Child custody issues between divorced or separated parents can be difficult in situations where the parents live in the same city. But when one parent wants to move to a different country, new challenges can arise. In a recent decision heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, two parents were at odds not over whether a parent could move to the United States with the parties’ child, but when the move could occur.
Father concedes that children should live with mother
The parents separated in 2014. They have three children, including 17-year-old twin boys and a 14-year-old daughter. When the parents initially separated they had a shared parenting agreement in place. However, starting in mid-2018, the children refused to cooperate with the plan, leading the father to eventually conceded that they should live full-time with the mother. Since then, the court explained that the children have had a strained relationship with the father and resent having to see him (although one of the boys lived with the father for a period of time following tensions with the mother).
Mother wishes to relocate
The mother is in a new relationship and is engaged to be married to her new partner. The court explained that the fiancé has a good relationship with the children and that relationship is a healthy one.
The mother and her fiancé have new jobs waiting for them in Arizona. The employer is an Alberta-based construction company who is looking to make inroads in the United States. The mother, who has consulting experience in the construction industry, has been out of work for a period of time.
The mother has arranged for the children to attend schools, and for the boys, who play hockey at an elite level, to join a AAA club in the Phoenix area.
The father is on board with the move but says that COVID-19 is reason enough to delay it. He asked the court to consider having the children finish the school year in Canada before moving to join the mother in Phoenix.
Should the children stay behind due to COVID-19?
The court commended the father for supporting the move because it is in the best interests of the children even though it will mean he will find himself living farther away from them.
The father’s argument was that the Alberta town they live in is safer than the Phoenix area. However, he was unable to produce any evidence to support that position.
The court explained that courts throughout the country have been grappling with issues like this since COVID-19 became a part of life, writing “Judges all over our country have been grappling with custody and access issues in the wake of COVID. The consensus seems to be that unless there is particular evidence that a parent is unprepared to recognize the risks and is failing or refusing to take “common-sense precautions.”
The court found that the mother has been acting responsibly in following COVID-19 safety measures and there is no indication she will fail to do so in the United States. Since this is not a matter of going on vacation, but rather one related to moving, the court ruled that she should be able to take the children with her when she moves.
Our Family Law Team has 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.