What Happens When Parents Can’t Agree On A Daycare?

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We’ve written in the past about the importance that a decision of where to send one’s child for school carries. In these scenarios, it is critical that separated or divorced parents work together when possible to arrive at a plan that addresses the needs and concerns of both the child and the parents. An equally large decision for many parents with young children is where to send them for daycare. 

Over the last few years, the federal government has been working with provinces to subsidize the cost of daycare. This may mean that Canada will see a rise in the number of children attending daycare in the near future. This provides a good opportunity to look at how the courts might respond to situations where two parents can’t decide where their child should attend daycare.

Parents cannot agree on parenting schedule or daycare location

The recent case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Melbourne v Melbourne, considers what happens when parents disagree on elements of their parenting plan. The details about when the parents were married and separated were not disclosed in the decision, though they have a three-year-old daughter. The motion included requests from both parents about parenting time as well as daycare. 

The father asked for what is known as a 2-2-3 schedule. In this arrangement, the parents would alternate for two, two, and three days. The father also asked for the child to attend Bright Beginnings Child Care in Tiverton, Ontario, which is a 10-minute drive south of where the parents were employed. 

The mother suggested a more complicated parenting time schedule. She proposed that the child transition between the parents on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and alternate Fridays and Sundays. She asked for the child to be cared for by Saugeen Shores Childcare Centre, which was about 25 minutes north of the parents’ workplace. 

The test to determine childcare location is whatever is in the best interests of the child

The court wrote that the only factor to determine where the child will go to school is the child’s best interests. This is the same for virtually every decision related to children in family law. 

For early childhood care, the factors the court considered in determining what is in her best interests included the quality of the program, transit time, contingency planning, stability, and cost. A child’s special needs might also be a consideration but were not applicable in this case. 

The court was told that each of the daycare programs were in attractive facilities and offered excellent services. Saugeen was located at a newer building and was open an hour later, but was also more expensive. The parents also had contingency plans in place regardless of where the child attends daycare. Neither parent expressed an anticipated need to take advantage of these contingency plans. 

It all came down to location

The crux of the dispute was the location of the daycare. While the father’s preferred daycare was closer to both parents’ work location, the mother lived just a few minutes away from her preferred location. She said it would allow her extended family to be close by if something arises that might prevent the mother from picking up the child on time. While her preferred location was close to her home, it was about 40 minutes from where the father lived, which meant that the child would be on the road for extended periods when travelling to the father’s house. 

Meanwhile, the father’s choice of daycare was on his way to work. The decision did not mention how far out of the way if at all, it would be for the mother. However, one added benefit to the father’s preferred location would be that the child he has with his new partner would also be able to attend daycare at that same location, providing additional stability. The mother countered this by stating that there are community friends who would be at her preferred location, providing a similar sense of stability.

The court acknowledged that a decision over which daycare to send their child to could be difficult with the time each parent spends at work. The father, in particular, would see his workday extended by about 40 minutes if he had to travel to the mother’s choice of daycares. The court wrote that it understood the impact that commuting can have on the health and wellness of each of the parents. 

Court determines the father’s daycare is in the best interests of the child

The court ultimately decided that the father’s choice of daycare would be in the child’s best interest. First, it was very close to the parents’ work location, meaning it would not be out of the way for either of them. Secondly, the child would spend less time at daycare each day is that it was located so close to the parent’s workplace. The closer location also meant that the child could have more opportunities to see either parent if they are able to leave work early or stay for a few minutes at drop-off. The child would also benefit from spending less time travelling overall. Finally, the court stated that the father’s choice in daycare was about $300 less per month, which is not an insignificant amount over time.

Work with the family lawyers at Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors for your family law needs

For questions that only a family law lawyer can answer, contact Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors at 519-973-1500 or contact us onlineHowie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors has been a fixture of the family law community of Windsor-Essex County for over 25 years. Many prospective clients come to the firm through referrals from current or past clients, and also through referrals from lawyers, accountants, medical professionals and marriage counsellors.

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