It can be difficult for people to balance family responsibilities with personal or career aspirations. Opportunities to further one’s career might mean having to move, a decision which can have a significant impact on children in a family. There can be additional causes of concern for parents who are divorced or separated. If one parent wants to move a significant distance with a child or children, it could mean that the other’s parenting time is impacted. While parents can make decisions about where they live, when it comes to whether or not the child can move, the courts will only consider what is ultimately in the best interests of the child. This approach was recently demonstrated in a decision, Marshall v. Marshall, from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Mother’s Career Advancement Means Moving
The case came before the court when the mother sought an interim order permitting her to move cities with the six-year-old daughter she had with the father. The parties were married in 2015 and had their child a few months after the wedding. They separated sometime in 2019 or 2020.
The mother told the court she was the child’s primary caregiver in the years after the child was born as well as the years following their separation. She said this was largely due to the father’s work schedule as a paramedic and volunteer firefighter, which required him to work shifts with unpredictable schedules. With that said, he had been enjoying parenting time with the child by having her sleepover once one week and twice the next. The mother said, however, that when the child returns home from these sleepovers she is tired, hungry, and experiencing “hygiene issues.”
The mother works as a social worker and has been with her employer since 2017. She said she enjoys the work and is good at it, which led to an offer of promotion as a manager with the organization. Accepting that job, though, would mean moving. She told the court she wanted to move with the daughter, adding that her parents live near the new town and that her increased income would provide her and the child with a better quality of life. She proposed that a new parenting schedule be arranged with the father and that the parents split the travel.
Father Says His Schedule is Becoming More Stable
The father said that he has recently accepted a position as a full-time firefighter, which means he will have a more reliable schedule. He also said that he feels the child is well adjusted and enjoys spending time with his extended family in the area. He told the court the mother’s criticisms of him are not true and that she was trying to paint him in a negative light, adding that each parent contributed to their daughter’s care in the years leading up to and following their separation.
What Decision is in the Best Interests of the Child?
As we mentioned earlier, the only thing the court has to consider is what is in the best interests of the child. This is mandated by the Divorce Act. A number of factors can contribute to determining the child’s best interest, with the Act listing a number of them. In this case, the court emphasized the following factors:
(a) the child’s needs, given the child’s age and stage of development, such as the child’s need for stability;
(b) the nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each spouse, each of the child’s siblings and grandparents and any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;
(c) each spouse’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other spouse;
(d) the history of care of the child;
(g) any plans for the child’s care;
(h) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to care for and meet the needs of the child;
(i) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to communicate and cooperate, in particular with one another, on matters affecting the child.
The court added that it is also important for the child to have maximum contact with each parent.
In this case, the court acknowledged that it is important for the mother to advance her career and that she would experience an increased standard of living if able to move. However, the court was not satisfied with the evidence provided about the job, noting that the employer has offices in other locations and that she may have to travel throughout a large region in Western Ontario. The court said that it didn’t see any evidence that relocation for this position was necessary, stating that remote work is very common following COVID-19.
The court also believed that the mother had been attempting to discredit the father and held that each parent had played a role in parenting the child to this point. The court wrote, “it seems unlikely to me that (the father) is or has been unable to look after (the child).”
The court also stated that a move would take the child away from the only home she has known as well as from her family, friends, and paternal extended family. It would also disrupt parenting time. As a result, the court held that it would be premature and inappropriate to permit relocation at this time. In fact, the court ordered that the father and mother split parenting time on an interim basis, with each parent having care of the daughter for four days at a time.
Reach Out to Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors in Windsor for Questions About Parenting Time with Children
The experienced family law team at Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors understands that families working through issues related to separation or divorce have many questions and fears about the process. We’re here to help, and we work with our clients to satisfy their unique family needs. To find out how we can help you, contact us online or by phone at 519-973-1500.