While separation or divorce can be incredibly stressful, it’s important to remember that the conduct of a parent can have a significant impact on how the courts choose to consider them when issues around custody or access arise. In a recent decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, the court was critical of a father’s behaviour while he was asking for more access to the child of the marriage.
An application for shared parenting
The father applied for shared parenting of a four-and-a-half-year-old child he had with the mother prior to their separation. An interim parenting order as issued in April 2020, which granted the mother primary residential care of the child. The interim order granted the father eight days of parenting tie spread over a four-week repeating schedule. The parents had other issues to discuss with the court as well, including a disagreement over which parenting expert should be hired by the parties and about timing for the right of first refusal requests when a scheduled parent is not able to care for the child.
Both parents allege mental health issues
The parties started living together in 2011 or 2012 and were married in the summer of 2012. They had their child in 2013. The father is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and for much of the child’s first three years, he was away for work during the week. The mother is a registered nurse and returned to her job 11 months after the child was born.
The parents separated in the summer of 2018, but the father remained in the home until December 20 of that year. The father said that the parties had agreed to transition to a shared parenting plan upon his moving out, but the mother says no such agreement was made.
The court explained that parents’ relationship was one in which they had difficulty communicating and that counselling (both alone and together) did not fix their problems. The father said the mother suffers from severe anxiety and depression. The mother says the father has post-traumatic stress disorder, post-concussive syndrome, and is an alcoholic. It’s worth noting that neither party had medical evidence to back up these claims.
Is shared parenting in the child’s best interests?
The court determined that it was not within the child’s best interests for the parents to have shared parenting, listing four reasons why.
The first reason was that the parents have a long history of conflict with no indication of improvement. The court was concerned that if they were to share access, this conflict would get worse rather than better. The father argued the mother was the main source of conflict, but the court did not agree, sharing evidence of his conduct in text messages with the mother.
Secondly, the court noted that the father did not take advantage of the parenting time he already had available with the child. On at least two occasions, he cancelled his scheduled parenting time.
Third, the court found that a move to shared parenting would be a drastic change for the child, who has resided primarily with the mother for most of his life.
Finally, the court pointed to the father’s failure to engage with the parenting expert showed the court that he is not prepared to follow through on a plan to improve his relationship with the mother for the benefit of the child.
HMC Law’s Family 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.