Issues related to decision-making and parenting time of children following a separation or divorce can be difficult to manage when both parents live in the same city. However, when one parent looks to move across the country, parenting time can become much more difficult to find agreement on. This was an issue that the Provincial Court of Alberta had to address in a recent hearing.
Father looks to move north
The parents involved in the case separated in April 2016, at which time a consent order dictated that they would live primarily with the mother. About one year later they parents shared parenting time on a 50/50 basis. But by the Spring of 2018, an interim order was put in place that stated the children would live primarily with the father.
The father is a heavy-duty mechanic who obtained his “ticket” in June 2017. He has held a number of jobs in his field over that time but hasn’t worked since late 2020. He told the court that he is out of money and he and the children are at risk of being evicted from their home.
The father and mother do not have a healthy relationship, and the father did not ask the mother for any support, saying that she hasn’t ever paid any, “so why bother?”
The father told the court that he has been offered employment in Nunavut, with an expected income of $150,000. The job is available for him to start immediately.
The father had not visited the community he was planning to move to, but said he had arranged childcare for their two children, who are in kindergarten and grade two. He recognizes that his new home would be very far from where they currently live and from where the mother will presumably continue to live. He suggested that he use his vacation time to take the children back to Alberta to spend time with their mother.
Mother would like children to stay in Alberta
The mother testified that while she had been in her previous job, she did not feel she was able to provide the best care for the children and asked for the father to have primary parenting time with them. However, she says her situation has since changed. She now lives in a farming community close to her parents, brother, and three grandparents. She said that if the children were to stay with her, they would be able to continue to build their relationships with her family, who would be available to assist with childcare.
The mother was critical of the father’s history of quitting jobs suddenly and without having additional employment in place. She also expressed concern about the father’s decision to keep the kids at home for school and an instance where the father fell asleep on a couch with a lit cigarette, resulting in a fire that one of the children had to put out.
Which location is in the best interests of the children
The court stated that the situation before it only allowed for two outcomes. Either the children would stay in Alberta with the mother, or they would move to Nunavut with the father. The only consideration the court had to make was what is in the best interests of the children.
The court stated that the children’s ages made it difficult to arrive at an understanding as to what they would prefer. The court was concerned with a great deal of unknown information about the father’s new home, including how the small community would receive him, and the extent to which he and his children would be considered outsiders. The children would also have no other family nearby, and other services are far away.
That said, the children have lived primarily with the father for a considerable period of time, and they have a healthy relationship with him. However, they have also grown close to their extended family on their mother’s side.
The court found that moving to Nunavut would be a considerable disruption to the children. There would be some disruption to their lives if they were to move to their mother’s community, but it would not be as severe, and there would be additional family in place to provide support.
As a result, the court denied the father’s application to move the children to Nunavut. Since he was planning to move anyhow, the court directed the children to be transferred into the care of their mother.
At HMC Lawyers, our approach focuses on finding positive solutions through negotiation and mediation on behalf of our clients. Our family law team aims to resolve disputes in an efficient and timely manner, thereby minimizing stress to our clients. If court is required, we have the support of a respected litigation firm.