with custody to make inquiries and be given information from sources such as the child’s school, doctor and daycare providers.

Child support: refers to the financial contribution paid by one parent to the other parent to help pay for the costs of raising the child after the parents have separated.

Litigation: refers to the process used to resolve a dispute by legal proceedings before a court or tribunal.

Negotiation: refers to the process used to resolve a dispute by agreement and/or compromise.