Over the last few months, we have written about changes to Canada’s family law landscape, in particular with the increased emphasis on the “best interests of the child” as well as to the language used to describe the outcomes of trials. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice highlights how these changes are impacting actual families.
Father seeks more time with the child
The parties arrived before the court after the mother brought a motion requesting that the child she shares with the father reside primarily with her with the exception of specified parenting time for the father. Meanwhile, the father was asking for a share parenting schedule as well as sole-decision-making responsibilities.
While there were questions that came up around possible substance abuse by the father, the court found both parents to be loving and having a close relationship with the child. There was one incident that was noted, however, which followed the father’s failure to return the child to the mother following parenting time. The father was seeking to have the mother agree to allow him to spend more time with the child. He ultimately returned the child to the mother, but has forgone his parenting time since June 23, 2021 as he seeks more time.
How changes to the law impact parenting time
The court began its analysis by covering changes to the Children’s Law Reform and the Divorce Act. The court explained that the Act allows the court to set parenting time as well as decision-making authority in order to secure the child’s best interests. The court covered the factors that should be considered in determining the best interests of the child before moving onto the outdated notion of “maximal contact.”
The court explained that there is no presumption for one parent to have maximal contact with a child, with the legislation stating, “in allocating parenting time, the court shall give effect to the principle that a child should have as much time with each spouse as is consistent with the best interests of the child.” This means that with all things being equal, the child deserves to have a meaningful and consistent relationship with both of its parents.
Applying the law to this case
In the case at hand, the court noted that the child has primarily lived with the mother for the entirety of her life, with the mother and father having separated when she was a toddler. The court said the amount of time the child has spent with the father has been “appropriate.”
The court was critical of the father’s actions in withholding the child from the mother after one of his visits. The court was also concerned with the amount of alcohol the father consumes, referring to his banking records which show “an overwhelming number of purchases” of alcohol.
With that said, both the court and the mother were in favour with eventually increasing the father’s time with the child. The mother had presented a plan to the court that would increase the father’s parenting time as the child grew older, but allowing both parents to have decision-making responsibility when they were with the child.
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