Alternative dispute resolution is a way for parties to resolve issues without going through the courts. In family law, parents who have signed a separation agreement, or who’s relationship has been subject to a court order, may find themselves in conflict over small issues such as vacation plans, or the scheduling of activities. In such situations, a parenting coordinator may be appointed through the alternative dispute resolution process. Parenting coordinators are professionals with training in areas such as mediation, family violence, arbitration, and family law. Parents can elect to work with parenting coordinator before one is needed. This was the case in a recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia where parents had agreed to a schedule for parenting time, but when the time came to implement it, one of the parents resisted. This led the court to have to weigh in on how much authority the parenting coordinator should have.
The mother and father had one child who was six-years-old at the time of the trial. Although they never married, they cohabited from November 26, 2010 to February 15, 2015 (with a period of time apart when the child was born). Upon their separation, a judicial case conference was held on August 17, 2015. At this time it was agreed and ordered on an interim basis that the child would primarily reside with the mother, while the father would have parenting time during certain days and overnight parenting on every second Saturday. It was also agreed that the father would be able to apply for equal sharing of parenting time in a subsequent application.
The 2017 consent order
On June 19, 2017 the parents agreed to a consent order which was to see the father granted with increased parenting time over a gradual timeframe. The father and mother were scheduled to have equal parenting time by the time the child was eight-years-old. The schedule was recommended by a child custody psychologist. The agreement also contained a provision stating,
“In the event that the parties are unable to resolve the issue of the September 1, 2018 variation to the claimant’s parenting time by agreement, the Parenting Coordinator will have the authority to resolve that issue by way of a determination.”
When the time came for the parents to equally share parenting time, the mother refused, citing a number of concerns with the original report. The psychologist put together a revised report, which included a new parenting schedule. However, on October 4, 2018, the mother brought up new issues with the report. The psychologist declined to revise it once more and a parenting coordinator was brought in to make a decision. When the parenting coordinator recommended equal parenting time, the mother sought to set the recommendation aside on the basis that she acted outside of her authority as per Section 19(1) of the Family Law Act, which states,
“9 (1) On application by a party to a determination made by a parenting coordinator, the court may change or set aside the determination if satisfied that the parenting coordinator
(a) acted outside his or her authority,…”
The court’s decision
The court referenced the consent order, which explicitly provided the parenting coordinator with the authority to resolve issues related to parenting time. The court found that the increase in parenting time for the father did not amount to a substantial change, which would be needed to find the parenting coordinator acted outside of her authority. As such, the mother’s application was dismissed.
Separation and divorce can present many fears and concerns regarding child custody and access. At Jason P. Howie we understand that parents have anxiety or fear about losing access to their children. We put these fears to rest and provide our clients with peace of mind regarding their rights to custody and access. With more than 25 years of experience guiding husbands and wives through the stress and strain of family law disputes, Jason P. Howie understands your frustrations and fears. Jason is Certified as a Specialist in Family Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada and his experience and success practicing family law has earned him respect and distinction in the legal communities of Windsor and Essex County. Jason and his team will customize an approach to meet your specific needs. For questions that only a family law lawyer can answer contact us at 519-800-1039 or reach us online.