For parents who have separated or divorced, it’s not uncommon for the details of their lives (such as where they live, or how much money they earn) to change over the years. Parenting orders put in place to state how often each parent has access to their child (or children) might be subject to change from time to time based on the situation of each parent. In a recent decision issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, each parent asked the Court to vary an existing parenting order, though in drastically different ways.
The Family Background
The parents have one child together who is now six-years-old. The mother has been the primary caregiver since the parents separated (the child was a toddler at this time). A 2016 order stated the father was to have access every second weekend as well as overnights on Wednesdays. The order also stated that the parents would share decision-making on major issues, but that the parent with custody at the time could make day-to-day decisions. A later order in 2017 provided the father with an additional day of access on one Tuesday each month and ordered that the mother would be responsible for important health decisions.
The parents sought very different orders from the Court this time around. Among other things, the mother sought permission to register the child at a school of her choice, and the sole right to take the child to the doctor.
Meanwhile, the father sought an order for shared parenting with a week-on and week-off schedule, shared decision making for all matters, and the right to enroll the child at a school closer to his residence.
The father sought shared parenting on the grounds that he was a full-time student in 2016 when the original order was made but was now working. He was also remarried, with a wife who worked out of the home looking after their baby, who was almost two years old.
The father also claimed that the mother promised him she would agree to a weekly rotation in 2017 but has since changed her mind.
The Court found that the increased stability in the father’s life, his flexible work schedule, the bond between the child and his half-brother, and the mother’s previous willingness to agree to the proposed scheduling change amounted to a material change in circumstance.
The Court found each of the parents to be loving, caring individuals. However, the mother claimed that the father did not have the means to care for or accommodate the child on an increased basis, claiming his earnings were only $22,000 per year. However, the Court did not agree with this, finding that he was able to care for the child appropriately with the current schedule and that the child’s health and welfare are not jeopardized by the father’s income. The mother also claimed that the father regularly took their child out of daycare without her consent, which negatively impacted the subsidy she received.
The Right to Choose the Child’s School
The Court agreed with the mother’s choice of school, stating that it was in close proximity to the daycare he attended and that he had friends at that school and in the neighborhood where the school and the mother’s home were located. The child had already attended kindergarten at that school, and it was only 600 meters from the mother’s home. The father, employed as a delivery driver, had a schedule that allowed him to pick the child up at that school.
The family law lawyers at HMC Lawyers have a track record of successfully negotiating and mediating claims on behalf of our clients. Although we are capable advocates in the courtroom, we know that the best outcome is more often achieved through finding a solution that is mutually beneficial to you and your ex, and in coming to that solution amicably. For advice about child custody and access matters, contact us online or call 1-800-480-3534.